Denver’s Conergy Americas and officials at California’s South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) have announced the installation of what is believed to be the world’s first single-axis solar tracking system comprising thin-film cells. This 419kW installation is part of the second phase of an overall 1.6MW facility.
The project is known as the Robert O. Schulz Solar Farm and will enable the comparison of the two technology types – crystalline silicon vs. thin-film modules – and their performance under similar climatic conditions. Phase 1 saw the installation of 6,720 Conergy 175W c-Si modules mounted on a single axis solar tracking system, while the decision was made to fit Phase 2 with First Solar cadmium-telluride (CdTe) thin-film modules.
“Thin-film is a much more cost-effective way to generate power – and it can outperform monocrystalline in areas prone to hazy, overcast conditions – or in industries that generate dust or high degrees of air particulates,” said Conergy’s Western U.S. Project Director David Vincent. “Early indications show the output per DC kW of First Solar thin-film is about 10% higher than that of crystalline.”
California’s SSJID is located in Manteca, between San Francisco and Yosemite National Park, and provides irrigation water for 55,000 acres in the surrounding area. The new solar farm will provide the majority of the power required to run the nearby Nick C. DeGroot Water Treatment Plant, which processes 40 million gallons of water per day.
SSJID has been granted $6 million in cash incentives from the California Solar Initiative program to aid in the project.
“The application of thin-film on a solar tracking system as a way to optimize energy output in perennially-dusty or overcast areas is generating a great deal of excitement not only among those in areas with conditions similar to the Central Valley, but among economic policymakers and environmental stewards in Washington, D.C.,” said SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields.