German Senftenberg solar plant now largest PV array in the world

German Senftenberg solar plant now largest PV array in the worldThe completion of the 166-megawatt (DC) Senftenberg solar power plant in Germany hasn’t made the same news splash as last year’s largest solar projects to come online. But it’s the first photovoltaic project to break the 100-megawatt barrier.

Canadian Solar announced that the second and third phases of the solar farm, comprising 148 megawatts of its photovoltaics, were commissioned on Sept. 24.

Last year, both the 80-megawatt Sarnia power plant in Ontario, Canada—which came online one year ago (Oct. 4, 2010) and the 85-megawatt Montalto di Castro park in Lazio, Italy, which came online in December 2010, made bigger headlines.

Some reports say the Sarnia system is the largest at 95 megawatts to 97 megawatts, but plant owner Enbridge said it is 80 megawatts. Either way, Senftenberg is nearly double the size of the previous record holders.

The Senftenberg power was built in three phases.

“It is one solar power plant and the largest connected solar complex in the world,” said Canadian Solar spokesperson Alison Mickey. “The entire complex is complete and up and running.”

In a press release, Canadian Solar said it supplied 636,000 solar modules to the complex and the two system integrators, saferay and GP JOULE.

“The system will be able to produce enough green energy for the usage needs of approximately 50,000 homes,” the company said.

What’s even more impressive is the timeline for installation. The project was completed after just three months of construction, according to Mickey.

It began providing modules this Spring, signing a contract with GP Joule in April and saferay in May, she said. The power plant’s second and third phases were built on 200 hectares of the former Meuro surface mining plant owned by Agrargenossenschaft Grossraeschen eG coop, according to the release.

"With the Senftenberg project, we show that large-scale photovoltaic systems are faster to develop and build than any other type of power plant,” Dr. Marko Schulz, CEO of saferay, said in a press release. “Even today, in a country with fewer sun hours like Germany, we can produce energy cheaper than offshore wind power systems, for instance."

While the German plant can for now claim the title of “world’s largest” photovoltaic plant, it’s not likely to keep the title for long.

Other projects, like the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch being built by SunPower, Corp. (NASDAQ: SNPWR), are likely to outshine the Senftenber power plant relatively soon and claim the mantle as their own. But the largest planned photovoltaic plant, the 2 gigawatt Ordos Solar Project in China, isn’t expected to come online until 2019.

Between now and then, there will be a lot of new “world’s largest” stakes to be made.

Image courtesy of Phoenix Solar.