(Almost) no place for PV rooftops in Bulgaria14. February 2013 By: Maria Maltseva, Greentech.bg
According to the Bulgarian Photovoltaic Association (BPVA), the market potential for photovoltaic systems installed on rooftops in Bulgaria is very limited, due to the cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and technical barriers. Maria Maltseva, editor in chief of Bulgaria’s Greentech.bg outlines the hurdles and discusses two options where installations do make sense.
Repeating the success of Germany – driven first by its "1,000 solar roofs", and later by its "100,000 solar roofs" programs – is a big dream for the renewable energy industries of many European countries, including Bulgaria. The prospect of such a burgeoning industry in Bulgaria, however, is very small.
Firstly, from 2013 to 2016, local regulators will not issue any new permits for renewable energy facilities, including those facilities that already have preliminary contracts. Excluded are installations smaller than 200 kW and biomass.
The reason for this, generally speaking, is that regulators saw "too rapid growth of renewables in the country". The share of renewables in the total energy mix of the country is over 14% and the national indicative targets for the share of renewables in the energy mix by 2020 is 16%, regulators say.
A second barrier is the cumbersome and lengthy administrative procedures and time limits, which are prohibitive for the small investor. Indeed, to build a small photovoltaic installation on the roof of a family house, the owner must undergo the same administrative processes as a large-scale renewable energy investor. That means a lot of cumbersome procedures, documents and permits, and protracted periods of waiting. In an ideal scenario, these last "as long as a pregnancy", says Nicola Gazdov, chairman of the BPVA.
There are also technical barriers to the implementation of solar in the country. Indeed, current practices and regulations require distribution companies to install electricity meters for households. Electricity distribution companies (EDCs) are also the owners of the equipment. There is no other option.
However, EDCs do not install dual meters, meaning they cannot keep two accounts, i.e. one for the consumed electricity and one for the fed in electricity. Instead, meters "accumulate [electricity] on the same account" and do not distinguish between input and output.
In other words, if a household produces solar electricity, which feeds into the grid when production outweighs consumption, the household will have to pay for the excess electricity produced. The problem was described by Rumen Hristov, owner of one of the first PV companies in Bulgaria.
Hristov’s company created a solution to tackle the problem, whereby small photovoltaic system owners do not have to feed their generated electricity into the national grid. The device acts as a relay, which shuts down the inverters when it "sees" that production is more than consumption and the house begins to submit the energy to the national electricity grid.
Hristov says owners of small PV installations are usually well aware of the problem before they undertake construction work. He added that the fact that there is no way to sell the excess solar energy is the reason why these small photovoltaic systems are often not built in full accordance with the local laws.
For example, owners do not complete the whole administrative procedure (official licenses, approvals, registries, etc.) Consequently, many households simply install photovoltaic panels and use the generated electricity to power their own appliances.
What prospects does the PV rooftop sector in Bulgaria have?
According to the BPVA, there are two viable options for installing PV on a rooftop in Bulgaria. Either the owner is a renewable energy enthusiast; or (as is more likely), the owner designs a project for partial or complete energy autonomy.
One possible scenario is related to places without access to the electricity network. These can be chalets, high-mountain farm buildings, weather forecast stations, etc. In this case, the owner will have to design a system including photovoltaic modules and some form of energy storage system (batteries), and/or energy-efficient lighting and energy efficient appliances.
The other scenario includes a small private company seeking independence from EDCs. For a traditional small business, energy consumption usually begins around 9 am, when employees come to work. At around 10 am it becomes more intense and remains so until between 17 to 18 pm.
This consumption coincides, mostly, with the time of highest solar radiation. With good planning, says the BPVA, this photovoltaic power could cover most of the energy needs in the small company. The small difference between produced and consumed energy would then be offset by electricity derived from the national grid.
Maria Maltseva has been writing about solar related issues in Bulgaria since 2009 via the greentech.bg website.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.
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