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8 September 2009


First Solar to team with Chinese government on Inner Mongolia power plant

In the presence of chairman Wu Bangguo of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA, which manufactures thin-film photovoltaic modules based on cadmium telluride (CdTe), has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Chinese government to build a 2GW solar power plant in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia, China.

The plant will be built over a multi-year period. Phase 1 will be a 30MW demonstration project that will begin construction by June 2010. Phases 2, 3 and 4 will be 100MW, 870MW and 1000MW, respectively. Phases 2 and 3 will be completed in 2014 and Phase 4 will be completed by 2019.

“This major commitment to solar power is a direct result of the progressive energy policies being adopted in China to create a sustainable, long-term market for solar and a low-carbon future for China,” said CEO Mike Ahearn at the signing ceremony. “It represents an encouraging step forward toward the mass-scale deployment of solar power worldwide to help mitigate climate change concerns,” he added.

The project will operate under a feed-in-tariff that will guarantee the pricing of electricity produced by the power plant over a long-term period. “The Chinese feed-in tariff will be critical to this project,” Ahearn said. “This type of forward-looking government policy is necessary to create a strong solar market and facilitate the construction of a project of this size, which in turn continues to drive the cost of solar electricity closer to ‘grid parity’ – where it is competitive with traditional energy sources.”

The MOU contemplates that, during the implementation of the initial phases of the project, First Solar will actively review the possibility of module and supplier manufacturing sites in Ordos, and other considerations required to support a First Solar investment. The firm also intends to facilitate expansion of the supply chains in China for thin-film photovoltaic module production and for the recycling of photovoltaic modules after use.

“Discussions with First Solar about building a factory in China demonstrate to investors in China that they can confidently invest in the most advanced technologies available,” said Cao Zhichen, vice mayor of Ordos Municipal Government.

Final agreement between the parties is subject to the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements among the parties.

*The announcement of the MOU follows a visit by a delegation of senior Chinese government leaders to First Solar’s headquarters in order to learn how its CdTe thin-film photovoltaic module technology can help contribute to China’s goal of achieving a low-carbon economic future as well as meeting China's increasing demand for sustainable renewable energy.

Hosted by Ahearn, the delegation - led by Wu Bangguo - met with First Solar executives to examine the firm’s solar panels. The officials also discussed the potential for the US and China to address global climate change through the creation of solar markets that take advantage of the solar resources in both countries.

“If the US and China work together and strongly support solar growth, we believe we can reduce the cost of solar electricity to grid parity and create the blueprint for accelerated mass-scale deployment of solar power worldwide to mitigate climate change,” Ahearn said.

The Chinese delegation’s visit was part of an itinerary that takes them to Washington DC to meet with congressional leaders and the Obama administration on a variety of energy, trade and business initiatives. Ahearn said he is encouraged that both China and the US are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of promoting policies supportive of solar energy.

“As a nation, we need strong policy support to create a vibrant solar industry and the green jobs that come with it,” Ahearn said. “Solar represents one of our best opportunities to help address global climate change and energy security, and we should ensure that it becomes a permanent, sustainable source of renewable electricity for the USA and the world.”

First Solar recently announced agreements to build two large-scale solar power projects in Southern California. The installations (among the largest of their kind) will have a generation capacity of 550MW, enough to provide power to about 170,000 homes.

“We are interested in teaming with progressive government and community leaders to help them achieve their goals for mass-scale deployment of affordable solar power,” Ahearn comments.

See related items:

CdTe PV maker First Solar appoints CEO

First Solar/juwi CdTe solar farm becomes world’s second biggest

First Solar wins CdTe PV contracts: 55MW for Los Angeles and 550MW for Southern California Edison

First Solar to supply 10MW of CdTe PV panels for Lend Lease’s Australia business

Search: First Solar CdTe PV modules