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ASU's Polytechnic campus Solar Lab Testing Low Cost Solar Solution


July 09, 2001

New Solar Technology Designed to Compete with Conventional Energy

On June 25, at ASU's Polytechnic campus's internationally known Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory (PTL), First Solar "flipped the switch" on a uniquely designed 30-kilowatt solar array connecting First Solar's breakthrough technology to the Salt River Project grid.

ASU's Polytechnic campus's Photovoltaic Laboratory is one of three in the world certified to evaluate the performance, reliability and durability of "photovoltaic modules," that is, solar panel components that convert sunlight into electricity. It is the only such laboratory in the United States. ASU's Polytechnic campus PTL Director Govindasamy Tamizhmani said if all goes well over the initial three-year testing period, he expects the experimental solar facility to provide fully half the electrical requirements of the Photovoltaic Laboratory-an energy savings equivalent to that consumed by eight average Arizona homes.

First Solar, with an office in Scottsdale Arizona and a state-of-the art manufacturing facility outside of Toledo, Ohio, selected the site at ASU's Polytechnic campus for this test array because of its reputation in the solar industry. "We are interested in ongoing testing of our breakthrough technology at an accredited solar laboratory, and PTL is ideal for our purpose," says Wayne Monie, vice president at First Solar. "PTL will provide First Solar independent field evaluation and validation of our current technology and of future improvements we make to the product."

The First Solar experimental solar facility includes 600 solar modules in panels oriented flat-on-the-ground, and covering approximately 4,600 square feet in the Photovoltaic Laboratory testing yard. Because Arizona has fewer cloudy days than any other state, it is an ideal solar module testing location, and ASU faculty and students have developed a variety of outdoor testing programs and indoor weather chambers to test modules under typical long-term outdoor conditions as well as conditions of extreme heat, cold, humidity and weather anomalies such as wind and hail storms.

According to PTL Manager Liang Ji, "A data acquisition system relays continuous up-to-the-second performance information not only to ASU's Polytechnic campus researchers, but to the product development team at First Solar in Toledo, Ohio."

"As conventional energy becomes more scarce and expensive, photovoltaics becomes more cost effective as a power source," says Tamizhmani. "In the bargain, solar energy significantly reduces greenhouse gas (CO2) pollution. Every kilowatt hour of electricity generated by solar modules reduces CO2 pollution by 1.5 pounds."

The First Solar experimental solar facility at ASU's Polytechnic campus is expected to generate 62,415 kilowatt hours of energy per year.

A manufacturer of thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules, First Solar is the first to develop breakthrough technology and patented production processes capable of producing high volumes of solar modules at costs approaching conventional energy cost levels. First Solar's process integrates novel semiconductor coating methods and device architecture with automated, high throughput manufacturing methods - a new paradigm in the solar industry. First Solar's initial factory and technology center are located in Perrysburg, Ohio, and its corporate and marketing office is in Scottsdale, Arizona.