Top German Award Goes to Solar Research Director

Prof. Dr. Joachim Luther, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, has been chosen as a recipient of the German Environmental Award 2005.

Along with the scientist Prof. Dr. Berndt, Prof. Dr. Luther will receive the most highly endowed environmental award in Europe, worth Euro $500,000 in total. The German President Horst Koehler will present the award to the recipients on October 16 in Luebeck. The solar energy economy is booming. With more than 300 MW of newly installed solar electric power in 2004, Germany was the most dynamic market for photovoltaics worldwide. In total, the installed solar electric power in Germany is more than one gigawatt. The technology has become an important economic factor and a motor for generating jobs: At present, more than 30,000 employees are working in the solar energy economy. By the year 2012, the German solar industry expects to have created 100,000 jobs, e.g., in photovoltaic factories and as skilled installers. It is also due to the merits of Prof. Dr. Joachim Luther that Germany is one of the technological leaders in the field of photovoltaics. The director of Fraunhofer ISE is awarded the German Environmental Award 2005 due to his achievements in the research area and in promoting the market introduction of solar energy systems. “In the face of the definitely limited resources of gas, coal and oil, Professor Luther has prescribed the urgent and necessary change in our energy system,” said Fritz Brickwedde, Secretary-General of the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt DBU. “If Germany is one of the leading nations in the use of solar energy today, then it is definitely due to his efforts.” Brickwedde added that Luther has succeeded in an overall effort to connect knowledge-oriented pure research on the one side and industry-related development and practical application on the other side. Since its establishment in 1981, Fraunhofer ISE has been concerned with making solar energy directly useful for mankind. Under the direction of Prof. Luther, the Institute has developed into one of the leading institutes in solar research worldwide. ISE holds the worldwide record for polycrystalline silicon solar cells at an efficiency of over 20%. In the meanwhile, solar cell technology is considered mature to a large extent. “However, the demand for research still exists in the areas of reducing the input material, increasing the solar cell efficiency and in integrating the energy generated by the sun into the existing electricity grid,” explains Prof. Luther. Together with industry, the Institute is working to further reduce the cost of solar electricity. With the support of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) for a total of 14 million Euro, Fraunhofer ISE is presently building a production line to evaluate the individual steps in the solar cell production. Here, manufacturers of photovoltaics and machinery can test their products starting next year. A further area of concentration at ISE is the topic of solar and energy efficient building. Presently more energy is consumed in German households than by industry. New concepts help to clearly reduce the energy demand in buildings. Here, together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, ISE has set standards. As well as thermal insulation, efficient hot water heating and space heating systems, sophisticated solar shading systems and innovative cooling are becoming increasingly more important. Today many modern high-rise office blocks require more energy for cooling than for heating. Using its own building as an example, Fraunhofer ISE proves that other alternatives are possible: In the office areas of the Institute, no active cooling is used.
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