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Isofoton passes qual tests for concentrating solar

The Spanish solar energy firm is the first company to pass qualification tests required for photovoltaic concentration modules, as set by the first international initiative to install the technology on a major scale.

The large-scale production of electricity through the use of photovoltaic cells based on III-V semiconductors has come a step closer, with modules from the key Spanish company Isofoton passing key qualification tests.

The tests were set by the Instituto de Sistemas Fotovoltaicos de Concentración (ISFOC), the showcase international initiative that has been designed to generate awareness about the potential of the technology.

According to Isofoton, it is the first international company to pass ISFOC s qualification standard, which requires a demonstration of the reliability of concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) technology.

"This is an important step"¦and validates the results of years of research and development on an international level," said Isofoton.

ISFOC s main objective is to establish the driving force for global development of CPV, a potentially large new market for III-V semiconductors.

Based in the Castilla La Mancha region of Spain, ISFOC is installing various CPV plants with a total electric power capacity of 3 MW.

While not all of the CPV systems will necessarily be based on compound semiconductors, the technology is seen as a key element by Isofoton, one of the leading contractors.

Already, systems capable of producing 1.7 MW are under construction at ISFOC. Isofoton is providing a 700 kW generator, and the US firm SolFocus and German outfit Concentrix will both supply 500 kW.

Nine companies are competing to build systems to provide the remaining 1.3 MW. US cell manufacturer Emcore has lodged a bid to supply 400 kW of power, with SolFocus hoping to provide an additional 200 kW.

Among the other contenders is Arima Eco, a Taiwanese company arising from a joint venture between Unity Opto and Arima that began operations as recently as March 2007.

Arima Eco now has 20 employees, and its main product is a GaAs-based high-concentration PV module that delivers 110 W. The company has been using cells from the Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab in its products.

Each of the nine companies bidding for Castilla La Mancha installations quotes a similar build price of €6 per Watt, and a maintenance cost of around €8000 per 100 kW.

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