The Security Photovoltaic Market (SPV)

Homeland security, a common term since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, reaches across many boundaries. The major and unexpected power blackout which hit the East Coast of the USA and part of Canada on August 14, 2003 represents another dimension to homeland security: the security of people against the instability of the intricate electric power distribution system. The blackout was a clear demonstration for the value of distributed electric power generation for security. What a difference it would have made if key traffic lights and even some of the streetlights were solar powered. What a difference if the area cell sites had had solar electric backup power. This blackout should be a wake-up call for the government as well as for the photovoltaics (PV) Industry to focus on the security PV market (SPV).

April 5, 2004 [] The PV Industry is already selling products for security purposes. This article shows that the SPV market, which exploits the modularity and uninterruptibility of PV/battery power sources, could grow to become a major PV market segment, provided that products, services, and marketing programs tailored to the needs of SPV customers are brought forward. Introduction Until recently, “national security” simply meant being prepared to go to war as needed to protect the homeland and vital trade and political alliances. Now, the war on terrorism and the consequences of natural catastrophes give new meaning to these requirements. This shift from last century’s concept to the new reality of “homeland security” started a debate about a more comprehensive and detailed set of protective and defensive policies. For example, the burden of protection may shift to emphasize more dispersed but still highly coordinated military units requiring portable and quickly deployable energy systems. The extent of protection, surveillance and hardening for the unarmed public is suddenly shifting from last century’s “shelter” concept to the protection of the integrity of vital services of the civil infrastructure, i.e. energy, communications and water. The presently used power grid, pipeline systems and civilian telecommunications systems can be disrupted, sometimes extensively and for a considerable time, by natural disasters . They also offer inviting targets for “infrastructure terrorism”. The security response may expand to emphasize the elimination of unmonitored public space (using web-cams, tracking devices and interlinked databases) and the need to power a proliferation of sensors and data transmission devices. More robust and impenetrable supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to control and monitor power and natural gas flows will be needed. It is obvious that new security needs will require an increasing reliance on distributed generation of electricity. “Renewable energy technologies – particularly when deployed as a distributed energy resource – can play a vital role in securing energy infrastructure.” Photovoltaics (PV) is the only proven and dependable truly distributed renewable electric energy source. It is extremely versatile, it can be deployed anywhere and it can be configured to meet local needs. An examination of its current and potential future security related uses would provide an excellent guide to policy development. This paper begins this urgently needed examination by focusing on a segment of the current solar electricity market that offers a preview of the ways PV will be used in the future for purposes of protection, surveillance and hardening. The utilization of renewable energy sources and specifically PV for security applications can be more and more often seen in reports and presentations and is being promoted to government personnel and to the public in seminars . It is, however, remarkable that, in spite of PV’s long standing role in a variety of applications related to security, the PV industry markets these security-oriented PV products as “industrial products”. The PV industry and PV market analysts should consider “Security” as an independent market segment. This would focus attention on developing security applications and products for PV and advertising them as such. The purpose of this paper is to focus on this security PV (SPV) market segment and its very large market potential. Why treat SPV as a PV Market segment? Market segmentation serves an important purpose, i.e. “to recognize a substantial unmet need that might represent a market opportunity.” The SPV applications comprise a substantial market opportunity that is currently being addressed opportunistically and incoherently rather than intentionally and systematically. The first step toward more fully exploiting the opportunity is to recognize SPV as a market segment driven by specific customer needs, i.e. more reliable and less vulnerable power sources for critical infrastructure and services. Like BIPV, SPV can also attract broad government and public support. There are, however, major differences: BIPV is supported by governments and the public because of the concern for the future, while SPV is going to be supported by governments and the public because of the concern for the present. Another important difference is: BIPV requires subsidies to provide electricity at competitive cost, whilst for security neither subsidies, nor cents/kilowatt-hours will be an issue! On-Going SPV Success Stories Electric Grid Security: SCADA Systems Where antiquated electric grid systems exist they will be rapidly modernized, thanks in part to the impetus of recent power blackout in the USA and Canada. PV is poised to play an important role in grid modernization. Since the early 1980s, regional electric utilities have used PV in a variety of grid and non-grid applications for simple reasons of cost effectiveness. Increased emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies can relieve bottlenecks in the energy infrastructure, making it more resilient and less vulnerable4. Physical security of critical energy facilities and their associated control and communications networks is a related need to which PV has been cost-effectively applied for decades. For example, PV has long been used to power remote data relaying stations critical to the operation of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems used by electric and gas utilities, government agencies and oil and gas industries. PV/battery hybrid systems can be much more reliable than the grid itself and also can be sized to provide the