First Solar welcomes new support mechanism for UK large-scale market

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The contracts for difference (CfD) scheme replacing renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) for larger projects in the UK is “an interesting opportunity for a more market orientated approach”, according to First Solar. 

Andreas Wade, director of technical relations and government affairs, Europe for First Solar said the rest of the continent was likely to go in a similar direction to the CfD scheme.

“ROCs were comfortable, but [CfDs] are a natural transition to a more unified energy market; there is still a long way to go, and there are framework drafts and testing, but it is a good way to move forward, he told PV Tech at the Solar Energy UK event.

After forming a joint venture with UK developer, Belectric, First Solar is also aiming to continue its modus operandi of recycling land for PV projects in the UK, after reusing abandoned airfields previously. Wade said First Solar is looking at “waste land and military training facilities” for new developments, and will “ensure the re-naturalisation” of sites using biodiversity measures, including the UK Solar Trade Association’s ’10 Commitments’.

The STA guidelines “are very important, we do not want to repeat the mistakes of previous energy dinosaurs, we want to be responsible neighbours”, said Wade.

Wade said First Solar is also looking to implement what it has learnt about sustainable developments, including a 24-month survey on desert wildlife in the US, to South East Asia and Africa.

On hybrid PV technology, which First Solar is currently building in Australia, Wade said First Solar is looking at potential hybrid projects with its partners in the UK.   

Exhibiting for the first time at Solar Energy UK, Wade said it was “good to see the [UK solar] community” and to exhibit with its new operations and management acquisition, Skytron Energy.

Wade said the Skytron acquisition and move towards offering more O&M services is “essential” as investors increasingly “want to know more about the plants”.

Thanks to efficiency improvements to thin-film technology, Wade also said it will not be long before thin-film efficiency is on par with crystalline silicon modules.

Wade told PV Tech that once parity in efficiency is achieved for thin-film modules, the “lower cost of electricity and better energy yield will be interesting for utility and rooftop customers [in the UK]. Given [thin film], is just black, it is quite appealing aesthetically.”

Back in March this year, First Solar announced a 17% total area module efficiency record for CdTe thin-film technology.

Wade said First Solar is looking at rooftop and distributed generation in the UK, with a “dedicated team that are focusing more and more” on offering thin-film modules to UK customers, but the company will “not rule out” other projects.

First Solar has 82MW of solar developments under construction in the UK.  

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