First large Scale PV Power Plants

After succesfull implementation of PV systems in space programmes reach experiences were used for realisation of terrestrial PV systems. Most common applications in early beginnings of terrestrial PV applications include small rural PV power plants, PV systems for telecommunication purposes, PV systems for water supply and similar applications. First utility scale pilot PV power plants were constructed as results of different technological and scientific research programmes worldwide. Overview of first important research PV programmes is available in the literature. Several PV research programmes were ongoing in seventhies and early eighties and result of these projects were among others several pilot PV power plants with power capacity up to 300 kW. Numerous projects have been realised in this period, most notably in the USA, and Europe. First plans for utility scale PV power plants with power capacity more than 100 kW were done in late seventies and larger PV power plants followed soon. Pilot projects in this period include grid connected PV power plants, off-grid PV power plants, PV power plants with battery storage and hybrid PV-wind power plants. Particular attention was also put on off-grid PV systems for electricity supply of Islands. PV power plant on Island Pellworm in northern Germany was one of the first utility scale PV power plants with 300 kWp power capacity of the first stage. Designed and constructed by AEG Telefunken was intended to power the local recreation center. Later it was expanded to 600 kWp and wind generators were added, so Pellworm plant became also the largest hybrid PV power plant at that time. Pellworm PV power plant was repovered later and is still in service today.

One of the pioneering companies in this field was USA based Atlantic Richfield Oil Company (ARCO). The first MW-ranged power plant was constructed in Hesperia, California with ARCO's modules in the early 1980s. Carrizo Plain, the largest photovoltaic array in the world at that time, producing more than six MWp power, and it remained in service until 1994, was constructed shortly afterward. Carrizo Plain facility was the first large-scale plant with trackers and even included mirrors. The facility was dismantled in the late 1990s. Almost at the same time Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) constructed the first arrays of Rancho Seco PV power plant, near Sacramento, CA. With more than 2 MWp power it was largest photovoltaic power plant owned by a utility company at that time. Rancho Seco PV power plant was constructed partially, first with two 1.23 MW arrays in 1984 and 1986, later it was expanded several times until power capacity of more than 3 MW was reached.

Pilot PV power plants were constructed also in some other regions, like in Japan, Africa and Middle East. Among large-scale research facilities constructed in Japan it is worth mentioning the MW-range plant in Saijo City. It was constructed in 1985. However in Japan much more attention was given than solely on large-scale power plants; they focused heavily on residential PV rooftop programmes. Some residential PV systems realised with generating power capacity in MW range were put into service in Japan last 15 years as result of these early activities. In Saudi Arabia 350 kW pilot power plant for three remote villages was constructed in early 1980s.

In the early 1990s research activities in Europe, especially in Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands has resulted in several large-scale PV projects covering a wide range of applications - from wind-PV hybrid systems and noise barriers to a PV powered hydrogen facility. Systems with fixed and tracking arrays have been constructed. In the 1990s a 340 kWp power plant in Kobern-Gondorf, Mosel Valley, was constructed by companies RWE and AEG. Some other projects, like Lake Neurath PV plant were also put into service almost at the same time. Italy and Switzerland have also done significant pioneering. Power plants like Delphos and later Serre have been constructed in Italy. In Switzerland one project worth mentioning is the photovoltaic power plant along the Belinzona-Locarno railway and the 500 kWp Mont Soleil PV plant constructed in 1990s. A PV power plant located in Puebla de Montalbán, Toledo, Spain, was put into service some years later. Toledo PV power plant which consists of fixed and tracking arrays with peak power 1 MWp, was the first Spanish MW-range PV power plant and is still in operation today. In 1990s much attention was put also on residential PV programmes and some other applications like PV noise barriers and BIPV applications. In late 1990s large utility scale residential PV programmes in Germany in the Netherlands and in Australia to name but a few were successfull realised. First utility scale PV noise barrier was put into service in Switzerland. Large 1 MWp BIPV power plant with transparent modules was connected to the grid in Herne, northern Germany in 1999. With some other large utility scale roof mounted PV power plants in late 1990s direction of future development was clearly shown. Technical obstacles for large utility scale PV power plants were minimized and MW-ranged free field PV power plants as well as MW sized roof mounted PV power plants were nothing uncommon anymore.

Web Sites

www Akademie Mont-Cenis, Herne - 1 MW PV roof integrated transparent power plant in Herne, Germany.
www Solardach München-Riem - roof array in Munich, trade fair area.

Literature Survey

Literature Survey 1980-2015 Large-Scale (Utility-Scale) Photovoltaic Power Plants 1980-2015, Literature Survey.
Includes abstracts - extended edition with introduction and indices on CD-rom is available upon request. ISBN 978-961-288-634-9 (pdf).