Saturday, December 8, 2012

First Solar Invests in Himalayan Solar + Clean Water Project

With the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission sparking rapid growth, India presents a key, strategic and sustainable business opportunity for Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, which has forged a world-leading, lowest- cost-producer position in the thin-film solar photovoltaic (PV) power market segment.

Supporting its strategic expansion plans in the country, First Solar and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust announced plans to collaborate on a solar power pilot project to provide a reliable supply of safe drinking and irrigation water to rural communities in India’s middle Himalayas region.

Solar PV to offer Himalayan Villagers a sustainable water supply
Residents in middle Himalayas rural towns and villages typically lack basic infrastructure such as roads, health facilities, schools and electricity, the project partners note. Lacking a reliable supply of electricity, villagers, typically women and children, can spend three to four hours a day collecting water from springs and carrying it back to their villages.

First Solar, through its charitable giving program, partnered with the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, one of the oldest philanthropic institutions in India to develop an effective, simple, low-cost and low-maintenance means of addressing this water issue. The group aims to install 100 of First Solar’s cadmium-telluride (CdTe) thin-film PV modules in Chureddhar and Chham (Gunogi), two villages in India’s northern Uttarakhand state.

The two thin-film solar PV systems are expected to provide reliable supplies of clean, renewable off-grid electrical power sufficient to meet villagers’ drinking and irrigation water needs. The electricity generated will be used to power water pumps that will move spring water into storage tanks. Managed under the Trust’s Central Himalayan program (Himmotthan Pariyojana) by the Himmotthan Society, the project is expected to benefit 65 households — a total of 530 individuals in the two villages.

The pilot project is just that; if it proves successful plans are to replicate the system, potentially across hundreds of villages throughout India, according to the pilot project partners.

Sustainable solar PV markets in hot climates such as India’s favor First Solar’s CdTe thin-film solar cells and modules, according to management. Hence, they’re focal points for the company, which is enjoying considerable success in India’s fast-growing solar PV market. GTM Research estimates the company will ship around 200-MW of its thin-film PV panels for at least five projects in India this year.

While this is a philanthropic project, Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar also aims to earn a 20 percent market share of India’s solar PV projects, according to the company’s Q2 earnings conference call. In its drive to realize that goal, First Solar management on Aug. 22 announced plans to build solar power farms in India.

First Solar and other thin-film PV exporters to India also enjoy a policy-based advantage over their crystalline silicion PV counterparts. Indian domestic-content legislation covers crystalline silicon PV panels, but not thin-film solar PV panels the manufacture of which First Solar has forged a world market-leading position.


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