German solar alliance examines Brazilian plans for 680 MW PV manufacturing plant

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The Brazilian state of Paraná is planning a carbon-free PV manufacturing plant with an annual capacity of 680 MW that will cover the entire value chain, from silicon production to solar module manufacturing.

German industry association Solar Cluster Baden-Württemberg, based in Stuttgart, and three of its member research institutes are helping Paraná achieve that goal by conducting an in-depth feasibility study to determine if the large-scale project, known as Green Silicon, is practicable.

PV factory alongside hydroelectric power plant

Brazilian-Paraguayan power company ITAIPU and Paraná industry association FIEP commissioned the study. The solar panel factory is to be built next to a hydroelectric power plant that boasts the world’s highest annual energy production. Located on the border between Paraguay and Brazil, ITAIPU Binacional’s power plant would provide the necessary clean energy for the fab.

Brazil and its population of more than 200 million inhabitants is becoming a key market for PV power generation. The country is aiming to largely meet growing energy demand with locally manufactured solar panels – a plan that led to development of the Green Silicon project.

The Solar Cluster and its member organizations Fraunhofer IPA, Fraunhofer ISE and the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) are looking to see whether the project is technically and financially feasible. The Solar Cluster Baden-Württemberg is coordinating the efforts and overseeing the study, which was initiated on Tuesday in Stuttgart. The group will draft a report summarizing the results, which is expected to be published in the second quarter of 2015.

Development of the Green Silicon project originally began last year. Paraná, Baden-Württemberg’s "twin" state in Brazil, turned to the German network of research and industry experts for assistance.

"The inquiry and subsequent tasking goes to show that expertise, particularly in renewable energy, from Baden-Württemberg is very much in demand," says Solar Cluster Managing Director Carsten Tschamber. "The study and its analyses will help businesses and policymakers in Brazil make informed decisions and drive the development of renewable power sources."

Each of the three research institutes in Baden-Württemberg is bringing its respective skill-set to the project:

  • ZSW is investigating the potential of the Brazilian and global markets and how the development of a local PV infrastructure would affect employment and value creation in the region.
  • Fraunhofer ISE is responsible for silicon PV, the solar cell manufacturing process and advanced training.
  • Fraunhofer IPA, a research institute for production engineering and automation, is analyzing the supply chain infrastructure, economic feasibility and environmental sustainability of the proposed project.

The partners’ collective results will provide an accurate picture as to the advisability of operating a photovoltaic plant in the South American country. Tschamber adds that more jobs for the members of the Solar Cluster are sure to follow if the project is a go.

Brazil has excellent conditions for exploiting solar power. Its annual solar irradiation is about twice that of Germany. The country held its first solar auction last month for nearly 900 MW of capacity, paving the way for rapid PV market development and undoubtedly generating intense interest among German PV companies eager to branch out into foreign markets.