E.ON's first solar farm fires up

LE LAUZET, FRANCE - German utility E.ON has inaugurated its first solar farm near the southern French town of Le Lauzet. Located about 150 kilometres north of Marseille the farm, when completed, will have 5 megawatts (MW) of capacity and occupy more than 20 hectares.

The site is situated in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, and given its high levels of solar radiation, E.ON expects more than 1,400 full-load hours per year. The company said the plant will save more than 4,270 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

The plant will use a variety of solar technologies from different manufacturers, and will include thin-film modules manufactured at E.

ON's new production facility in Magdeburg. E.ON said it is hoping to use the solar farm as a real-world testing site for a wide variety of solar technologies.

"The sun and its enormous power will play a key role in future energy supply," E.ON Chairman Wulf H. Bernotat said. "But this will only happen if we learn to use it as thoroughly and efficiently as wind and water. We have already been generating carbon-free hydropower on an industrial scale for a century. With wind energy we are also getting there. And we are now starting with solar."

The Le Lauzet farm will test different types of thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules, which are considered to be an attractive solar option, as they are easy to combine into a large array to create a PV power plant. They would only require an intermediate-voltage interconnection to the transmission grid. The first phase of the farm uses 12,675 Malibu PV modules placed on the 20-hectare site.

Solar power currently plays a very minor role in E.ON's renewables energy mix but the company expects it to grow. From 2007 to 2011 alone E.ON intends to invest 8 billion euros (US$11.1 billion) in the expansion of renewable energy sources. In real terms, the goal is to have 10 gigawatts of generation capacity based on renewables by 2015. By 2030, E.ON wants to produce 35% of its power from renewable sources. The company says that 25% will come from mostly come from wind, solar, biomass and biomethane projects with the remaining 10% coming from hydropower.

E.ON's solar farm news comes just a week after BP Solar, part of the alternative energy business unit of BP Plc, teamed up with RGE Energy AG to announce plans to build a large-scale solar power facility with a peak power output of more than 46MW. The plant, which will be located at a former military airfield at Koethen in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany will use 210,000 crystalline photovoltaic modules, each with a peak power output of 220 watts.

The partners have also agreed to build a 15-MW solar power facility at Eberswalde airport near Berlin.


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