Student Lutz Steiner of Team Germany, looks over the solar panels on his team's house during the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 05, 2009. - Photo by Stefano Paltera/US Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon

Increased Storage will unlock Germany’s Solar Potential

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1Between 1 pm and 2 pm on Friday, June 6, Germany’s solar photovoltaic systems generated a record 24.24 GW. The real peak came three days later, when they provided 50.6% of the nation’s electricity. That shows this technologies potential. The current reality is solar contributed only 6% of the nation’s during the first five months of 2014. This will change. Increased Storage will unlock Germany’s Solar Potential.

On A Residential Level

Typical Solar Installation. Solar is everywhere in Germany. This is a newly constructed home with near total solar covering - Courtesy Tim Fuller, thetimechannel, CC by SA 2.0
Typical Solar Installation. Solar is everywhere in Germany. This is a newly constructed home with near total solar covering (Click on image to expand) – Courtesy Tim Fuller, thetimechannel, CC by SA 2.0

Instead of relying on the grid, some solar users store energy and only feed the excess to the grid. They only draw upon the grid when their batteries are depleted.

Close to 7,000 battery systems were installed in 2013.

Tobias Rothacher, renewable energies expert at Germany Trade & Invest, expects to see more. Battery sales will increase as their price falls. Once battery-parity is achieved, possibly “within the next two years,” the majority of pv sales will probably be in conjunction with battery.

He explained, “Since the cost of electricity from PV is significantly lower than buying energy from the grid (~EUR 0.15 PV vs. ~EUR 0.30 utility), customers want to use as high a proportion of electricity from their PV systems as possible. If they were to feed the electricity into the grid, they would only receive a feed-in tariff of around EUR 0.13 – meaning that self-used energy from PV is worth twice as much as energy fed into the grid.

Rooftop solar solars with “PV-only” systems only obtain around 30-35% of their energy from solar and their excess ends up on the grid.

Emmendingen railway station - Till Westermayer, CC by SA 2.0
Emmendingen railway station (Click on image to expand) – Till Westermayer, CC by SA 2.0

Add a battery system to this equation and they can obtain twice as much electricity (60-70%) for a household’s annual consumption.

“From now on, every new solar system that is installed in Germany increases the need for electricity storage solutions,” Rothacher said. “The cost of storage systems is forecast to drop in the coming years and this means that storage is not only becoming more necessary – it is becoming more attractive from a financial point of view as well.”

He added that, “several small-scale PV storage system manufacturers are working on bundling their battery systems in order to provide grid services (e.g. balancing power). One example is http://www.senec-ies.com/de/econamic_grid/ (in Germany only).”

On A National Level
As for large-scale storage, the government introduced a 200 million euro funding program to support storage projects based on various technologies in 2011. Since then, many such large-scale storage projects have been realized (http://forschung-energiespeicher.info/en/) and are operated in order to gain experience and validate the technologies.

On sunny days, more than 1.4 million German pv systems are currently feeding surplus energy to the grid.

This number will increase. Though the installation rate has decreased, no systems are expected to go offline until 2025. That is when the nation’s first solar panels reach retirement age. Every installation made up until that time increases Germany’s overall output.

“The direct self-consumption potential for PV energy is around 74 TWh p.a. which would require an installed PV capacity of around 100 GWp,” Rothacher said.” Only with storage could the PV market grow further (taken together, all PV-suitable rooftops and facades in Germany could potentially provide an installed capacity of around 200 GWp).”

Solar houses in Vauban - meaduva, CC by SA 2.0
Solar houses in Vauban (Click on image to expand) – meaduva, CC by SA 2.0

He stressed that Germany’s solar potential was demonstrated during the first two weeks of June.

“From now on, every new solar system that is installed in Germany increases the need for electricity storage solutions.”

(Image Above: Student Lutz Steiner of Team Germany, looks over the solar panels on his team’s house during the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 05, 2009. – Photo by Stefano Paltera/US Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon, CC by SA 2.0)

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