Sun, Cows, California

You always wanted to know what solar thermal has to do with cows? SOLID has built a new large-scale solar thermal plant in California and recently put it into operation. Peter Luidolt, COO at SOLID, shares further details about the project in this interview.

Peter, what do cows have to do with solar energy?

In California, a large dairy company wanted to replace some of the energy they needed with renewable energy sources, and we were able to offer them a good, long-term, and sustainable solution using solar thermal energy.

And how did you come to the project; California is not exactly around the corner?

The idea of using solar thermal was already there with the client, but there was not a single company in the entire USA that could realize a project of this size. Through our good contacts in the solar industry, the connection between us and the customer was finally made, and from the initial discussion to the conclusion of the contract, it went in record time.

What happened next?

In the first few months, the main thing was to get all the permits for the project. Building permits in California are not that easy to get and there were a lot of requirements to be met. On this project, we also had to tunnel under a 6-lane railway with a pipeline during active train traffic; this stack of paperwork of permits alone was bigger than myself [laughs].

The integration at the customer’s site was also not yet fully planned and still needed extensive simulations to bring a dynamic customer process into good harmony with the volatile solar energy. We finally succeeded in doing that and were able to clear all the remaining hurdles as well. It took us only 4 months from the start of construction to commissioning.

Why are 4 months short?

The project had 4,000m² of collector area (i.e., about 1 football field full of solar collectors) and a total of over 40 companies and suppliers were involved. SOLID as the general contractor showed great class here and ensured that everything ran smoothly, and the work went well hand in hand. This was the only way we could achieve this short construction time. One should not forget that we also had a 9-hour time difference, which made things even more difficult.

What does the solar thermal system mean for the customer?

Since commissioning, the solar system has already delivered many megawatt hours of energy to the customer. The customer is a pioneer in this region, and we hope that many will follow his example.


Peter Luidolt, COO bei SOLID

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