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$93m deal reinforces Spectrolab's CPV status

A 350 MW supply contract with government- and industry-backed photovoltaic system maker Solar Systems strengthens the power generating credentials of compound semiconductor cells.

Spectrolab has grabbed the largest terrestrial III-V solar cell order to date, with Solar Systems saying its 350 MW purchase is worth over AUS$100 million ($93 million).

The cells will primarily be destined for the 154 MW concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) power plant that Solar Systems is building with the help of an AUS$130 million Australian government subsidy. Although that project will not be completed until 2013, Solar Systems hopes to bring a related demonstrator project that produces 174 kW at peak output online this year.

This is the third order that Solar Systems has placed with Spectrolab since its move to Ge/GaAs/GaInP triple-junction technology, away from Sunpower s silicon cells. As the two previous contracts combined only amounted to 10 MW the big jump in scale represents a significant validation of Spectrolab s CPV technology.

“We moved from silicon to the multi-junction III-V cells because it had more legs in terms of efficiency,” explained Dave Holland, Solar Systems managing director. “Also, working with small [III-V] cells makes it much quicker and easier to take them from a hero cell in the lab to production.”

The overall deal is for photovoltaic assemblies. These modules manage heat dissipation and help maintain optimum performance conditions for the compound semiconductor cell.

Beyond its work on a new power generation projects, Solar Systems is retro-fitting existing power stations to replace silicon cells with Spectrolab technology. At the recent CPV Today conference the company said that this process takes only 30 minutes per receiver.

As well as the Australian and Victoria state governments, Solar Systems is backed by TRUenergy, a power company that supplies gas and electricity to 1.1 million homes in Victoria. In that deal TRUenergy bought 20 percent of Solar Systems for AUS$40 million and promised to spend up to $285 million on the 154 MW Victorian station.

Now, armed with a secure supply of high-efficiency cells from Spectrolab and respectable financial backing, Holland is ready to begin the fight to provide economical solar power.

“The Victoria project is to put us in the market against either coal with sequestered CO2 or coal with permanent carbon containment,” he said.

“A 100MW project gives us the critical mass to bring the cost down enough to let us compete with fossil fuel based energy that has to account for its emissions.”

• Spectrolab has also signed on to a five year supply contract with OPEL International, whose CPV technology comes from the University of Connecticut and the Canadian National Research Council. So far, under this contract OPEL has placed a firm order for 10 MW of cells to be delivered in 2008.

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