With the global amount of newly installed photovoltaic capacity expected to increase from today’s annual level of around 30 gigawatts (GW) to more than 300 GW per year by 2025, the development of solar technology is unstoppable.
However, the success of the energy revolution is no guarantee. Without a doubt, 2012 has been the most difficult year for the solar industry in a long time. Despite a marked drop in solar energy prices and many new markets emerging around the world, the market’s strong dynamism has led to considerable financial difficulties and even insolvencies.
This is because the high level of dynamism was, and indeed still is, also characterized by insecure conditions: Many governments are stalling the developments by making sudden, drastic cuts to subsidy programs, and even the substantial drop in solar power generation costs was unable to compensate for the insecurity felt amongst companies and customers, causing severe job losses in the industry.
Despite these difficult conditions, the PV industry was still able to demonstrate its innovative power. Up until two years ago, storage systems were only of minor interest – even in this brochure. Today, however, they are on their way towards becoming an important up-and-coming market. This is because the two sources of energy which are experiencing the greatest levels of growth worldwide are both fluctuating in nature: Unlike fossil-fuel or nuclear power stations, the amounts of electricity that solar and wind power plants feed into the grid varies, which is why these energy sources depend on powerful storage systems. Additionally, our electricity grids have been inherited from the age of industrialization. They were built in order to transport electricity from centralized coal-fired power stations – and later from large nuclear plants – to conurbations and industrial centers. The energy revolution changes all that: The grid of the future not only has to distribute electricity, but must also collect power from decentralized generators.
A great number of companies are currently working on storage solutions which are able to interact with the grid intelligently. This innovative strength has not yet received any political support – not even in Germany, the country which can still call itself a technological leader in solar energy.
When the announced, and admittedly rather meager, 50 million euros of funding for storage systems will actually become available remains unclear. Negotiations with the German Federal Ministry for the Environment concerning the funding conditions had almost been concluded, and the banks had already been informed of the necessary procedures, when the program was suddenly shelved. While the manufacturing industry is working on pioneering solutions, the German government is paying no more than lip service.
Storage systems and the integration of decentralized storage into the power grid will play a decisive role in the reorganization of our power supply in the future. The course has to be set now because despite all the setbacks it is facing, renewable energy will continue to flourish. Intelligent storage systems will not only steadily increase in importance, but will soon become essential. The industry has understood this state of affairs. Now it is high time for governments to grasp it as well.
CEO Solarpraxis AG