Solar Energy Test Facility

Solar Energy Test Facility

Location: Aurora, Colo.

Client: Midwest Research Institute

Completion Date: 2009

The Midwest Research Institute (MRI) selected Burns & McDonnell to provide design services for a 70-acre, greenfield site that will be used for the installation and testing of photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power systems. The site will be segregated to allow isolation of manufacturers' proprietary components and systems while using shared buildings and infrastructure to control both first cost and operating costs.

Burns & McDonnell provided all initial planning services, coordination with federal and municipal governmental agencies and with SolarTAC companies. Facilities that will be constructed on the site include manufacturing and assembly buildings, exhibition and meeting facilities, power interconnection with local power agencies and all required utilities, including a water supply well. Strict architectural and landscape controls were followed to meet developmental goals in this first phase to meet ultimately much larger site requirements.


Six organizations formed an entity called SolarTAC to build the solar energy test facility, one of the world's largest. The organizations:

  • Abengoa Solar, a Spanish company
  • City of Aurora
  • Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory
  • Midwest Research Institute (MRI)
  • SunEdison
  • Xcel Energy

SolarTAC will provide a facility where member companies can bring their technologies for testing and demonstration for commercial development.

James L. Spigarelli, president and CEO of MRI, said the "large-scale test facilities will play a significant role in helping companies test the readiness of new solar technologies for deployment in the marketplace." MRI manages the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. MRI plans to recruit other companies to participate as founding members of SolarTAC.