First Solar project becomes first to win VDE/Fraunhofer ‘quality tested’ certs

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US thin-film giant First Solar’s Macho Springs project in New Mexico has become the first PV plant to receive the system-level ‘Quality Tested’ certification from testing institute VDE and Fraunhofer ISE.

The certification, also the first to be awarded to a thin-film PV power plant, means the project met VDE and Fraunhofer’s extensive safety and performance requirements, and has been hailed as the beginning of a new era of quality assurance for PV plant assets.

“The VDE Quality Tested Certification sets First Solar apart, as they have now passed the most rigorous quality assurance requirements at the PV plant/system level, thereby assuring a significant reduction of technical risk for the financial performance of First Solar systems,” said John Sedgwick, president, VDE Americas.

“Certification of the Macho Springs facility documents that First Solar leads the industry in technical bankability at the PV power plant/system level.”

Previously, certification of PV plant components, such as IEC standards for modules, has been the basis for establishing the technical bankability of PV power plants. But the QT certification for Macho springs verifies the whole plant as a bankable asset, with every step validated by experts, from design through to operation.

“With the VDE Quality Tested certificate, VDE and Fraunhofer ISE strive to set a new benchmark in the global industry for PV power plant quality and reliability assurance, leading to greater risk reduction,” said Burkhard Holder, head of energy and smart technologies at VDE Institute Germany. “Such a comprehensive approach, including both field and lab testing, leads to a significantly higher level of technical bankability and risk reduction for PV power plant investors.”

According to VDE, its QT test was designed to cover four areas: electrical and mechanical safety of the system; system performance; proper system operation; and independent verification for investors. The plant must pass more than 300 testing points to receive the certification.

“This certification brings more than 30 years and 38GW of German PV experience to the US for the highest level of quality and superior confidence that the asset will provide long-term financial returns,” said Sedgwick. “The awarding of the VDE QT certification to the Macho Springs facility highlights the importance of professional certification procedures to ensure the highest plant quality and technical bankability.”

Azmat Siddiqi, senior vice president of quality and reliability at First Solar said: “First Solar is committed to providing highest quality and the lowest risk products and systems in the solar industry. We have implemented rigorous, world-class quality assurance processes throughout our operations. We are honoured to be recognised by VDE for our relentless pursuit of high-performance products and installed systems.”

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