February 23, 2007 | 30 Comments
Construction on a 40 megawatt (MW) solar generation power plant is under way at a former military base in the Saxon region of Germany. The total surface area of the planned photovoltaic (PV) installation? It's comparable to about 200 soccer fields, said Matthias Willenbacher, cofounder and CEO of the juwi group.The "Waldpolenz" solar park -- which is being developed by the juwi group in the township of Brandis -- will be comprised of approximately 550,000 First Solar thin-film modules. The direct current produced in the solar modules will be converted into alternating current and fed completely into the power grid. Once completed in 2009, the project will be one of the largest photovoltaic projects ever constructed. Currently the biggest PV plant in the world has an output capacity of around 12 megawatts. "Large-scale projects such as these make a huge contribution to making solar electricity more competitive," said Willenbacher. "No other solar power plant in the world is as big and as cost-effective as the juwi project in Brandis." With a specific price of approximately Euro 3,250 per kilowatt [U.S. $4,226], the power plant is expected to be around 20%-40% cheaper than the going German market price. In addition, after just a year in operation, the "Waldpolenz" will have produced the energy needed to build it. However, the logistical tasks of managing a Euro 130 million project [U.S. $171 million] -- from preparing the land, through buying the components to connecting to the grid -- can't be compared with fitting a solar array on a family home. "Construction of the world's biggest plant of this kind is a real challenge for a medium-sized enterprise like the juwi group," noted Willenbacher. "In Brandis we're building on an area of more than a million square meters. By contrast, most house roofs, for example, comprise only 40 to 50 square meters." Construction has already begun at the site on a fence to protect the area, which measures approximately one kilometre wide by two kilometres long. The next step in development will be driving in the piles of the mounting frames in March, mounting the frames to hold the solar modules in early April, and finally laying the modules into the frame around the middle of April. According to the company, the first part of the power plant will be ready to feed in electricity by the end of June. After operations begin, several juwi staff will be responsible for the management, servicing and maintenance of the installation. The juwi solar GmbH (the company's solar division) will set up a base on the grounds in Brandis and is expected to steadily add personnel over the next few years. Simultaneous to the development and licensing phases of the project, the juwi group along with the Sachsen LB Group -- a closed-end fund marketing and administration company within the Sachsen LB Group -- has assembled a professional equity capital and external financing scheme. The SachsenFonds GmbH will offer equity to interested investors in the form of closed end funds later this year.
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