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Germany's PV growth corridor

In a press release from the Photovoltaics Task Force of Baden-Württemberg, Wolfgang Seeliger, Director of Corporate Strategy at Centrotherm, points out how Germany reached its growth corridor of 3 to 3.5 gigawatts per year of newly installed PV capacity – and why lowering that target would mean the country will fail to reach its targets for renewables.

If everything goes as planned, Angela Merkel's governing coalition will cut feed-in tariffs for solar power drastically starting on April 1 (Renewables International reported on the details recently here). And while there has been talk of an absolute ceiling, no cap on the market is currently in the works, though it is possible that Germany will have reached its goal of around three gigawatts of solar by the beginning of April. The official figures will not, however, be made official until several months later.

In the press release, Seeliger points out that the "master plan for the switch to renewables" that some German industry organizations have recently called for already exists. For almost a decade, the German government has been producing a roadmap on this topic called the Leitstudie; the most recent one, from February 2011, is available here in German. It specifies, for instance, a target of 80 percent renewable power by 2050 – and 52 gigawatts of PV by 2020 towards that goal. As Seeliger points out, the government's corridor for photovoltaics in its National Renewable Energy Action Plan is therefore set at 3 to 3.5 gigawatts of PV per year.

At the end of 2011, Germany had around 25 gigawatts of installed PV capacity, meaning that Germany would have to install 27 gigawatts over the next nine years (including 2012) to reach its target of 52 gigawatts by 2020 – exactly 3 gigawatts per year. At the same time, Seeliger points out that this target is based on an understanding that there should be three parts wind power for every two parts of solar in order to reduce the need for power storage; in other words, the PV sector is calling for more wind power to be installed.

Though the press release does not mention it, 3.5 gigawatts per year over 20 years (solar panels currently have done performance guarantees for 25 years) would eventually produce 70 gigawatts of installed capacity, enough to generate up to 50 gigawatts on sunny days in the summer; the rule of thumb is that Germany's solar power production does not peak at above 70 percent of its capacity. But 50 gigawatts is also close to peak demand in the summer, which generally comes in below 70 gigawatts and can be close to 50 gigawatts on the weekend. That much power from one source would be disruptive, but little attention is being paid to this issue of long-term grid integration. (Craig Morris)

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