Sign #1 that interest in solar power is exploding: even the oil companies are getting in on the act. Earlier this week, Chevron unveiled Project Brightfield, a solar plant featuring 7,700 solar panels on 18 acres of an old refinery site in Bakersfield, CA. The 740 kilowatt plant will power Chevron oil operations, and excess power will go to the grid. But there’s a bigger plan behind the project — Chevron is hunting for the best next-generation solar technology.

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Chevron collected information on 180 solar companies, slashed the list to 19 and finally decided on 7 finalists to be used at Project Brightfield. The winners–Abound Solar, MiaSolé, Schüco, Solar Frontier, Sharp; and Solibro — will have their panels tested for three years. At the end, Chevron will decide which companies have panels that are worthy of being installed either by Chevron Energy Solutions for commercial customers or by the company for use at oil facilities.

So does this mean that Chevron will be responsible for choosing the next generation of solar power startups? Maybe not entirely, but if the company can hone in on efficient, low-cost solar solutions, we will all benefit.

+ Chevron

Via Green Inc.