Solar Frontier, a Japanese thin film solar company with big plans (and a 100 percent subsidiary of Showa Shell), just announced that it will supply Saudi Aramco with 10 megawatts of CIS solar modules for a car park installation in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The installation will be one of the largest photovoltaic-covered parking lots in the world, at approximately 40 acres when completed by the end of 2011.

The panels will cover 4,450 parking spaces and will have a capacity of 10 megawatts, providing all the building’s daytime power needs. The urban parking lots in that part of the world tend to be covered, anyway.

Solar Frontier has had product in the field since 2003 and with the backing of Shell, Showa and other big-money sources, has a sizable balance sheet.   They are ready to invest billions of dollars and they're already on their way with a 900-megawatt panel factory in Miyazaki, Japan that will be one of the largest PV factories in the world when it is completed.

A press release from earlier this year had Showa Shell CEO Shigeaki Kameda making these ambitious efficiency claims: "While the aperture area efficiency of panels coming off of the assembly line today is at a competitive efficiency of around 13.0%, we expect to reach 14.2% when our third plant starts operating in 2011, and to approach 15.0% by 2014."

Saudi Arabia also provides an excellent and tortuous test bed for subjecting a solar product to environmental stress.

Saudi Arabia receives a DNI of greater than 1800 kWh/m²/y -- significantly more than the amount of sun that hits a “sunny” country like Spain, making Saudi Arabia an ideal country for solar power projects.  And a great candidate for CPV.

Speaking of CPV and Saudi Arabia...

SolFocus, a developer of Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) solar systems, revealed that Vision Electro Mechanical Company, a subsidiary of Construction Products Holding Company (CPC), will build the first commercial solar power plant in Saudi Arabia using CPV systems. The project, sited in the Bahra region, will deliver around 300MWh of energy per year from 132kW of nameplate capacity and is the first in a series of Saudi power stations planned by Vision.

Vision will market and install the SolFocus solar power systems, starting with this plant in CPC's Bahra industrial complex. Vision will install other solar power stations in Saudi Arabia, as well as in the research centers of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

SolFocus has figured out a way to have their CPV panels considered bankable by financiers and project developers: they are using an insurance company to provide a warranty for panel performance.

SolFocus provides all of its CPV system customers globally with a warranty of 25 years for power performance. If any product fails to meet the specifics of this warranty, the Munich Re insurance policy kicks in.