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Collaboration creates state-of-the-art solar facility

October 13, 2008

TUV Rheinland Group has joined forces with ASU to create TUV Rheinland PTL, the most comprehensive, sophisticated, state-of-the-art facility for testing and certification of solar energy equipment in the world.

This unique collaboration, which is a private venture, will be based in Tempe. It combines the powerful reputation, technological sophistication, management expertise and international reach of TUV Rheinland – the global leader in independent testing and assessment services – with ASU’s more than 50 years of research on solar energy and extensive solar testing know-how.

ASU’s Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory (PTL), established in 1992, has long been the only lab in the United States accredited for photovoltaic (PV) design qualification and type approval. ASU’s legal involvement in this venture was made possible by Arizona Technology Enterprises and its wholly owned subsidiary, Commercial PTL Ventures Inc.

TUV Rheinland’s collaboration will connect ASU’s PTL facility to the company’s global network. The new company substantially expands PTL’s testing capabilities in volume and scope by adding state-of-the-art test equipment, as well as the capacity to test and certify PV panels and electrical components for Europe, Asia and North America.

PTL, in turn, provides TUV Rheinland with its university knowledge base, immediate entry to the U.S. solar testing market, and the lab’s long experience testing PV panels in simulated and real outdoor environments. Central Arizona receives an average of 325 days of sunshine annually.

A collaboration between the new company and Arizona’s largest electric provider, Arizona Public Service (APS), will extend the industry impact of TUV Rheinland PTL. The utility will provide 5 acres of outdoor testing space at its renowned Solar Test and Research (STAR) Center for use by the venture to conduct outdoor endurance testing.

The STAR Center, a pioneering facility among U.S. public utilities, was established in 1985. It has earned an international reputation as a leader in the commercial development and proof of operation for emerging solar energy technologies, including Dish-Stirling arrays, high-concentration photovoltaic systems and innovative solar tracking systems.

TUV Rheinland will be the principal investor in the new company and will develop a new facility near ASU’s Tempe campus equipped with the latest, most advanced test technologies and equipment in the world.

“We are excited to participate in this globally significant joint venture,” says Stephan Schmitt, president and chiefe executive officer of TUV Rheinland of North America Holding, Inc. “The potent combination of business, university and utility solar test assets will enable TUV Rheinland PTL to be the first in the world to offer full-scale PV testing and certification across the entire component chain of photovoltaic systems. By adding this unique new capacity in the United States to TUV Rheinland’s existing PV laboratories in Europe and Asia, we are establishing a laboratory network that will deliver unprecedented service to the crucially important and rapidly growing solar industry.”

In addition to the venture’s worldwide implications, the new testing facility is expected to produce local economic impacts by attracting solar energy manufacturers and entrepreneurs to Arizona, boosting the state’s solar energy credentials, and increasing employment in the solar energy industry.

“This innovative public–private collaboration in state-of-the-art solar energy technologies, research and test facilities makes Arizona the best place to be for solar energy,” says ASU President Michael Crow. “Joining the business acumen of a top international testing firm with the capabilities of a major research university and the knowledge created by APS’ leadership on solar energy is a strategic move that will have significant payoffs for renewable energy users worldwide – and for the world’s climate.”

“From our plans to build Solana, one of the world’s largest solar power plants, to making solar rooftop systems more affordable for customers, APS is dedicated to making Arizona the solar capital of the world,” adds Bill Post, chairman of Pinnacle West Capital Corp.

“The work to be done at the STAR Center by ASU and TUV Rheinland will help Arizona achieve that goal and will create long-term value for our customers, our state and our industry.”

The unusual new joint venture was assembled and coordinated with the help of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS), which oversees sustainability initiatives in research, education and application at the university. Expansion of the solar energy industry and the use of solar energy is an economic priority of Arizona and Gov. Janet Napolitano, as well as Science Foundation Arizona.

“Science Foundation Arizona was established to invest in purpose-driven research and innovation that advances the growth of Arizona’s knowledge economy,” says William Harris, president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona, and the former director of Science Foundation Ireland. “This world-class collaboration between TUV Rheinland and ASU is a perfect example of how research can lead to economic activity, and yield benefits and opportunities.”

“In a time of declining oil supplies, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and growing demand for clean, renewable energy worldwide, this joint venture will blend the strengths of two of the world’s leading test and certification organizations, and a major U.S. public utility, to create the most respected, sophisticated and efficient place for manufacturers to assure their solar energy products meet international standards before going to market,” says Jon Fink, the Julie Ann Wrigley Director of the Global Institute of Sustainability.

The kickoff of TUV Rheinland PTL will culminate in mid-November with a series of significant global events.