The international photovoltaics market is in a state of flux. Whereas for the last ten years, Europe was the leading continent in terms of newly installed capacity, Asia is now at the forefront. As ascertained by the European Photovoltaics Industry Association, the global center for photovoltaics in 2013 was the Asia-Pacific region with a 57 percent share of the global market. Seven gigawatts were accounted for by Japan and approximately 11 GW by China alone – more than the whole of Europe with approximately 10 GW. The USA is in third place on the list of the top markets with approximately 5 GW.
A more detailed examination of Europe shows, however, that not all countries are in crisis. While political decisions may well be putting the brakes on positive dynamics in countries such as Germany, France, Belgium, and Denmark (to name a few), in countries such as Greece and Great Britain expansion is moving at around the gigawatt mark. While on the one hand the situation for the current year looks bad in Greece due to the recently implemented drastic cutbacks, a completely different scenario is unfolding in Great Britain: More than 120 large photovoltaic power plants have recently been approved for project planning. Many of these are expected to be realized in the coming twelve months according to NPD Solarbuzz. By the end of April, more than 325 photovoltaic projects had already been realized in the megawatt range, 60 of these with a capacity of more than 10 MW.
And what is happening in Germany, the former world market leader? In 2013, expansion in photovoltaics was less than half that of 2012, from 7.6 to 3.3 GW according to the initial prognoses from the EPIA. It is impressive to see that Germany is still succeeding in implementing pioneering innovations under such conditions. One German company introduced a new photovoltaics block-unit power station, which enables the scaling of a solar power plant in 3 MWp increments. The developers proudly speak of one “global benchmark in solar power generation”. The vision behind it: achieving the lowest energy generation costs for photovoltaics and implementing this in a reproducible manner as a standardized product. The system developers want to address the requirements of large energy groups, which only have a five percent share in all plants for the production of renewable energies in Germany.
Whether standardization, storage or network stabilization: All over the world, research institutes and development departments are focusing on large-scale plants and working on solutions for a new era in energy. The research project ‘Kombikraftwerk 2’ (Combined Power Station 2) by the German Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (FhGIWES) concluded that photovoltaic plants and wind power plants together with gas turbines and storage are in a position to make sufficient balancing energy available to stably maintain the energy network all year round.
Despite difficult general political conditions, especially in many European countries: A glance at the politically induced market slumps should not lead to the innovative power of the photovoltaics industry being overlooked. Or to losing sight of the known benefits: The modular method of construction in photovoltaics enables power plants in the megawatt range to be installed in only a few months – this leads to independence. As geoplitical conflicts show us, the energy supply system is an important tool for weakening countries that do not conform. Renewable energies are also about reducing dependencies.
There are, therefore, many reasons for a new era in energy in which large photovoltaic plants are an indispensable component. With our industry guide, “PV Power Plants”, we hope to help spread the positive message of cost-efficient, resource-saving, climate-friendly and independent energy supply around the world.
We hope that you will enjoy reading this issue!
Yours, Karl-Heinz Remmers