Powered by the Sun
While not technically powered by the sun, the winter issue of EuroPhotonics certainly was driven by the continuing interest of companies and organizations in Europe to realize the full potential of solar energy.
“People want solar power,” said Dr. Winfried Hoffman, president of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), upon the release in September of a report called Connecting the Sun: Solar Photovoltaics on the Road to Large-Scale Grid Integration.
“And even its harshest critics in the conventional energy sectors will ultimately have to agree that under all scenarios envisioned in the coming decades, solar photovoltaics (PV) will be a major part of Europe’s electricity mix,” Hoffman said.
That number could be 15 percent by 2030 or, with “a paradigm shift,” as much as 25 percent, according to the study. In compiling the report, the organization interviewed network operators – both at transmission and distribution levels – to identify best practices and build recommendations on the basis of real-world experience. The main findings include:
• PV is an active part of the power system in Europe and can be integrated without creating operational issues or affecting security of supply.
• PV will be key to the future of the electricity distribution network, and there are no technical limits to large-scale PV integration under scenarios envisioned until 2030.
• PV electricity is decentralized and can be produced close to where it is consumed, and developing PV in dense consumption areas is more cost-effective than concentrating it in areas of high solar irradiation.
• PV will continue on its path to competitiveness, even taking into account additional measures required to facilitate grid integration.
As we continue to track the solar power market, we learn that the European photovoltaic installation market is addressing challenges to grid connection, including complex permitting and lengthy wait times.
Solar power, now the third most important renewable energy source after hydro and wind power in terms of globally installed capacity, faced slowed growth in 2012. The reasons for this are explained by science writer Valerie Coffey in the article “Grid Connection Slow in Spite of PV Growth,” beginning on page 22.
This was the year to survive for many PV players, as a global explosion of production capacity caught up with the industry, Coffey writes. The PV installation market is subject to an uncertain and ever-changing political landscape and, as generous incentives and feed-in tariff schemes in several countries expired or were reduced in 2012, demand quickly receded.
We finish our photovoltaic forum with a feature from contributing editor Marie Freebody, who tells us that researchers are working to find ever-better materials for solar cell production. In “Material Matters for Photovoltaics,” Freebody writes: “From the innovative tailoring of organic molecules to efficient printable plastics, new research promises to boost efficiency and lower production costs.” See the article, beginning on page 18.
Not all work on solar power centers on PV, of course, and a final article in this issue focuses instead on improving performance of a solar thermal parabolic trough.
“New Concepts Advance Solar Thermoelectric Energy,” by Hugo Cachafeiro of Hiteco and Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas SA, outlines work being done on an innovative solar receiver tube that is expected to increase efficiency and lower costs for concentrated solar power.
Successful implementation of a solar thermal parabolic trough directly correlates to reduced electricity costs, making concentrated solar power plants economically feasible, Cachafeiro tells us, and the reduction in cost will come from increased efficiency as well as a reduction in capital and operational expenditures. Before this goal can be fulfilled, however, key components of the technology must be reassessed to find ways of improving performance and reducing costs. Read the article beginning on page 26.
Also in this issue, we present a convenient Solar Directory, a list of companies from around the world that manufacture or supply solar energy systems or components.
Enjoy the issue, and keep on the sunny side of life!
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