In September of 2011, the French Energy Regulatory Commission launched a call for tenders to build and operate power plants harnessing solar energy with individual capacity of over 250 kW. Soitec will be involved as a leader in generating and manufacturing semiconductor materials for energy and electronics. The company’s concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) technology is present in most of the eight projects in the “concentrator solar plants with installed capacity of less than 12 MW” sub-category.
Recently selected by Delphine Bathot, French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, these eight projects have over 54 MW in total capacity, with CPV solutions accounting for at least 30% of each project’s installed capacity.
“Without revealing the details of the eight concentrator solar projects, as their go-ahead depends of course on gaining all the requisite permits and their design may yet be tweaked by the various partners, we are very happy that our module- and tracker-based offering has been chosen for the majority of projects,” commented Gaetan Borgers, Executive Vice President of Soitec’s Solar Energy Division. “This choice reflects not only their confidence in our technology, but also in our manufacturing capabilities. We possess a great deal of experience in large-scale manufacturing, with automated lines and certified processes.”
Soitec is very well positioned following this selection process. This call for tenders also has afforded the company another opportunity to demonstrate its technological leadership. The energy efficiency of its CPV modules stands at close to 30%–double that of standard photovoltaic products.
André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, Soitec’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, added, “The announcement of the winners of this call for tenders illustrates the determination of our government to foster the emergence of a first-class solar energy industry. Our company is originally from the Grenoble area of southeastern France, but thanks to its innovation and its expertise, it has established itself in global markets. These projects will help to establish the ramp-up in the highest-performance technologies. For example, we are already working on development of a new, very high-performance cell. We are therefore delighted with the Ministry’s announcements concerning the next stages, and we intend to play an active role in driving forward this segment so that it can realize its tremendous potential.”
Focus on the CPV technology developed by Soitec
Soitec’s CPV technology uses triple-junction cells mounted on a glass plate. Fresnel lenses (manufactured using silicone on glass) concentrate sunlight 500 times before it reaches these cells, which convert it into electricity. A metal frame holds two glass plates to form highly robust, durable and resilient modules. By combining several modules on biaxial trackers (based on a proprietary algorithm automatically optimizing their position based on the path of the sun), Soitec maximizes energy generation throughout the day.
With yields of around 30% in its CPV modules, Soitec achieves twice the performance of conventional photovoltaic technologies. The work that the company is conducting in France on a new type of cell should ultimately enable it to achieve an energy yield of around 50%. In addition to its teams in France, Soitec also has 70 MW in production capacity in Germany (with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification). Looking ahead, this manufacturing base will be boosted by Soitec’s new plant in San Diego, California, which will ultimately add 200 MW in capacity.