Solar, Utility Scale

European Solar Photovoltaic Update

It’s no surprise some of this week’s notable European solar photovoltaic (PV) announcements involve Germany and Spain, each a top solar market thanks to strong feed-in energy policies.

Phonix SonnenStrom AG has been commissioned to plan, deliver and construct a large-scale solar electricity plant with a peak power output of around 1.7 megawatts (MW). The commissioning party is a solar fund initiated by mainfrankenSolar. Back in 2005 Phonix SonnenStrom built a 1 MW green-field plant for another fund of mainfrankenSolar. Construction work on the ground mounted photovoltaic plant in Buchheim near Wuerzburg is due to start in mid-July. The power plant is to be constructed with some 26,000 thin film modules made by First Solar, an American manufacturer, and is to be connected to the grid in November of this year. The total investment volume comes to around Euro 7 million [~USD$9 million]. The construction of another photovoltaic plant with a peak power output of 2.2 MW on the same site has been planned for this year as well. And as large installations continue in Germany, so does the larger campaign among companies to maximize their limited solar-grade silicon stockpiles. ErSol is proposing to introduce crystalline silicon solar cells with 3-busbar (3BB) technology they say offers up to a 2% higher fill factor that provides a higher overall conversion efficiency. The cell thickness will be below 200 micrometers. 3BB technology at ErSol is currently at the prototype stage and is expected to be transferred to series production before the end of 2006. The first modules with these solar cells show 3% better performance relative to the conventional cell technology with two conductors, says the company. With the introduction of premium pricing for solar power effective April 1, 2005, Spain has become the fastest growing solar power markets in the world. REC Solar, the solar division of Sweden-based REC, is making inroads into this fertile market through a large 50 MW supply contract with Spain-based Gamesa Solar. Through this arrangement, REC Solar will provide a steady supply of solar modules to Gamesa, which is increasingly involved in the construction of solar farms. The contract is for five years, starting in 2006 and valued by REC at between Euro 25-35 million. Likewise, Canada’s Sustainable Energy Technologies Ltd announced that its partner, Gabriel Benmayor SA, has begun manufacturing the company’s “Sunergy” inverters at their production facility near Barcelona, Spain. The first product to be made in Spain is a 5 kW grid-interactive inverter for the Spanish grid-connected solar power market. The Sunergy “5” is well suited to the Spanish environment, says the company, as it operates at full power over extended periods of time and in ambient temperatures in excess of 500 C. The production facility has the capacity to assemble and test up to 100 units per month and production capacity can be expanded with minimal incremental capital cost.