The solar storm run - 20% more power, 25% lower cost within 15 only months

Photovoltaic storm run: 20% more output at 25% lower costs within 15 months

Frankfurt am Main, 26.09.2012: At that time (still as editor) I invited pv magazine to a breakfast event during the EUPVSEC. The topic polarises: 300 GWp/a photovoltaic worldwide in 2025, for Germany a maximum of 200 GWp. As can be seen today: too conservative for Germany, but globally on the right track. At that time for many absurdly high figures, because they could not imagine the storm run of photovoltaics that has been taking place for several years now.

2012 - a difficult environment for a great vision

The considerations for the great medium-term vision were born out of many inquiries from the industry in 2011. How far can global PV go? And what is necessary/realistic for Germany to turn its energy system around? I had presented some preliminary considerations for a presentation at Schenker at the Semicon in autumn 2011 in Dresden; the number of modules surprised me at the time. It was precisely because of the very difficult year that we decided to present the prospects clearly and unambiguously, which was the subject of heated discussion both on site and at the Forum Solarpraxis (now Forum Neue Energiewelt) to be held in November 2012. Some industry representatives who had been anxious and fearful for ages then (and still are today) warned against frightening politicians with such high figures. However, this has only led to politicians having little confidence that solar power can supply the large quantities required. Which - as we know today - must rather be 400 GWp plus x in Germany alone. pv magazine Report 300 Gigawatt Breakfast 2012

Let's stay briefly in 2012 to show the path that the German and global solar industry has taken since then: 31 GWp were newly installed in 2012, 7.6 of them in Germany, despite the so-called "EEG Fallbeilnovelle" in February 2012. The reason for the still possible rally in Germany was the massive drop in module prices due to global progress and overcapacities as well as a high euro exchange rate. At the same time, however, this led to brutal losses in the production chain - to numerous bankruptcies of photovoltaic manufacturers, insolvencies and takeovers. The biggest slump was Q-Cells' insolvency. The photovoltaics market leader, still global in 2008, was sold to Hanwha Chemical Corporation. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. In 2012 alone, Mercom Capital counted 35 bankruptcies and insolvencies as well as 50 restructuring and downsizing measures. Among other things, Mercom refers to the redundancies at SMA and Schott's withdrawal from the production of crystalline silicon modules. Europe, on the other hand, hit hardest, especially in wafer production. REC ASA had to close three wafer factories in Norway in 2012, as did Schott and PV Crystalox its wafer production in Germany.

Difficult years in the EU, brutal global progress

The following years were difficult for the solar industry in Germany and the EU; the tariffs introduced in 2013 had massively damaged the entire value chain as governments were no longer prepared to subsidise what they considered to be too expensive solar power even more. Only with the elimination of useless tariffs on solar modules and cells (Solarworld went bankrupt twice despite massive tariffs in the USA and the EU and has disappeared) in 2018 did a quick and broad recovery begin. The first solar projects without state subsidies became possible.

Markets and production capacities grew globally all the years since 2012 and since 2016 we have experienced a formal leap in efficiency and costs. Despite the weakness in China, a global market volume of well over 100 GWp is expected for 2019, and by 2023 PV Infolink analysts expect global production capacity to grow to almost 250 GWp. While at the same time further increasing efficiency and cutting costs. Combined with a whole host of technical innovations that are going into mass production. The long dominance of polycrystalline modules has quickly come to an end; mono is the new norm. And tomorrow, bifacial will probably be normal as well; some manufacturers are already offering these modules with transparent backsheets at almost the same prices as the classic designs. This further lowers the prices for solar power and thus opens up new markets virtually automatically. So there is a good chance that the 300 GWp/a will arrive in 2025 (which we will all see by the end of 2025...).

The PV storm run comes back to Europe

Until autumn 2018, the EU was decoupled from the largest and most efficient global production sites - customs duties also excluded us from larger quantities of technical innovations. Which then - since 2019 - led to quite abrupt changes.

Prices for "mainstream modules" (purchased in large quantities) fell from just under 30 cent/Wp to 23 cent/Wp - and as things currently stand, they are likely to fall even further in 2020. The mainstream module in Mono-PERC now provides significantly more power per module than the poly-module, which has quickly grown old.

Modulpreise 18-20

By switching from Poly to Mono-PERC modules, the output per square meter has grown rapidly, bringing more and more output to the same area.

Modulleistung 18-20

What does the rapid increase in performance mean for further costs?

It is clear that cables, racks and work don't become more expensive or more if you just put 15-20% more power on the roof with one module. Specifically (per Wp or kWp) these costs are automatically reduced. The upcoming complete conversion to 1500V for outdoor systems will further reduce costs. New wafer formats and the use of larger modules (old: 72 cells instead of 60 cells, now 144 cells instead of 120 cells or even more cells), which is finally beginning to be used in the EU, will quickly further reduce costs in the field.

At the same time, power electronics are becoming more efficient and cheaper, and here, too, progress is unchecked.

Globally, there are also more and more tenders for larger solar and storage systems. In September, the result of a tender in California was a cause for concern: 200 MWp of solar and storage capacity for 4 hours for 3.9 US cents/kWh. The storage facility was offered for 1.33 US cents/kWh. In the storage sector, too, the signs are pointing to large plants being much cheaper - the general conditions for use and the supply of solar and wind power must of course be right. Read more about this in another blog.

What do the efficiency gains mean for the energy turnaround?

Of course, cheaper and cheaper electricity makes the energy system transformation cheaper. The increase in efficiency makes ever better use of the land. The approx. 50 GWp installed today could be turned into almost 100 GWp in the foreseeable future - provided that we use the existing capacity in the coming decades accordingly. "Thus 100 GWp have already times ... one could say, but with view of probably rather 400 GWp plus x. From those conditions today 250-500 GWp at structural plants are conceivable. For today's net electricity demand, only approx. 2% of the agricultural land in Germany would be needed today; these areas would then be paradise for biodiversity and the soil below. New products will also be developed on the basis of cheap cells and new concepts for the area of standardised and individual building integration - and thus make the enormous potential more usable. This will take a little more time and impetus than in the field, but it will certainly happen, because the advantages of using buildings as components combined with on-site energy production are too clear.

Solar does the job now

Solar will do the job - throughout the EU. On site and in the respective countries. At a cost below any fossil/nuclear energy supply. Already today and more and more every year.

Framework conditions, framework conditions, framework conditions

The economy wants cheap green electricity, the citizens want it. It is available from both solar and wind power plants and must now be developed much more rapidly. As the German government, among others, has also signed vis-à-vis the EU. Now it is important to set the right framework conditions. And no longer than is necessary until 2012 to dispute cent amounts of EEG subsidies.

We are now working on this more intensively than ever in the Bundesverband neue Energiewirtschaft BNE, more on this in the near future or at the Forum Neue Energiewelt.

Do we see each other?

How we can further accelerate the global storm run of PV in the EU, and what framework conditions will come first - we will discuss this on 21 and 22 November 2019 as part of our New Energy World Forum with 700 participants from the innovative energy industry:Forum 2019

Translated with German AI

Karl-Heinz Remmers
14. Nov 2019