- Category: Business
08 Apr 2009
- Published on Wednesday, 08 April 2009 12:36
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thin-film photovoltaic cells.
Solar energy company, Conergy, announced on Monday [April 6] that it has installed what is believed to be the world’s first solar tracking system that uses thin-film photovoltaic cells. The thin-film tracker module was installed at the South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) in California, at which Conergy is also comparing the performance of different PV technologies.
The 419-kW thin-film system was installed by Conergy, which also installed a crystalline module array, allowing the company to compare the performance of both PV technologies that use the tracking system at the same time. The project is known as the Robert O. Schulz Solar Farm.
Tracking systems can optimize peak-time output by as much as 15% over similarly-sized fixed-mount systems. They do this by incrementally adjusting panel angles to follow the trajectory of the sun. Conergy’s project optimizes its solar tracking capabilities using software whose origins are based on military tracking technologies.
SSJID provides irrigation water for 55,000 acres in the surrounding area between San Franciso and Yosemite National Park. The solar farm will handle nearly all the power needs of the nearby Nick C. DeGroot Water Treatment Plant, which processes 40 million gallons of water per day for 155,000 residents and businesses in the cities of Manteca, Tracy, Escalon, and Lathrop.
Conergy estimates that the project, which in its second phase would generate 1.6 MW of solar energy, will save the irrigation district nearly $400,000 a year in utility costs.
Most thin-film solar PV technologies use a layer of semiconductor materials only a few micrometers thick, making it possible for the cells to double as rooftop shingles, roof tiles, or building facades. Among the commercially mass-produced thin film cells are those using copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) technology. Crystalline cells, meanwhile, use less silicon, whose costs have been driven higher over the years.
According to Conergy’s project director for the western US, David Vincent, market-tested First Solar thin-film modules were selected for the second phase of the project because they perform at a lower cost per watt than traditional crystalline.
“Thin-film is a much more cost-effective way to generate power and it can outperform [even] monocrystalline in areas prone to hazy, overcast conditions or in industries that generate dust or high degrees of air particulates,” Vincent said. “Early indications show the output per direct current kW of First Solar thin-film is about 10% higher than that of crystalline.”
Conergy, a German company, has deployed 1 gigawatt in renewable energy projects around the world. It has operations in 15 countries.
- Eric Dorente