18 Dec 2013
Latest 48MW deal in France pushes firm's installed capacity in the continent past new milestone.
Thin-film cadmium telluride modules from US-based photovoltaics giant First Solar are set to power four new solar energy plants in France with a combined capacity of 48 MW.
As well as indicating a boost for the adoption of PV in France amid a wider slowdown in Europe, First Solar says that the deal will see its installed base on the continent move above 4 GW (at peak output) for the first time.
At maximum output, the power generated from that installed base will be equivalent to approximately four nuclear reactors – although the intermittency of PV means that the nuclear output, which remains the largest single contributor to France’s electrical grid, is much more predictable.
The new projects will be developed and owned by Photosol, a relatively young French renewable energy company – it was founded just five years ago. The utility-scale facilities are set to be built in the Auvergne and Midi-Pyrénées regions of France, in Dompierre sur Bresbe, Gennetines, Marmanhac and Sarrazac.
Three of the facilities are on pastureland, thus allowing landowners the additional benefit of being able to graze livestock at the sites, while the fourth is near an oak forest and includes access for wild animals.
David Guinard, the managing director of Photosol, said: “As France actively promotes the adoption of solar energy, these projects will contribute towards the country's efforts to diversify its energy mix.”
"Our choice of First Solar's thin-film modules was based on a combination of cost-competitiveness, unrivalled bankability, the ability of its modules to reliably deliver solar power and the fact that the technology has the smallest carbon footprint, with the fastest energy payback time."
Utility-scale deployments in Europe represent something of a departure from the general thrust of First Solar’s strategy, with the company primarily now targeting sunnier geographies in developing economies that, unlike much of Europe, do not rely on generous government support through feed-in tariffs.
While these and similar subsidy mechanisms have sustained the early development of the PV industry, they are politically sensitive and largely in retreat across Europe.
Stefan Degener, First Solar's director of business development for Europe, said of the new French deployments: “These projects collectively represent a significant boost to Photosol's installed capacity as this young, dynamic company continues to build on its successes."
He added: “Their decision to use our advanced thin-film modules is testament to the technology's suitability to utility-scale solar power plants in a wide variety of conditions."
The US company says that the 4 GW of its CdTe-based modules and panels installed in Europe will be enough to power one million homes across the region, while theoretically displacing more than 1.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases – assuming that emissions from power stations based on the burning of fossil fuels have been reduced in direct proportion to the additional PV.