Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Solar’s Gift to China: How to Build a Solar Farm (FSLR)

Can we just cut the "These are jobs that can't be outsourced" crap?
From Greentech:

CEO Michael Ahearn says First Solar plans to carry out an ‘IP transfer’ by training Chinese companies how to engineer solar power projects.

First Solar has something the Chinese want, and it plans to offer it up for free as part of a deal to build a 2-gigawatt solar farm in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.

The company's CEO, Michael Ahearn, said in an interview that he will be dispatching a team to China to work with one or a couple of Chinese construction companies that will effectively teach the Chinese companies how to go big with solar.

"We will bring people over in order to transfer our knowledge related to the design and engineering of the plant. It's an IP transfer in that regard," Ahearn said. "By the time we step back, they will be using designs and methodologies and components that are consistent with well designed solar plants."

The expertise Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar promises to bring is crucial for a country that has grand ambitions to become one of the world's largest solar energy producers but lacks experience in building solar farms....

..."There are low-cost Chinese manufacturers using traditional polysilicon. Companies going there have to be able to compete on cost, and perhaps offer something in the way of technologies to set themselves apart," Ahearn said.

A statement issued by a Chinese official about the First Solar deal said as much: "Discussions with First Solar about building a factory in China demonstrate to investors in China that they can confidently invest in the most advanced technologies available," said Cao Zhichen, vice mayor of Ordos.

The memorandum of understanding signed by First Solar and the Chinese government calls for the solar company to consider building one or more solar panel factories.

Ahearn said the MOU allows the company to build the first phase of the project without building a factory in China. The first phase involves erecting a 30-megawatt array of solar panels, and construction is set to start by June 1 next year.

"We will want to build a factory there because it's low cost, and it will be close to the market," Ahearn said. "A lot of innovations will happen, and we want to be close to the innovations."

First Solar plans to start scouting for potential factory sites in the next few months, but Ahearn said it's too soon to say how soon a factory might begin to materialize, particularly since the company hasn't build a manufacturing plant in China before....MORE