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Global Solar ready to install modules, flip switch on CIGS solar field within months

21 July 2008 | By Tom Cheyney | Chip Shots

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What may be the largest copper indium gallium (di)selenide--based photovoltaic-module field in the US will be sending electricity within a few months to the manufacturing plant of the company that made the flexible CIGS "stringer" cells powering the array.

Global Solar's Tim Teich told me at Intersolar North America in San Francisco last week that the several acres of desert scrub designated for the field, located across the parking lot from the company's South Tucson factory, have been "plowed, fenced, and racked" over the past six weeks. He said the panels have been fabricated and stacks of them are sitting, ready to be shipped, at Solon America's module-making facility a few miles down the road from Global.

The CIGS "modules are going on in August," noted Teich, "and the power will be turned on by November," although the switch could be flipped as soon as September, especially if an inverter they're waiting on shows up soon.

"It will be interesting to see the output of the field," he continued, which will be specified at 750 KW DC/1.1 MW AC and is expected to supply up to 25% of the Global fab's power needs. It will take a few weeks for the field to initially stabilize after it's activated.

"The light soak of CIGS happens in the first day," explained Teich. "Peak power is reached in about four weeks, and then it stabilizes after that." But he added that the precise period of stabilization and other system performance stats are still "speculation," since there have not been (m)any CIGS fields of this size, certainly not in the US.

The company will have a dashboard monitor running on a TV screen in its lobby, which will show a live feed of some of the installation's operational parameters--and provide a nice morale booster to the employees, no doubt. "By the end of the year, we will have good data [from the solar field]... and Tucson is a good place to test it," according to Teich, given the area's extremes of heat and cold, dry weather and monsoonal moisture, and the like.

For more reporting on Global Solar from Intersolar (customer orders, factory ramp status, latest conversion efficiencies, progress on barrier/encapsulation materials, the company's strategy for building-integrated PV--what Teich calls "energized building solutions," etc.), check out my colleagues' stories at Greentech Media and Solid State Technology.

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