Long-term research, pilot plants, and power producing projects are all key items in a new European Commission report on how to support and broaden its solar energy progress and adoption — but Europe’s PV industry organization says a stronger push for technology roadmaps and funding are needed as well.
October 8, 2009 – Long-term research, pilot plants, and power producing projects are all key items in a new European Commission report on how to support and broaden solar energy (solar photovoltaics and concentrated PV) — but Europe’s PV industry organization says a stronger push for technology roadmaps and funding are needed as well.
“To support the development of PV, we need: a long-term research program focused on advanced PV concepts and systems; up to five pilot plants for automated mass production; and a portfolio of demonstration projects for both decentralized and centralized PV power production,” according to the EC’s Communication 519/4, “Investing in the Development of Low Carbon Technologies” (SET-Plan). “For CSP, the overriding need is for industrial up-scaling of demonstrated technologies by building up to 10 first-of-a-kind power plants, supported by a research programme to reduce costs and improve efficiency, particularly through heat storage.” Also, €16B in public and private investment will be needed by 2020, the EC estimates. If these are achieved, it concludes, then up to 15% of Europe’s electricity could be generated in 2020, and with >200,000 jobs created.
While commending the EC’s acknowledgment of the strong potential of solar PV technology, Adel El Gammal, secretary general of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), says it doesn’t reflect the current state of PV technology development. “With an EU market of 4.5GW in 2008, PV represented 19% of new installed power capacity in Europe,” he says in a statement, noting that next year PV “will be competitive with retail electricity prices in some regions.”
Uncertainty remains about the “significant” combination of financing needed from industry, EU, and member states, both in total funds and how they are contributed — particularly against the backdrop of the current economic crisis and risk-averse lending attitudes, El Gammal noted. The EC also needs to not only promote energy-efficiency measures in its proposed “Smart Cities,” but also consider how renewable energies can reduce their carbon footprints — e.g., using solar PV for green buildings and electric cars.
In terms of technology, “the EC is putting too much emphasis on long-term research,” he says, and instead should accelerate development of existing PV technologies while carrying on longer-term research in parallel. Integrating PV into the grid and into urban/building environments (i.e., building-integrated PV or BIPV) is also essential.
The EPIA’s own projections for 2020 energy achievements are somewhat different than the EC: 12% of EU electricity demand covered by PV, creation of ~1.4M jobs, and hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 emissions eliminated.