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Mukesh Shah
12-31-2013 02:33 PM

Which solar panels are best suited for a large solar farm?

Which solar panels are best suited for a large solar farm - Crystalline Si or Thin Film? What are the pros and cons of each technology? What are the price points in $/watt for a turn-key 25 MW project?
Which suppliers have a proven track record in executing such projects?
12-31-2013 05:22 PM
Top #2
Jonathan Fromm
12-31-2013 05:22 PM
There are many factors to consider in this seemingly simple question.
Before you even delve into the tech specs of each technology:
Have you "endless" tracts of cheap land / roof to build on? Per KWp thin film can be significantly cheaper, however takes a lot more area due to dwarfed efficiencies comparing with crystalline Si.
For a focused, or dispersed 25MW turn-key project, I'd say that what you're paying for KWp could even end up marginal given carefully chosen strategic partnerships applicable to many other aspects than the panels themselves.
Are you simply planning to maximise ROI no matter what? Or is this also part of an experiment for Applied Materials with other factors to consider?
Are you planning to perform sun-tracking? If so to what extent and in which part of the world?
Your destined module and subsequent chosen mppt and dc-ac conversion methods can very much affect installation labour hours. So will you be choosing massive modules to minimise labour? evaluate if there is a mature "plug and play" technology to support this infrastructure. Not that such technology couldn't be tailor made, particularly if there is a 25MW client, - but I haven't come across a company who claims to currently support high-voltage panels: reps of such companies are welcome to correct me...
12-31-2013 07:51 PM
Top #3
- -.
12-31-2013 07:51 PM
Hi Jonathan, good answer, as its all down to cost in the final analysis, price per watt raise its ugly head. There are so many companies touting their trade in the PV world it makes one wonder what is the real price per watt.What would you suggest Mukesh pays per watt to get a good deal
12-31-2013 10:13 PM
Top #4
Jonathan Fromm
12-31-2013 10:13 PM
FirstSolar claim to produce a KWp for less than 1$ and they keepspushing the price down ( if I am not wrong they aim for ~0.6$ before 2014).
* nanosolar had just launched their CIGS plant, which may translate to even better prices, now.

On the other hand, if they really want to achieve high ROI, with a little Applied Materials experiment on the side: they could perform some mild CPV (e.g. up to 20 suns), cool adequately with reasonable tracking. In this case I'd say thin-films are a useless solution despite the initial "half price per watt". It is more of a question of how much current can the module tolerate, how to cool the modules, to what temperature (e.g. look at the Millenium Electric solution for build-in cooling and possible co-generation)

And again the land/roof usage will factor into the viability of such a project.
01-01-2014 12:29 AM
Top #5
David Weinberg
01-01-2014 12:29 AM
Mukesh - I am going throught this right now as I build a company in New England to do 800 KW solar farms for Distributed Generation. And I've commited us to using a big panel from ENN Energy. In the Northeast we have cloudy days...giving a-Si technology a real advantage. The challenge of a-Si is that the high voltages result in short strings, lots of wiring and combiner boxes. But we've worked hard with our engineers and electricians to make installation as economical as possible. Now if Applied Materials could come up with a high wattage/low voltage panel...you guys would own the world.

If you do the math. A grid-tied solar farm needs to be built (not including land costs) for no more than $3.35 per watt. That number assumes 3 things - 30% cash or credit from the U.S. government, sale of RECs, and a generation rate of .12 KW. That's why solar only seems to make sense for Distributed Generation where you can sell at retail....and then only in New England/New York and California. When panels hit a sale price of $1.25 p/w...the equation will change. And let us not forget the price of fossil fuel energy will forever increase...if only for the reason that CEOs of big utilities will always want and get big bonuses and big raises, that go with big salaries.

If you are at the solar conference at the end of the month I'd like to speak with you. My email is iconoquest@gmail.com
01-01-2014 03:13 AM
Top #6
Ben Sutanto
01-01-2014 03:13 AM
Halo David,

Great input. I wonder if you can estimate the $/watt for the 800 KW solar farm, if no gov't credit & the location is in Sorong, West Papua?


01-01-2014 05:18 AM
Top #7
David Weinberg
01-01-2014 05:18 AM

You can be around $2.50-$2.75 per watt for materials (panels, inverters, racks, wiring). But you still have to factor in labor and I have no idea what that is West Papua. Are you going to lay crush stone on your site or put the racks up on bare soil. And are you going to sink pilings or use concrete ballast as anchors. Those decisions will affect your final costs. I have found that their is a huge variance of labor estimates between electrical firms....pick a firm that has wired panels together and has some experience
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