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World’s biggest CIS (CIGS) power plant completed

Bright spring sunshine has welcomed the completion of world's largest copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS/CIS) power plant today in Brandenburg, near the German capital Berlin. The 28.8 megawatt (MW) power plant is largest, using CIGS/CIS technology, to be connected to the grid.

While some thin film manufacturers face tough times, in the face of stiff price competition from crystalline silicon (c-Si) manufacturers, others are continuing to get modules into the field. Despite the tough price competition, Solar Frontier has supplied 205,000 modules to the largest, power plant of its kind, which is located in Bochow, Brandenburg.

 The Japanese manufacturer supplied to the modules to market-leading integrator Belectric on the project. CommerzReal was the investor, and financing supplied by HypoVereinsbank (HBV)/UniCredit.

The installation is another sign of Belectric and Solar Frontier’s continued cooperation, in the construction of large-scale rooftop and photovoltaic power plant projects in Europe and beyond. In March the two companies announced the formation of the PV CIStems joint venture (JV).

PV CIStems will provide safe harbor for some of Solar Frontier’s modules as it continues to ramp up production at its Kunitomi production facility, in Japan’s south. pv magazine understands that production capacity in 2012 is expected to reach 700 MW, while the total capacity, when fully utilized – including two smaller, older facilities – totals over 900 MW. pv magazine also understands the JV is developing a pipeline of around 100 MW.

Belectric has itself been ringing up milestones of late, announcing late last week that it has installed over one GW of thin film capacity. The German-based integrator and EPC installed the world’s first phovoltaic power plant using thin film modules and has indicated to pv magazine that it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future, despite fierce price competition from c-Si rivals. Belectric also uses First Solar modules.

Thin film modules, in general, have lower efficiencies when compared with c-Si modules, and with the rapidly falling price of polysislicon of recent months, c-Si pricing is equal to or below most thin film producers.

With comparatively lower module efficiencies, theoretically, more thin film modules are needed for an installation and as such, balance of systems (BOS) for thin film power plants are higher. Belectric CEO Berhard Beck countered this however, telling pv magazine because of the vertical integration of his company, in terms of a range of components, Belectric has far greater control over BOS and therefore is able to minimize this effect.

In a statement announcing the completion of the 28.8 MW plant in Brandenburg, Solar Frontier Europe’s Managing Director Wolfgang Lange said that the installation confirms the bankability of the company’s modules. "The joint project with Belectric once again emphasizes the strength of our collaboration in the effort to install the best solar solutions in Germany and beyond," said Lange.

Indicating the level of cooperation between the two companies, at next month's Intersolar Europe trade show, Solar Frontier will exhibit as a part of the Belectric booth, B3.110.

Solar Frontier is also supplying modules to the 100 MW Catalina power plant project in California, which will be the world's biggest CIGS/CIS project when completed. 60 MW of modules are expected to have been installed by the end of this year.

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