Germany Turns to Solar

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In December of last year, Germany installed over 1,000 MW of solar power, enough to generate one Tera-watt hour of power. (Photo: Neville Micallef)
In December of last year, Germany installed over 1,000 MW of solar power, enough to generate one Tera-watt hour of power. (Photo: Neville Micallef)

BUSINESS

  • Bosch Solar Energy AG reaches new PV record
  • GE and Gehrlicher Solar plan global solar plants
  • Munich hosts this year's Intersolar Europe Conference

Germany, a global leader in solar energy production, has announced plans to close all the nation's nuclear power plants by 2022.

Renewable energy companies see this news as an opportunity for further growth, especially since the introduction of the solar energy feed-in tariff included in the German Renewable Energy Act. The feed-in electricity tariff is designed to create financial incentives for the installation of renewable energy, and Germany aims to receive 35% of its overall energy consumption from alternative sources by 2020.

Germany is currently home to major solar energy developments. To start, Bosch Solar Energy AG, a company based in Erfurt/Arnstadt, Germany, has set a new record for Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) solar cells.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems has confirmed that mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells on a 156 x 156 mm metalized printed screen can reach 19.6% efficiency. Typical silicon-based printed PV cells are known to reach roughly 17 to 18.5% efficiency. The new high-performance cells have peaked at a record output of over 4.7 Watts. The reflective rear end of the cell allows the emitter to transform more light into renewable power. The company presented the concept in Valencia at the 25th EUPVSEC in September of last year.

Bosch Solar Energy is expanding its activity and establishing a new research and development center in Arnstadt. Products based on the new PV design will be ready as soon as possible.

The German company Gehrlicher Solar AG is partnering with General Electric in hopes of building solar plants worldwide. GE announced in April that it would begin investment in the photovoltaic industry. Also this year, GE achieved a record 12.8% aperture area efficiency with their cadmium telluride thin-film PV modules.

With over 25 Gigawatts of renewable energy installed worldwide, GE is working on a 400 MW thin-film PV cell manufacturing facility. Gehrlicher, whose expertise is in developing global utility-scale solar projects, is hoping that a partnership with the leading company in innovative technologies will allow for better solutions for their international customers. The first joint PV plant will be located in Aschheim, Germany. The 1MW plant will use GE's thin-film cells.

Germany's Energy Future

In early June, over 77,000 visitors from 156 countries met at the Intersolar Europe Conference to hear the latest developments in the solar energy industry. This year, Germany hosted this prestigious conference, showcasing an exhibit specifically dedicated to addressing Germany's future in solar energy.

Over 2,200 exhibitors in the fields of photovoltaics, solar thermal technology and PV production technology presented their solutions at Munich's International Congress Centre. Due to recent growth in the PV production technology sector, the area dedicated to PV production solutions had to be extended this year.

This year, Intersolar Europe and the German Solar Industry Association presented the Intersolar Awards to leaders in each category. For Photovoltaics, Autarcon GmbH, Kassel, and BELECTRIC Drive GmbH were among the winners. Those awarded for solar thermal technology were Absolicon Solar Concentrator AB, Dr. Vetter Gessellschaft, and Savo-Solar Oy. Decker Anlagenbau GmbH, Manz Automation AG, and NanoFocus AG won the award for PV production technology. Companies from 47 countries were featured at this year's Intersolar Europe.

Over 2,000 scientists and economists also convened at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre this year. Two-hundred speakers explained policy and technological developments in the industry. Germany's special exhibit called “PV ENERGY WORLD” was the main exhibit attraction. The presentation shed light on Germany's future in solar energy. The main themes of the exhibit included smart grids, smarg buildings, e-mobility, smart cities, and smart PV technology.

Roughly 2,000 attendees engaged in discussions and side events with international experts. Intersolar Europe 2012 will be held at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre on June 13 to the 15th. Germany's future in solar energy depends on government support; the government almost cut incentives for solar energy recently due to figures that fell below the minimum satisfactory threshold.

Thankfully for the country's growing solar industry, the government has since decided not to cut feed-in tariff levels based on projections of 2,800 MW in added capacity.

Shares in German solar companies increased shortly after the announced continuation of renewable energy incentives. Unfortunately for the industry, the figures collected by the Federal Grid Agency suggest that this year will still likely observe a decline in newly installed capacity.

The agency's figures were extrapolated from data during the March to May period, a period in which there were only a reported 700 MW of new solar installations.

Key Statistics – Solar in Germany (source: Renewable Energy World)

  • In December of last year, Germans installed over 1,000 MW of solar power, enough to generate one Tera-watt hour of power.
  • Japan is rumored to have installed roughly the same amount as Germany's December installations in 2010, which were 50% higher than the total installed in the US for all of last year.
  • Germany currently has 16,500 MW of solar energy capacity.
  • Germany's solar industry installed 7,400 MW from roughly a quarter of a million systems last year.
  • PV cells provided 12 Terra-watt hours of energy in 2010, which is roughly the equivalent of 2% of Germany's total power.

By Nicole Manuel for
Nicole Manuel is a freelance economics, finance and blog writer with a degree in economics and over two years of experience.

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