The Government of Castilla La Mancha (Vice-Counsellor of Science) addressed to the IES, by recommendation of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Central Government, to establish a plan of R&D on renewable energies in its region.
A contract was signed with the IES who wrote a plan to build an Institute for Concentrator Photovoltaic Systems (ISFOC) in the region. The Plan was approved and an Agreement was signed on December 27 2005, between the Ministry of Education and the Government of Castilla la Mancha according to which the former gave a 20 Million Euro to build ISFOC (as a trading society totally owned by the regional government) to which the regional government will contribute with up to 0.9 Million Euro per year.
The central part of this plan is the issue of an international call for tenders for installing about 3 MW of concentrators form several suppliers. The call for tenders in 2006, was successfully developed and four (out of six) companies have been selected —Solfocus (US), Concentrix (DE), Isofotón (ES) and Guascor Fotón (ES)— to install 2 MW of concentrators in total.
A new call in 2007 has been issued to complete to the 3 MW foreseen, nine international companies have bided for the installation of a total of 1,3 MW. Only four of the nine have been awarded: Concentración Solar La Mancha S.L. (ES), EMCORE Corp. (US), Arima Eco (Taiwan) and Sol3G (ES), they will install these 1,3 MW.
The rational in this operation is that institutes first and companies later had developed hand-made concentrators with good performance. However the present challenge is to fabricate them industrially. To this aim two limitative conditions were in the call. The minimum tender that a bidder could offer was 300 kW and the minimum concentration acceptable to bid was 200 suns. In this way most of the older concentrators were discarded as the real interest was for concentrators based on MJ cells. Three of the four tenders (Solfocus, Concentrix and Isofotón) are based on this technology.
The IES has an important influence in the ISFOC development. Its Scientific Advisory Committee (SIC), a body formed of seven high level scientists, four from abroad, includes two scientists of IES (A Luque and G Sala) and is chaired by one of them (A. Luque). This body has important responsibilities. It has to habilitate the four top executive officers of ISFOC (CEO, COO, CTO, CMO) before they are contracted and has to give a positive report on concentrator installations when they exceed the 100 kW.
In addition, one of the members of the Management Board of ISFOC, in representation of the SIC, is a member of the IES (G. Sala). Furthermore, IES has a contract to continue helping in the launching of ISFOC and will supply under specific additional contracts equipment for the measurement of concentrators elements and plants. This equipment is not available in the market. Furthermore IES has several public projects for developing such equipment, including (partially) a CONSOLIDER project. It is thought that the launching of ISFOC will be a milestone in the industrialization of the technology of PV concentration, making possible the breakthrough that the increasing efficiencies of MJ solar cells have produced.
It may be accurate saying that while in the fabrication of these cells Spain has a reasonable but not leading position worldwide, in the utilisation of them for terrestrial applications is certainly leading at least if we count the amount of money devoted to it, that is bigger in Spain that in any other country, at least in a planned way.