Germany: Millionth PV system grid connected

Located on the roof of the Institute for Sports Equipment Research and Development (Institut für Forschung und Entwicklung von Sportgeräten – FES) in Berlin, the one millionth system is a milestone for both Germany and photovoltaics.

Having long been the world leader in terms of installed capacity – by 2010, Germany had installed approximately 17.2 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaics, said BSW-Solar – Germany is renowned for its pioneering photovoltaic stance.

And, although there are predictions that Italy will take the installation crown this year, figures from BSW-Solar and Bank Sarasin point to the fact that Germany will remain ahead of most competitors, adding approximately five to six GW of photovoltaics to its grid in 2011.

Klaus Töpfer, ex-Federal Minister for the Environment and current executive director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), commented, "When photovoltaics first took off in Germany and the 1000-roof program was launched in the fall of 1990, nobody expected that we would already reach the one-million-system mark by 2011."

BSW added that photovoltaic systems presently Germany cover around three percent of the country’s gross electricity consumption. By 2020, this figure is expected to rise to "at least" 10 percent.

In a report released by Switzerland-based Bank Sarasin, ‘Solar industry: Svival of the fittest in a fiercely competitive marketplace’, 2011 will for the first time since 2006, see no growth in new installations.

In January 2012, the country’s feed-in tariff (FIT) will be reduced by 15 percent, thus taking the amount earned from small rooftop installations, for example, to 24.43 euro cents per kilowatt hour (/kWh), from the current 28.74 euro cents/kWh. This, says Sarasin, will bring the tariff down to household electricity tariff levels.

For the year 2012, the bank estimates that new installations will reach 5.4 GW, and further mid-year FIT cuts of between three and 12 percent will be implemented.

"With its bandwidth model, the German government has clearly defined the future growth path. The returns of a PV installation are moderate and the feed-in tariffs are being reduced by a reasonable amount. However, this also means that the risks of an abrupt change in subsidies are minimal and the market will remain attractive during 2012, and the largest in absolute terms until at least 2013," wrote the report’s authors.