US, China to build world's largest solar plant

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First Solar Inc, a US-based renewable energy company, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China Guangdong Nuclear Solar Energy Development Co Ltd (CGN SEDC) on Wednesday to jointly develop the world's largest solar power plant.

First Solar, the world's largest maker of thin-film solar PV modules, said it will build a 2,000-megawatt (mW) solar power plant with its partners in Ordos, Inner Mongolia autonomous region in the next 10 years.

The first phase of the project is to build a 30-mW production capacity plant. The rest of the project will be completed in three stages.

Under the terms of the agreement, First Solar and CGN SEDC will work together to execute the first phase demonstration project with a 30-mW production capacity in Ordos.

The Ordos project is the first large-scale solar collaboration between China and the United States, as well as an example of China-US bilateral cooperation on renewable energy. It will be the largest solar power plant in the world upon completion.

"We are making efforts on establishing a global relationship between US and Chinese companies in collaboration with the Chinese local government," said Bruce Sohn, president of First Solar. "This project will be a good start."

The agreement represents an important step forward for the Ordos project, following First Solar's MOU with the local government in Ordos in September 2009. The Chinese government approved the pre-feasibility study for the first phase in September.

TK Kallenbach, executive vice-president of First Solar, said since 2009 the company has been searching for a suitable long-term Chinese partner.

Sohn said even though First Solar has the advanced technology of thin-film solar PV modules, the company lacks the experience and network in the Chinese market, which CGN SEDC can help to fill.

CGN SEDC will be the major project owner and operator, performing the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) functions for the project.

First Solar will supply its advanced thin-film solar PV modules for the project and support CGN SEDC with EPC and advisory services.

Currently, the largest solar power plant is the Sarnia PV power plant with an 80-mW production capacity in Sarnia, Canada.

According to First Solar, the construction of the first phase will start in 2011 and it expects to complete the construction of the 2,000-mW solar power plant by the end of 2020. The Ordos local government said it will provide equipment and service supports for the project.

"We look forward to working together to make the Ordos project a reality and to contribute to China's renewable energy goals and market development," said Sohn.

Established on Aug 27, 2009, CGN SEDC is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, focusing on solar power investment, construction, operation and maintenance. By the end of 2010, CGN SEDC completed construction of solar facilities capable of producing 20 mW.

Han Qinghao, president of CGN SEDC, said: "We are very pleased to be partnering with First Solar to develop the first significant solar project adopting advanced thin-film technology in China."

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