Phase One for World’s Largest Solar PV Plant

The state of the European Union may be thrown into question with France, and now the Netherlands, voting against a new EU constitution, but the state of the Germany’s solar industry is clearly a solid one with massive, multi-MW solar power plants cropping up all over the countryside. The latest project is the first phase of what will eventually be a full 12 MW solar power plant — literally fields of solar panels dwarfing anything else in the world.

The record-breaking undertaking also showcases a novel new tracking system that’s indicative of the trend in Germany for solar to become an industrial form of power generation spurred on by the government’s unparalleled production-based incentive support policy. Solon AG, Germany’s largest photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer spearheaded the project and teamed up with the U.S.-based SunPower Corp. The solar power plant, known as Solarpark Gut Erlasse and located in Bavaria near Arnstein, Germany, was officially activated this week. SunPower’s contribution for this specific project was in providing roughly one third of the solar modules for the project. While Solon is the largest producer of PV modules in Germany, with an annual production capacity of more than 90 MW, its major and notable contribution to the project comes through the installations of their new Solon-Mover double-axial solar tracking system. Designed specifically for deployment in multi-MW solar power plants, 1,500 separate Solon Movers automatically tilt and rotate during the day to directly face the sun at all times. Each unit presents approximately 50 square meters of solar PV to the sky, equivalent to as much as 9.3 kW per unit. “Our goal with the Mover program was to develop a truly industrial solar power system,” Alex Voigt, Solon’s CEO said. “Our recently announced $300 million, five-year purchase agreement with SunPower for their high-performance cells, provides Solon with the supply security and visibility necessary for us to address the rapidly growing market for megawatt-scale solar power plants.” Movers are fully prefabricated in the factory and contain all the components necessary for operation upon delivery. Industrial manufacturing with a high degree of automation makes it possible to produce the units in great numbers for the construction of large-scale solar power stations. Roughly eight to ten units are being added each day to Solarpark Gut Erlasse towards its eventual completion at 12 MW. The control electronics continuously calculate the best angle of orientation for an optimal solar yield and the array of modules is adjusted to the optimal position in fixed time intervals. In this way more electricity is generated by the solar modules than in fixed plants. The dimensions of the pre-fabricated Solon Movers are designed for economical transport without special permits for public streets. The outer rows of the modules can be folded, thus allowing for the transport of two Movers on one truck. On the installation site, the foundation, feeding station, power cable and data communication lines are all preinstalled for the Movers. After its delivery, the Mover is fit to the foundation and electrically connected in a very short period of time. Also, due to the continuous repositioning of the mover, there is neither danger of erosion to the soil beneath dripping edges or of the sort drying out underneath. The concrete mass used as foundations seal a maximum of 1.2 percent of the Mover surface area, thus plants can keep growing without being disturbed. On the green spaces between and underneath the Movers, sheep and wild animals can graze without being disturbed. “The Solon Mover is the largest industrially manufactured solar tracking system world-wide,” says the company. “Mover power stations enable us to supply entire cities with solar energy and thus, for the first time, to make solar energy available in a new dimension.”
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