Phoenix finishes 3.5MW Saudi array

Germany’s Phoenix Solar has completed the largest ground-mounted PV system in Saudi Arabia using Suntech panels, as integrators and suppliers angle for position ahead the kingdom’s introductory solar-energy tender.

Frankfurt-listed Phoenix spent 20 months installing nearly 13,000 modules and SMA central inverters on the grounds of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPARC), under construction in the capital city of Riyadh.

With a nameplate capacity of 3.5MW, the system covers 55,000 sq m and will feed an estimated 5,800MWh of electricity per year into KAPARC’s medium-voltage grid.

Acknowledging the relative paucity of industry experience building PV systems in desert regions, Phoenix says it placed the PV array boxes in air-conditioned inverter building with an eye towards improving system performance and extending the life cycle.

The contract, handed to Phoenix by the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), was announced in early 2011.

Suntech – formerly the world’s largest PV module supplier, but only the third largest in 2012 – was chosen due to the proven ability of its panels to perform well in high-temperature conditions, says Phoenix.

Integrator rivals of Phoenix Solar, such as Belectric and Conergy, have also won contracts to build PV systems in Saudi Arabia, which has only a tiny base of installed PV capacity to date, but plans to install 16GW by 2030 – in addition to 25GW of concentrated solar power (CSP).

Sometime in the next month or two Saudi Arabia is expected issue preliminary documents related to its solar roll-out, with an initial introductory tender – probably worth about 600MW, split between PV and CSP – to be launched later this year.

Given the possible size of the future Saudi market, a number of PV companies are positioning themselves to play a role, with the inclusion of local content expected to be critical for winning major projects.  

Germany’s Belectric, the world’s largest PV integrator, has a joint venture with Japan’s Solar Frontier – which is minority owned by Saudi Aramco.