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German PV roars on

Germany's Network Agency has announced the PV installation figures for August, confirming that the country remains on course to greatly exceed the government's target corridor of 2.5-3.5 gigawatts per year. Nonetheless, proponents of solar – including our German sister publication – ignore this continued success, complaining instead that the market is being cut in half.

"Photovoltaics continues to grow slowly in Germany" – thus begins the German report on the installation figures from August at our sister publication, Erneuerbare Energien. In August, 10,109 new solar arrays with a total capacity of 291.6 megawatts were installed, the lowest level since March.

The solar sector is understandably, but somewhat selfishly, complaining about the market collapsing this year. Germany has installed 2.4 gigawatts and is on course to exceed the maximum in the government's target corridor of 3.5 gigawatts – but no matter, we had 7.5 gigawatts per year for the past three years. My colleague puts it differently, however, in the German report, claiming that installations are "roughly within the government's growth corridor" – whereas, in fact, 3.6 gigawatts clearly exceeds the maximum target. Of course, folks in other countries, where targets are simultaneously ceilings, would be thrilled to have a policy framework that continues even after targets have been met.

 - In the first eight months of 2013, Germany installed roughly 300 megawatts of PV per month on the average.
In the first eight months of 2013, Germany installed roughly 300 megawatts of PV per month on the average.
Velka Botička / data from Bundesnetzagentur

The pain that all of these installers must be feeling is understandable; after all, their business is being cut in half overnight. Nonetheless, the question is what the energy transition needs going forward. Germany had nearly 34.8 gigawatts installed at the end of August and is on course to hit 36 gigawatts this year. No other country has anywhere close to that much PV relative to peak summer demand, which is no more than 70 gigawatts in Germany and can drop closer to 50 on holidays and weekends. The effect repeatedly makes itself felt in low and negative prices on the power exchange, as we recently reported. The result is unprofitability among conventional power firms. Shortsighted supporters of renewables rejoice at the outcome, but municipals are also being hit – and I am not the only one concerned about backup capacity.

At present, German feed-in tariffs for solar (the country uses feed-in tariffs for all renewables, not just PV) drop automatically by 1.8 percentage points, but if the country remains between 3-4 gigawatts of PV per year, those automatic productions dropped to 1.2 percentage points per month. The current feed-in tariffs for systems installed in October 2013 range from 14.27 cents (systems more than 10 kW) to 9.88 cents (from 1 to 10 MW). Certainly, as the German PV sector complains about slower growth, the low prices are worth celebrating, especially since they are obviously still large enough for us to continue building faster than the government wishes. (Sven Ullrich / Craig Morris)

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4 Comments on "German PV roars on "

  1. pat b - 20.10.2013, 00:31 Uhr (Report comment)

    the interesting change will come when Germany invests hard into Electric Vehicles. If the work force were to start putting in Level 2 chargers and installing additional PV to supply those demands we would see fascinating synergies between the PV market and small transport market.
    If the FIT were to be restructured to encourage people to have EV cars, we would see some really interesting changes. Germany right now is at the 50% point with PV production, perhaps the FIT should be changed to give 15 C/KWH but only if you own a EV and have a home charger with a 2 way system. That would push the industry a lot. People would be getting bigger arrays and driving electric cars.

  2. Hermine - 09.10.2013, 14:54 Uhr (Report comment)

    Picture : new trial
    [img] http://energeia.voila.net/electri2/conso_allemagne_saison_7jours_540_300.jpg [/img]

  3. Hermine - 09.10.2013, 14:49 Uhr (Report comment)

    Solar power and storage in the residential sector in Germany
    http://energeia.voila.net/electri2/solaire_residentiel_stockage_allemagne.htm (in french, with graph)
    In the Frankfurt area, a household with a 4 kW peak solar system, which produces 3,950 kWh of electricity per year, consuming 4,400 kWh per year, electricity generation is 89% of annual consumption. For six months of the year, production is higher than consumption.
    However, hours of solar electricity production only partially correspond to hours of consumption as can be seen on the charts. The difference between production and consumption in every moment must be sold and injected into the network or stored on site for its use at another time.
    Without storage equipment, 51% of the electricity produced must be sold and 56% of the electricity consumed must be purchased at a higher cost to the selling price.
    With a storage system incorporating a 4 kWh solar power lithium battery, 29% of the production must be sold and 36 % of consumption must be purchased. The excess of production over consumption at midday and the limits of battery capacity involve the sale of part of the production.

  4. James Wimberley - 05.10.2013, 23:34 Uhr (Report comment)

    14.27 Euro cents must be for systems less than 10 kW.
    What I expect to happen is that the German government will progressively lose the control of the situation it had when FITs were high and cross-subsidised. FITs are already well below socket parity, and less and less important to the roof-owner´s decision to invest compared to the savings from self-consumption. These are independent of the FIT, and rise with market prices and the surcharge. Home storage is still too expensive even with the grant, but battery prices are falling fast and this will change soon, making solar autoconsumption even more attractive. We can also expect the price of solar PV installations to resume its historic downward trend in Germany as elsewhere some time in the next few years. When PV installations start rising again, what can the German government do to stop it?
    The transition does not require new PV technologies, but there are so many paths being explored you have to think that something will work even better than silicon. A team at Oxford University have announced a 15.4% conversion efficiency at 1v from a transparent cell made with perovskites vapour-deposited on a thin titanium dioxide layer. No rare earth dopants or fancy nanofabrication involved. They charmingly admit to not entirely understanding the process! Cleantechnica post: cleantechnica.com/2013/10/04/east-manufacture-thin-film-solar-cell-higher-15-conversion-efficiency-created-perovskites/

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