exact amount of low voltage power needed for SCADA purposes. Though large amounts of low cost, high voltage power may be at hand, it is expensive to “step down” voltages to levels useful by communications and security equipment. PV/battery hybrids are the cost-effective alternative in an increasingly wide array of applications that, ironically, involve protecting and operating the grid. Since the first SCADA systems were deployed, the evolutionary direction of utility operations has been toward monitoring and control at ever-lower levels of the grid. This will continue. Grid security applications of PV will continue to mushroom as the tide of increasing automation moves toward widespread distributed monitoring and control systems that permit automated real time response to real time pricing of commodity energy from the grid. Electric Grid Security – Back-up Systems Not every country can afford the pervasive centralized grid infrastructure common in leading industrial economies. In many countries, competing needs preclude achieving high levels of centralized grid reliability “at any cost”. For example, virtually every public building of any size in the Philippines has back-up power, and companies often use battery storage to keep their computers going when grid electricity service is lost. As soon as Manila goes black, the lights start flickering back on. This raises a reasonable question regarding the most cost-effective strategies for security and public safety in the future. It will be important for every country, rich or poor, to understand the trade-offs between investments in upgrading centralized infrastructure for purposes of non-emergency bulk energy supply and investments in a parallel decentralized infrastructure that cost-effectively delivers reliable power in extended emergencies. Telemetry and Metrology (sensor applications) PV has been used successfully in telemetry, metrology and in many other applications of various sensors for decades. PV is used where no other electric source is available, or where extending the grid would be too expensive, but in many instances it is used for security reasons. One example is the telemetry systems used for pipelines. In this case it was found that lightning strikes could damage the transistorized circuits along large sections of the pipeline if they are connected to the power lines, while PV powered telemetry stations would only be affected if the lightning strike was nearby. Security is going to require more and more sensors powered by PV. It will be an obvious area for PV development and marketing to focus on these systems. Emerging SPV Applications New SPV Opportunity based on a continuing SVP success story: On-Grid Telecom Network Power Off-grid success story Since the utilization of PV for terrestrial purposes started, one of the largest PV market segments has been communication (voice, data, networking, TV, etc.). One of the most visible communication applications is roadside emergency telephones. Others are less visible, but, because it has proven to be extremely dependable and secure, PV is already the solution of choice for radio and television repeaters and off-grid telecom sites, including microwave repeaters and cellular base stations. On-Grid Telecom SPV Market Potential The fastest growing on-grid telecom application (75% per year) is micro-power plants for digital wireless and broadband local loop deployment. The market for small power plants located primarily at land line remote terminals and cell sites is growing at roughly 8% per year. A sense of the potential telecom SPV market can be gained with reference to numbers of cellular sites and remote terminals. Numbers of existing cell sites and remote terminals at the end of 2002 in the US have been estimated at 140,000 and 210,000 respectively. Extrapolating these US figures places the number of powered sites in the global telecom infrastructure in the millions. The number of cell sites alone could be at least 750,000. Based on figures presented below, the market potential could be several GW. On-Grid Telecom SPV Sizing Considerations SPV potential exists for the vast majority of telecom sites, remote terminals and cellular sites where a battery is typically the first and only line of defense. In the case of off-grid cell sites, sizing of the PV array and related battery are similar to sizing of PV/battery systems for other off-grid applications. However, on-grid telecom sites would not need to operate on back-up power indefinitely, so less PV and battery capacity would be needed for comparably powered telecom equipment. For example, remote terminal power plants consist of a cabinet with two compartments, one for electronics, and another for batteries. Batteries are typically sized to provide 8 hours of backup power in case of a grid outage. They typically consist of 2-8 strings of 155A/h, 48V batteriesýý. Thus, their capacity is typically in the range 15 to 60kWh. Assuming an average 4 strings per cabinet and, say a million remote terminal and cell site cabinets, this results in a total storage capacity around 30 GWh. PV could be used to provide extra insurance against extended and widespread grid outages. Suppose, for example, the telecom network batteries were sized for twice the conventional 8 hour reserve time. In this case, combining a 60kWh battery with an average 4 kW PV array could be expected to extend backup power reserve time from 16 hours to 20-22 hours or an additional 17 to 25%. On-Grid Telecom SPV Economic Considerations As conceptualized above, on-grid telecom SPV would yield a double benefit of off-setting grid power usage, especially during periods of high time-of-use prices, while also effectively extending the reserve time. Average grid power costs are ever-increasing and already quite high in some areas, especially during the periods when grid power time-of-day prices peak. Meanwhile, PV costs continue their progression downward, driven by new technology and 20-30% average annual PV industry growth rates. The on-going evolution of telecom infrastructure network toward a more decentralized architecture with ever-growing numbers of remote terminals also works to PV’s economic advantage. Finally, telecom PV installations can be as standardized as the remote terminals and cell sites themselves and can use existing structures as mounting platforms for PV modules and existing DC buses for interconnection. Thus, the incremental cost of SPV would be essentially the cost of the PV array and additional battery reserve time. On-grid