Under the bright California sun on Wednesday, Feb. 20, Sandia and Cool Earth Solar celebrated the announcement of a 5-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, the first public-private partnership to take full advantage of the Livermore Valley Open Campus (LVOC).

“Today’s announcement perfectly embodies how the open campus will enable and foster collaboration,” said Division 8000 vice president Steve Rottler. “The DOE SunShot initiative seeks to make solar energy cost-effective and competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Cool Earth Solar shares with both Sandia and DOE a commitment to making solar energy more affordable and broadly accepted. Their technology offers an innovative pathway to meet that goal.”

As Steve introduced the many dignitaries and elected officials in attendance, one of Cool Earth Solar’s test units in the LVOC Clean Energy Demonstration Field collected energy from the sun and fed it into the site’s power grid. About 100 more units will be added to the field over the next five years and up to 500 kilowatts of solar power could be provided to the site by 2018.

Researchers with Sandia’s New Mexico solar energy program will help characterize and validate Cool Earth Solar’s inflated, concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology. Cool Earth Solar takes an innovative approach to capturing solar energy, using inexpensive thin-film plastic to focus sunlight in 24-foot long inflatable tubes. This enables the units to capture as much solar energy as more traditional solar equipment with less than half the materials in terms of weight and mass. The materials used are less expensive, further driving down cost.

The Sandia/Cool Earth CRADA also provides the opportunity to publicly demonstrate the value of broad-based, multi-site laboratory. “The combination of the accessible environment of the LVOC and local innovative startup ecosystem in California with the deep technical expertise of the New Mexico solar program created a compelling program opportunity to evaluate a promising new solar technology,” says Andy McIlroy (8310). “The CRADA has opened new areas for collaboration between the sites including the potential to hire staff who report to the solar program in New Mexico and reside in California.”

Cool Earth Solar CEO Rob Lamkin, Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA-15th), Kish Rajan, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, California State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, and Livermore Mayor John Marchand all offered their remarks about the partnership.

Also in attendance were Mike Hazen, vice president of infrastructure operations; Rick Stulen, recently retired division 8000 vice president; Bruce King (6112), principal investigator for Sandia’s solar program in New Mexico; LLNL staff and management; and representatives for Congressmen John Garamendi (CA-3rd) and Jerry McNerney (CA-9th), State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

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