The world’s largest solar plant appears set to be built in China, after the US’ First Solar revealed plans for a major foray into the Asian nation’s fast-growing alternative energy sector.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chinese government, First Solar will build a 2-gigawatt power plant in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia. The company will also consider building a new manufacturing plant in China.

The announcement comes as the solar industry struggles to emerge from a year-long slump that saw financing for new projects dry up and reduced subsidies in Spain create a glut of unsold cells and panels.

The project is part of China’s programme to generate 10% of its energy from renewable resources by 2010 and 15% by 2020, to help meet its growing energy appetite that has made the country the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide.

First Solar will begin constructing a 30 megawatt demonstration project in June 2010 in Ordos. The second and third phases call for 100 megawatt and 870 megawatt projects that will be completed in 2014. A final 1,000 megawatt installation is to be finished in 2019.

Thin-film solar cell technology is, perhaps, the hottest new trend at present, providing increased gases demand and attracting investment from the gases industry and beyond.

Most of the major gas companies have signed supply contracts with PV producers and before the global recession hit, the annual anticipation for growth in the solar sector was estimated to be around 30%.

A number of contracts have been awarded to the industrial gas community as the PV market becomes an ever-increasing growth driver for the industry. China itself is fast emerging at the forefront of the global solar industry, with over 50% growth in solar cell manufacturing in 2008.