Solar companies have been touting their new products, services and alliances ahead of Solar Power International, an industry gathering to take place starting tomorrow at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Here is a run down of some key announcements today:

SolarCity to Build 6MW for AirForce Community: A residential community built for families of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base employees in Arizona is set to get 6-megawatts of solar power installations, to be carried out by SolarCity.

The installations would include a 3.3-megawatt ground-mounted array, as well as rooftop systems. SolarCity began constructing the ground-mounted project, which will be owned by the National Bank of Arizona, earlier this month, SolarCity said. Completion is set for January 2010.

The rooftop systems would be added to new homes as they are built (some existing homes will go solar as well). SolarCity expects to complete all rooftop installations in 2010. The company is funding the rooftop systems using the fund provided by the U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp.

Actus Lend Lease is building the community, which is called Soaring Heights Communities. Actus is also developing a military housing for the Army on Oahu, called Army Hawaii Family Housing Complex. Actus plans to build 5,388 new homes and renovate 2,506 existing homes over a 10-year period. The development, which began in 2005, calls for installing 6 megawatts of rooftop solar, and 4 megawatts have been installed solar far, said Cindy Gersch, marketing director for Actus. 

PG&E and 500MW Solar: Pacific Gas and Electric has signed contracts to buy power from solar thermal power developers NextEra Energy Resources and Abengoa Solar. Both will use parabolic-trough technology that uses curved mirrors to concentrate the sunlight for heating fluids for generation steam, which is then used to run generators for electricity production.

NextEra plans to build two power plants, each with a generation capacity of 125 megawatts, on federal land in California's Riverside County. The first power plant is scheduled to come online in 2013, followed by the second one in 2014.

Abengoa plans to build its 250-megawatt solar farm at Harper Lake in San Bernardino County, also in Southern California. The company expects to bring the project online in late 2013.

SunPower Unveils Super Panel: SunPower has built a prototype panel that could convert 20.4 percent of the sunlight that falls on it into electricity.

The efficiency, verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is an improvement from the highest-performing panels – at about 19 percent – that SunPower sells. The company makes the most efficient silicon solar panels on the market today, using monocrystalline silicon cells.

The 333-watt prototype panel, which the company said it would start selling within two years, contains 96 cells that use a third-generation technology, SunPower said. The prototype panel is developed as part of the project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar America Initiative. The DOE awarded $24.4 million to SunPower in 2007.

Masdar PV Begins Amorphous-Silicon Panel Shipment: Masdar PV, a startup backed by the Abu Dhabi government, has shipped its first solar panels from its German factory. The company expects to see the panels installed at a solar park in Germany.

The startup, which began installing factory equipment from Applied Materials in April this year, expects to produce 3 megawatts worth of panels by the end of the years. Back in May, the company said its panels, which use two layers of amorphous silicon, could achieve 10 percent efficiency. But the company is currently shipping thin films with a single layer of amorphous silicon.

SMA Solar Technology Builds 1GW Factory: SMA Solar Technology plans to spend €15 million ($22.3 million) to build a factory for making its inverters in Denver. The company expects to start production in mid-2010. The factory would be able to make 1 gigawatt of inverters per year, the company said. 

The Denver factory would be the first SMA production center outside of its native Germany, the company said.

Back in July this year, the company opened a new factory in Germany. With that new facility, SMA said it can produce 4 gigawatts of inverters per year.

SRS Energy Opens Factory for Solar Roof Tiles: SRS Energy said it's opening a factory in Montgomery County, Penn., to make its Sole Power Tile. Shipment from the 39,000 square-foot facility is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2010, the company said.

The company's tiles are shaped like the curved clay tiles found in Spanish-style homes. It announced a deal with U.S. Tile earlier this year to co-market and sell their tiles. U.S. Tile makes the conventional curved clay tiles that would SRS's product could match in appearance.

The two companies installed 300 square feet of tiles at a home in Bermuda Dunes, Calif., as a demonstration project during this past summer. SRS's first commercial installation went up at the Zwahlen's Ice Cream and Chocolate Co. in Audubon, Penn.

SRS and U.S. Tile are marketing the solar tiles in the west coast for now, but plan to roll out the sales nationwide in early 2010. The tiles use amorphous-silicon thin films from United Solar Ovonic.

Photo of Zwahlen's Ice Cream & Chocoate Co. courtesy of SRS Energy.