EU PVSEC opening day: Can PV take the energy throne?

06. September 2010 | EU PVSEC 2010, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Top News | By:  Shamsiah Ali-Oettinger

The excitement level at this year’s EU PVSEC is slowly picking up. Visions are going beyond the magical year 2020 and stretching to 2050. Speaking to a full hall at the opening conference of the trade show, which opened today in Valencia, Spain, Dr. Giovanni Federigo De Santi, director of the Institute for Energy (IE), Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission ended his speech by asking if the photovoltaics (PV) industry is ready to face the challenges lying ahead in 2050.

EU PVSEC Valencia building in Spain

The opening conference set a good tone for the trade show. Image: WIP Renewable Energies.

Judging by his tone, however, it seemed as if he were really asking if the PV industry is ready to take the throne in 2050 as king of energy.

De Santi is all about the numbers. He states concrete facts and gets the audience thinking about where the PV market power lies and the potential imbalances that need to be rectified to reach a sunny 2020 and thereafter, an amazingly bright 2050. The Asia Pacific region produces around 75 percent of the world's PV supply, with China reigning as the champions, according to De Santi's keynote address. Europe holds the medal as the king of installations, with 78 percent of the pie.  This, according to De Santi, who also chaired the conference, poses some imbalance and therefore requires development in the direction towards increasing production in Europe and increasing installations in the Asia Pacific regions.

What is important for De Santi is that the exhibitors and visitors of the EU PVSEC think about what research and development (R&D) should be achieving. The R&D findings are all on display at the conference centre, with rows and rows of posters that highlight the most important findings of the companies here today in Valencia.

From new developments in CIGS technologies to ways of increasing efficiencies and physical deposition techniques that are more cost efficient, the findings are enormous. One might not have the time to read all the discoveries and improvements made by those who champion the sun, but the sheer volume of information and the interest being sparked by the opening conference is a promising start.

What should one exactly think about then? 

De Santi stresses the topics that rank high for him: cost reduction; performance enhancement; and an improved environmental profile. “Firstly, R&D should help efficiency, energy yield as well as stability and lifetime of the modules. Secondly, high productivity manufacturing should be achieved. This includes in process manufacturing and control. Thirdly, the environmental sustainability element cannot be overlooked. R&D needs to ensure life cycle sustainability and enable easier recycling. The industry's R&D direction should allow for energy diminishing methods,” he stated.

De Santi also stressed the importance of a constant, reliable framework. Should the PV industry reign as the primary energy provider in the renewable energies sector, then there is a need for harmonization globally. Harmonized testing methodologies and a harmonization of the energy politics.

Vice president of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), Winfried Hoffmann, said he is convinced that PV is the way to go for the future. The 2020 goal is already something that he believes has been realized by countries like Italy and Spain. He also states that the 2020 goal commitment is being realized all along the value chain. “Even in the face of the economic crisis, the industry grew. Over 35 years, the PV industry has grown exceptionally and in 2010, 30 gigawatts were added globally with the majority being found in Europe. We have over-succeeded.”

A strong statement indeed and grins start forming on the faces of the audience who feel truly inspired by the mention of the over-success achieved. The years 2020 and 2050 are still quite a stretch to cover, and the opening conference seems to have set the right tone and direction.


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