By Siân Harris, spie.org
In recent years, Germany has built an impressive market and industry base in photovoltaics. Now other European countries are following its lead.
Dazzling sunshine is a poetic image. The idea of powering our homes and businesses from it is also a beautiful idea. Yet there is little that is poetic about one of the heroes in the quest to harvest solar energy from sunlight: legislation.
Abengoa Solar found it much easier to design large parabolic trough fields than flat plate or evacuated tube systems, and the end result is a more efficient transfer of sunlight into electrical energy. Photo courtesy of Abengoa Solar.
Nowhere is the impact of government laws in advancing the solar energy industry more evident than in Germany. Although it is not the sunniest place on Earth, Germany has around 49% of the world’s market for photovoltaic systems.
According to the organization Invest in Germany, the total installed power from photovoltaics in Germany was an impressive 3.8GW in 2007, and a further 1.1-1.2 GW is being installed each year.
Germany’s success story started in 2000 when the government introduced its Renewable Energy Law (Erneuerbaren-Energien-Gesetz, or EEG). The law’s so-called “feed-in tariff” provides subsidies to those who feed electricity generated from renewable energy sources into the public electric grid. It also requires electric companies to buy a certain amount of electricity derived from renewable sources such as solar power at above-market rates.
In June 2008, the law was updated to reduce the subsidies for renewable energy production over time, depending on how fast the market grows. Essentially, if the German market grows as predicted, the subsidy drops a set percentage each year–to match the cost benefits of increasing production volumes and anticipated improvements in efficiency of the technology. If uptake of the technology is significantly better than expected, then the subsidy reduction will occur more quickly. If, however, the market growth is slower than predicted, then the subsidy will remain high for longer.
“There is more support if the market is not growing that aggressively,” says David Wortmann, director of renewable energies and resources for Invest in Germany. In either case, industry and the planet win.
The subsidy does not come from the government. Instead, the utility companies–and ultimately their customers–pay the tariff. “The average additional cost is around €2-2.5 per month per household,” Wortmann says. “This is far less than a pint of beer, and people are generally willing to pay this because it saves the climate and creates jobs.”
Spain has also become a world leader in solar power. The PS10 solar field in Spain is composed of 624 of Abengoa Solar’s Sanlúcar 120 heliostats, each with a surface of about 1300 square feet (120 square meters). The heliostats direct the concentrated solar radiation onto a receiver at the top of a 377-foot (115 m) high tower. Photo courtesy of Abengoa Solar.
Germany is not the only country with this sort of vision. After Germany, Spain is now the second largest market for photovoltaic systems, with 13% of the global market. As in Germany, this has been a product of favorable legislation.
Since October 2006, Spain’s Building Technical Code (Código Técnico de la Edificación, or CTE) has required all new or restored houses in Spain to use solar thermal energy for 30% to 70% of their domestic hot water. It also requires a minimum contribution from photovoltaic systems to the total electricity consumption. In addition, it is mandatory for large shopping centers, industrial buildings, government buildings, hotels, and hospitals to have photovoltaic panels installed.
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by Jane Burgermeister, European Correspondent,
“The Sun,” said Jalal al-Din Rumi, one of the world’s greatest poets, “must come.” And the Arab world, which was an engine for centuries of innovation in science, philosophy and the arts, is now poised to become a leader in solar technology.
Though reported to have 8.5% of the world’s oil reserves and 3.3% of the world’s gas reserves, Abu Dhabi has launched a fund worth more than US $10 billion to find advanced renewable energy technology solutions to climate change.
Solar energy is also set to power another major Abu Dhabi project — Masdar City. The ultra modern city, due to be completed by 2015, aims to be the first zero-carbon emission and car-free city in the world, housing 50,000 inhabitants and 1,500 companies.
Now Masdar PV, a company belonging to the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a state-owned vehicle for renewable energy investment owned by the UAE, has announced plans to produce up to 280 MW of thin-film PV a year in Eastern Germany in partnership with Colexon Energy, a Hamburg-based company.
Under the deal, two facilities to manufacture large-scale PV modules, 5.7 square meters in size, are to be built between 2009 and 2013. One factory is to be located in Erfurt in Thuringia; the other in Abu Dhabi.
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By Erik Kirschbaum
DRESDEN, Germany, Dec 11 (Reuters) – Crisis? What crisis?
While the the rest of the economy plunges into recession, Germany’s solar power industry is full of optimism, fat order books and factories humming at full capacity — in stark contrast to the surrounding economic gloom.
Throughout eastern Germany’s “Solar Valley,” manufacturers are racing to keep up with global demand for solar panels and the state-of-the-art machinery that makes them, even though share prices have fallen sharply this week.
“There’s no recession here,” said Frank Asbeck, the founder of SolarWorld AG (SWVG.DE), the world’s third-largest photovoltaic company, which makes everything from solar-grade silicon to solar cells and solar panels.
“We’re always recruiting staff and are happy to hire workers laid off elsewhere,” he said during a tour of a 480-million euro ($600 million) manufacturing plant in Freiberg south of Dresden.
SolarWorld’s share price took a beating along with others on Tuesday after Germany’s Q-Cells (QCEG.DE), the world’s leading solar cell maker, issued a profit warning, saying 2008 sales growth would slow to 43 percent and to 10 to 20 percent in the first half of 2009.
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