PV innovations helping to push the French market forward

pv magazine: What are the strengths of French companies and research institutes?

Only one small vertically-integrated PV manufacturer is operating in France. However, on the one hand we have few worldwide component suppliers such as Arkema, Air Liquide, or Schneider Electric, and on the other hand we have many SMEs specialized in one component, in processing or characterization equipment, in PV module manufacturing, or in the whole range of PV systems. Due to our wide-ranging labs and testing facilities covering the entire value chain, INES enables most of them to innovate.

In French oversea territories the grids are more limited in regards to solar penetration than in Europe, as they are not connected to the European transmission grid. How much installed solar is there in these territories and what are the targets of the government?

So far, in the French Overseas Territories, PV installations are limited to account for a maximum of 30% of the total installed capacity. In the “La Réunion” island for instance, the installed PV capacity is around 180 MW for a total capacity of 500 to 600 MW. The grid integration of storage systems will allow a gradually increase of this 30% threshold. Over the last few years, the tender applications for PV plants only allow submissions that include storage systems, in order to control the daily profile of the power supply according to the local specifications.

Will it be economically viable to equip the solar power plants with storage systems?

The best price observed during the last bidding process for solar plants with storage systems was 140€/MWh, which was a major improvement compared to the previous one. The price curve of storage systems is impressive.

On the other end of the value chain, AET has developed a method with which it measures the oxygen content and distribution in the wafer during the silicon crystal growth. What are the companies doing at the moment and why do we need innovation for this step of the process?

With higher quantity capacities, it becomes more and more important to characterize wafers or cells accurately at several steps of the process. Selecting “out of specifications” wafers may help to avoid needless expenses, or to adapt the cell process on demand. The patented method and equipment developed by INES and AET is much faster than any method that existed previously and is therefore useful for manufacturing lines.

Questions by Michael Fuhs

The French companies show their innovations on 23 June at a workshop at Intersolar Europe in room B13 from 10:00 to 13:00, organized by solar research institute Ines (Institut national de l’energie solaire). More information: www.ines-solaire.org/en/events/intersolar-europe/