New solar panel technology makes energy production cheaper

The roof of a North Sacramento plastics factory will host the biggest West Coast installation of a new type of solar panel.

The technology, built by Fremont's Solyndra Inc., uses racks of solar cells roughly the size and shape of long fluorescent light tubes. The shape allows the panels to harvest sunlight from any angle, including what's reflected from the white rooftops common on large commercial buildings.

The technology promises to cut the cost of solar power.

In March, Solyndra gained a $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to greatly increase its Fremont-based manufacturing operations. According to news reports, the company has contracts for orders worth more than $2 billion.

The 208-kilowatt system atop Sacramento's Plastic Package Inc. will supply about one-third of the factory's annual electricity needs, according to company Chairman Jim Kaye.

Plastic Package has been in Sacramento since 1984 and makes mostly food containers and trays. About a quarter of the raw material used in the plant is post-consumer recycled plastic, Kaye said.

The $1.3 million system was supported by a 30 percent subsidy from a federal renewable-energy program.

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