telecom SPV would not incur mounting structure and site customization costs typical of grid-tied rooftop PV systems, nor would there be a need for DC to AC inverters and other power conditioning and protection components typical of grid-interactive PV systems. New SPV Opportunity: Public Safety The utilization of distributed electric systems for easy and inexpensive security in populated areas In populated areas the central electric power distribution is available and therefore the utilization of PV has been restricted to only a few applications. Populated areas can be hit by disasters caused by nature or by people. Two excellent articles were published recently1 describing the failures of central power and the successful use of PV to provide security in several disasters caused by natural events. Even temporary power outages caused by thunderstorm, wind or even grid failures can cause accidents or other havoc. During the major blackout on the East coast of the USA (August 14, 2003), a New York policemen said:” We are more concerned getting the traffic lights running and making sure the City is OK than what caused it” Based on experiences such as those described in those papers and convincing the population and the government of the issue of security, there will be a significant opportunity to develop the SPV market and to establish many new applications for PV powered systems. Lights and Signals Security of streets and other public areas is not only needed because of terrorists’ threats, but also it is important during natural disasters and even during temporary power failures. The cost to install PV street lighting where central power is available is practically the same as establishing a conventional streetlight, when the cost of cable laying and street repair is also considered. Security would be enhanced if at least some streetlights in a particular urban area would function under any conditions. Likewise, it is important that security cameras and other sensors used for surveillance operate during a blackout or natural disaster. The same is true for traffic lights, traffic directing signs, speed indicators, school zone flashers, railroad crossing signals, etc. At present most of these lights and signals are powered by the central electric system, but some PV companies are offering “off the shelf” PV powered PV power systems for certain lights and signals. Currently, such PV power systems are marketed as “industrial applications” Many more such products and sales will be possible if such PV power systems are developed and marketed as “security solutions”. Security Applications of PV Lighting Design factors that favor PV lighting relate specifically to security. Others have envisioned the development of security systems that not only reduce the energy required to provide continuous high lighting levels but provide enhanced security by focusing facility operator and security staff attention on unusual events. PV lights controlled by motion-detectors double as a visible alarm to occupants and perimeter security personnel and may actually provide better and more cost-effective area and perimeter security than lights that remain continuously illuminated. Obviously, such “smart” systems that do not require continuous all-night lighting greatly favor solar to the extent that the basic illumination requirement can be met using significantly downscaled battery and PV sub-systems. Successfully marketing PV for these purposes will require understanding and explaining the trade-off between grid economics and public safety. Smart PV Lighting Products Likewise, the notion of “smart” lighting can be extended to the utilization of grid independent “smart” streetlight systems. A primary driver of street lighting in urban areas is the need for security in general. The cost of meeting this need is not properly measured in cents per kWh or dollars per Watt. A generation of “smart” systems will need to be developed that are engineered to effectively integrate the PV power source. The market for these PV powered “smart” systems is clearly global. While these systems may be deployed alongside existing grid powered street lighting, they will also find markets in countries and areas where the electric grid is not available. The success of cellular phones in areas not served by centralized power grids and traditional telecom networks may provide guideposts for smart PV lighting market development. Safe and Secure Homes Energy for off-grid homes, initially in the US and parts of Europe, and later in the developing world, has long been a cost-effective PV application. The subsidized market for PV on grid-connected homes in Japan, Germany and lately California has masked a market for PV on homes that is as much or more related to security than to energy economics. Simply put, occupants of some homes are more than just inconvenienced by extended grid outages. For example, elderly or disabled people living independently but needing access to continuous power for medical devices, life support and basic mobility are among those for whom rooftop PV can provide security against natural and man-made disasters that could disable equipment they need for health and even survival. Schools and Other Public Buildings Until now in industrial countries the utilization of PV in schools is mostly for public and academic educational purposes, e.g. Switzerland. Meanwhile, in the developing world, the local school, being a shared asset of the local community, is often the first, or among the first, local applications of PV, delivering remarkable economic and social benefits. The logical extension of school-based PV system deployment is the proposal for a system of school-based emergency centers. For example, some schools in Maryland in the USA are even now stocking enough food for their entire student bodies for a period of days, against the possibility of chemical, biological or other terrorist attack. But what if the local grid were disabled? Should we begin to think of how best over the longer term to make schools and public buildings better capable of continuing to function when emergencies occur? The U.S. Department of Energy has already suggested such an initiative, recognizing that local emergency centers must be capable of at least some level of energy self-sufficiency. DOE’s vision follows the example of two cities, Chicago and San Francisco that are already using public and utility-funded programs to outfit school and other public buildings as community-based emergency shelters. NREL