Solar Frontier and Belectric form PVCIStems JV

15. March 2012 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By:  Jonathan Gifford

German EPC Belectric and Japanese thin film manufacturer Solar Frontier have formed a new joint venture (JV) company, to develop ground- and roof-mounted power plants. Making reference Solar Frontier’s CIGS technology, which the company refers to as CIS, the joint venture will go by the name PV CIStems.

Black solar modules on a factory roof, with mountains in the background against an overcast sky.

Solar Frontier black modules atop it's Miyazaki fab, in an installation size that it will be hoping to emulate in its PV CIStems JV. Solar Frontier.

PV CIStems will be based in Germany, near the southern city of Munich. A statement announcing the partnership elaborated, "Future PV CIStems operating companies in other countries are expected to be established in response to local market needs and in accordance with local regulations."

The timing of the joint venture, only weeks after a shadow has been cast over the utility-scale market in Germany – following the dramatic FIT cuts – is unfortunate. Nonetheless, the statement announcing the JV says that PV CIStems plans to operate in Germany.

Belectric and Solar Frontier have collaborated previously, on ground-mounted power plants in France and Germany, and also on a ten megawatt (MW) power plant project in Saudia Arabia. The new company will have representatives of both parent companies on its board.

In the statement, Solar Frontier Director, Atsuhiko Hirano said that Belectric’s decision to form the JV with the Japanese company is testament to its modules’ performance in a range of conditions. "With more than 700 MW installed since 2010, from residential to utility scale, in a wide range of climates, configurations, and technologies, Belectric’s confidence in Solar Frontier confirms the strong performance of our CIS modules within energy solutions."

The author of a recent report into the copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) market, Lux Research’s Pallavi Madakasira, also picked up on this theme in a recent interview with pv magazine. Elaborating on why she thinks Solar Frontier is the leading CIGS firm, Madakasira spoke of their size, financial backing and also bankability.

"They are considered a bankable brand, and most of the other CIGS companies are not considered that," said Madakasira. "I think Solar Frontier could technically be considered the First Solar of the CIGS world, where it has certainly had the early-mover advantage and has executed with tremendous discipline and has succeeded in demonstrating module efficiencies and improving them as well."

Madakasira continued that Solar Frontier’s expansion into geographically diverse markets is another strength for the company, something it appears it will continue doing in the PV CIStems JV. "Solar Frontier is making inroads into India, in the US, and into Europe so it is really spreading its tentacles into the rest of the world, which is good thing for CIGS and a good thing for Solar Frontier."

Lux Research yesterday also released the news that Solar Frontier broke into the company’s list of the top-25 module manufacturers worldwide. Solar Frontier first did so in the second quarter of 2011. Another Japanese manufacturer came in at number six on the Lux Research Solar Supply Tracker.

Solar Frontier currently has a manufacturing capacity – when fully ramped – approaching one GW. Earlier this month it confirmed to pv magazine that it had been selected for a government subsidy to build a new fab. However at present, the company continued, there was no decision that could be announced.

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