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Friday, June 28, 2013

First Solar finds a new power source: moonshine

by , Reneweconomy, June 28, 2013

First Solar has created a bunch of records for building the first large scale solar PV plants, and a series of projects that were the biggest of their types at the time of construction.
Now it can claim a new, wholly unexpected record – its AVSR1 solar project in the high desert of California may be the first such facility to have generated electricity from moonlight.
The AVSR1 ranch is a little over half way through completion, with 136MW of its nominal 250MW (AC) capacity already delivering electricity to the grid.
On Sunday night, local time, on the occasion of a “super” full moon, or “supermoon”, the arrays already in place actually generated 1MW of capacity, its operators were stunned to find when they turned up to work on Monday morning.
The “supermoon” was 14 per cent larger and 30 per cent brighter than a “normal” full moon as it moved to its closest point to the Earth for 2013.  And while it took the operators a little by surprise, it’s not about to open up any new strategic thoughts, as the moon won’t be this close again till August 2014. That’s not exactly a base-load option.
But the fact the solar plant did generate electricity from sunlight reflected off the moon does underline the ability of the company’s Cadmium telluride (CdTe)  thin film panels to perform better under diffuse light conditions. It often boasts of its ability to produce electricity at dawn and dusk, and on cloudy days. It’s never mentioned producing at night before.
Project head Tony Perrino remembers the installation of a 14MW First Solar installation at Boulder, when 3” of snow fell. It still managed to produce 200kW of power.
The AVSR1 facility in the Antelope Valley can normally expect more than 350 sunny days a year. “What we usually get is a perfect bell shapred curve, says Tony.
But on the occasion of RenewEconomy’s visit to the control room last Monday it was a rare, heavily clouded day. Still, with reasonably thick cover, the plant was still producing 60MW – nearly half of the rated completed capacity of the plant. That was with the solar irradiation at around one third of the average good day, which can range between 800s/sq m and 1,200w/sq m. As the cloud cover thinned, it quickly rose to around 90MW.

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