researchers point out that 115,000 elementary and secondary schools already exist that could provide emergency shelter for residents who cannot afford to install emergency measures in their own homes. DOE estimates that for a cost of $500 million, 10% of these schools could be equipped with a 10kW grid-connected PV system with battery back-up, allowing full operation under normal or disaster conditions. Collectively these schools could provide a safe haven for 25 to 50 million citizens, or about 9-18% of the U.S. resident population. The idea of school based emergency centers can be used everywhere. The size of the SPV market Global demand of PV equipment has grown consistently by 20-25% per annum over the past 20 years. Renewable Energy World reports that in 2001 and 2002 global PV shipments were 395MW and 525MW respectively. The size of the current SPV market segment can be to a first approximation inferred by combining this information with end use data compiled by the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information and Administration (EIA) for shipments domestically and globally by US based PV module manufacturers. To estimate the current SPV market we assume that it comprises all or part of four of the nine segments for which the EIA publishes annual statistics, i.e. 100% of EIA’s communications segment, 15% of their grid connected segment, 20% of their remote and transportation segments and 0% of their consumer, water pumping, OEM, health and “other” segments. Using global demand for 2001 and extrapolating shipments by US manufacturers to global shipments suggests that the 2001 SPV market totaled roughly 100MW, or slightly more than 25% of the 2001 total market . It is worth noting that 2001 was the year before homeland security became a major policy focus and Federal budget item in the US. Regarding future SPV markets, much depends on whether a) the marketing and development capabilities of the PV Industry will focus on security as an independent market segment (SPV) and allocate resources to develop it, or b) the industry will leave it the way it is handled now, mixed into other PV markets. Of course, other factors will also come into play. Growth of the SPV market will be driven in part by the war on terrorism, also from the experiences gained from dealing with natural disasters and the reliability of the electric grid. Most importantly it could also become a government program, similar to BIPV, with the difference that the issue of “subsidy” will disappear. Summary Until now, the importance of Photovoltaics (PV) as an enabler of security of critical infrastructure and the public against natural disasters, terrorist attacks and power failures has not been fully recognized. PV is the only proven and dependable truly distributed renewable electric energy source, it can be deployed anywhere and it can be configured to meet the local needs. PV by its modular and decentralized nature provides unique opportunities to provide dependable local power when the central electricity fails. PV is currently being used in a relatively modest way to fulfill this need. This results that security PV (SPV) applications being addressed opportunistically and incoherently rather than intentionally and systematically. The first and immediate step toward more fully exploiting the opportunity is to recognize SPV, as a PV market segment driven by specific customer needs, i.e. more reliable and less vulnerable power sources for critical infrastructure and services. Historical and on-going SPV applications include satellite and emergency communications, remote telecommunications sites, navigational aids, telemetry, and electric and natural gas infrastructure security. These applications will continue to expand. Some of the emerging applications include power and extended backup for grid-powered telecom sites, uninterruptible PV electric power for public buildings used as emergency centers. These and many other potential SPV applications will become major contributors to overall PV market growth, provided appropriate investments are made by the PV industry in market development and product packaging. Article originally published in the September/October 2003 issue of Renewable Energy World and reprinted with the authors’ permission. About the authors… Dr. Peter F. Varadi Dr. Varadi received his Ph.D. in physico chemistry at the University of Szeged, Hungary. In I968 he became the head of the Communication Satellite Corporation’s chemistry laboratory in Clarksburg, Maryland, USA. In this function he also worked on the research of Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells, which was used to power the satellites. In 1973 he co-founded SOLAREX Corporation, Rockville, MD (USA) to develop the utilization of solar cells for terrestrial applications. SOLAREX was one of the very first companies, which pioneered this field, and by 1983 became the largest PV Company in the world. SOLAREX Corporation by 1983 employed over 600 people, had factories on four continents and operations worldwide, when it was sold to AMOCO (now BP Solar, which is one of the global leaders in the PV business). From 1983 until the end of 1994 he was retained as Consultant by SOLAREX Corporation. Since 1997 Dr. Varadi headed several programs for the WORLD BANK, UNDP and also participated in a European Commission program for the development of PV Quality Management Training Manuals (available in four languages on a CD from the World Bank). These Training Manuals were used in training courses in China, India/Sri Lanka, South Africa and in four European countries. Gerald W. Braun Mr. Braun is co-founder of En-Strat Associates, a consulting group based in the Washington, DC area that specializes in energy science and technology programs and commercialization of clean energy products. His prior career included director level positions in leading energy equipment manufacturing and engineering services companies, major US electric and gas utility companies and the US Department of Energy. At Solarex and BP Solar, he managed cross-functional team efforts during the transition from R&D to commercial operations, resulting in successful entry of thin film photovoltaic technology into the large area power module market. At Pacific Gas and Electric he recruited and led a team whose programs demonstrated the benefits of emerging renewable and distributed electric generation and storage technologies for electric and gas utilities and their customers.
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