First Solar reveals online PV power plant assessment tool

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Thin-film manufacturer and PV power plant specialist, First Solar, has launched a new online tool to enable prospective developers to quickly assess the feasibility of potential solar sites.

The Energy Capacity Assessment Tool allows would-be developers to plot a site anywhere in the world and assess the likely yield and revenue from a ground-mount plant using First Solar thin-film modules.

Launching the tool ahead of the World Future Energy Summit kicking off in Abu Dhabi today, First Solar said the new system was aimed particularly at prospective developers in emerging solar markets. It is being offered free, but requires users to impart information including email address, suggesting the site will be used to generate business leads for First Solar.

“We know there are a lot of developers out there who have land and they have money, and they have dreams of developing solar power plants, but they don’t necessarily know where to go to get started,” said David Spieldenner, First Solar’s global manager of power plant systems during an online demonstration of the tool last week. “The tool has been created to be a very inviting tool to someone new into the industry. So it would be a great way for someone to get started.”

Spieldenner gave an example of the son of a wealthy landowner in an emerging market, who wanted to develop a solar plant but didn’t know where to start.

“He had the land and he had the money, but he didn’t know how much solar he could fit on that land. Someone like would be a perfect customer for this.”

The tool allows users to plot site boundaries on a map interface and then input various pieces of information such as projected construction date, tracker versus fixed tilt mounting and permit details. Drawing on local irradiance conditions, the system then arrives at an estimated size, output, yield and revenue for a plant on the proposed site.

First Solar stressed the report generated by the tool contained data that should only be regarded as indicative.

“It’s not going to be the equivalent of a full energy prediction report,” said Spieldenner. “When you get to the stage that you’re ready to run that type of analysis, you definitely want to use investment-grade tools and leave this behind. But for doing really quick assessments – like drawing 20MW polygons in several places around the world so you can really understand what parts of the world will produce better results – that’s how we like people using it.”

First Solar said at the moment the system was only geared towards assessing sites for ground-mount projects, but revealed that it has a similar tool for commercial rooftop plants in the works that it would launch soon.

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