First solar connects 52.5 MW solar PV plant in Jordan

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U.S. thin film solar manufacturer and project developer First Solar has commissioned the 52.5 MW Shams Ma’an solar plant in the Middle East kingdom of Jordan – one of the largest solar installations in the region.

The plant now meets 1% of Jordan’s total power generation capacity, and its completion marks a series of milestones in Jordan’s journey towards a brighter solar future.

In technical terms the Shams Ma’an plant is a first for Jordan, comprising more than 600,000 of First Solar’s high-performance series 4 thin film modules, which are approximately 5% more efficient than conventional crystalline silicon panels. The installation is also built using single-axis trackers to enable up to 20% higher yield.

Perhaps most significantly, the engineering and construction of the array was conducted using an almost entirely Jordanian workforce, with First Solar said to have spent more than 40,000 man hours on training alone, creating what they call a "new skills resource for the country".

"Shams Ma’an has facilitated the transfer of several gigawatts of First Solar’s knowledge and experience to Jordan," said First Solar VP of business development for the Middle East, Raed Bkayrat. "Our hope is that the skills acquired through this project will further enable Jordan’s solar energy ambitions."

Jordan has been a leading light for PV development in the MENA region over the past 18 months, and recently launched Round 3 of its solar energy tender, offering somewhere between 400 to 800 MW of PV capacity projects. The kingdom’s aim is to procure 10% of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

The Shams Ma’an plant is owned by a consortium of local and international developers, including the Kawar Group, Nebras Power Q.S.C. and Diamond Generating Europe. Jordan’s National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for the solar energy generated at the site.

"There is no doubt that this power plant will deliver on its promises, reliably generating energy over its lifetime and forming the cornerstone of Jordan’s energy security strategy," said Kawar Energy chairman Karim Kawar.

Upon completing the project, First Solar now has more than 70 MWac of installed solar PV capacity in the Middle East, with a further 200 MWac in the pipeline – the bulk of which is tied up in the development of Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the second phase of which is expected to be completed next year.

First Solar’s thin film Series 4 modules have proven their efficacy in harsh desert climates such as those found in Jordan and the Middle East, and this latest commission is, according to First Solar’s Middle East VP Ahmed S. Nada, "further evidence of the fact that First Solar’s high performance modules can deliver more energy than conventional PV technologies across the Middle East."