Thin Film Solar Feeds German Grid

Much of the excitement around thin-film solar is related to the lower cost and relative ease of installing it on rooftops, particularly on existing buildings. But the technology has its backers for utility-scale solar power generation as well, as evidenced by a new six-megawatt (MW) plant ready to go online in Germany, about 30 miles south of Berlin.

The Abu Dhabi-owned enterprise Masdar PV did the development with the German solar contractor Beck Energy. It’s the biggest ever using Masdar’s thin-cell photovoltaic modules – and, the company hopes, proof of the technology’s viability on a bigger stage. “We have created a reference project here for future utility-scale photovoltaic power plants and for our Masdar PV product,” Frank Wouters, CEO of Masdar PV, said in a statement.

utility-scale thin-film solar, Masdar PV, Germany

image via Masdar PV

With an installed capacity of six MWs, the new solar plant will supply power for around 2,200 typical four-person households, the company said. That’s modest by traditional crystalline PV standards, but respectable for a ground-based thin-film installation. One of the first big thin-film plants in the United States was Sempra’s El Dorado project in Nevada, with a 10-MW capacity.

Masdar turned its focus to thin-film solar in 2008, and opened a production facility in Ichterhausen, Erfurt, in Germany’s so-called “Solar Valley,” two years ago.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.