Upgrading grids "our lifeline" – TÜV Rheinland chief

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Dr Manfred Bayerlein, head of TÜV Rheinland, told an audience of solar industry business leaders, scientists and politicians the global photovoltaic revolution is a huge opportunity for German businesses.

Dr Bayerlein said that although Germany is playing less of a role in the global module market, its 1.4 million domestic installations make it "the largest existing testbed for the practical application of photovoltaics". He told the audience this offered unparalleled R&D opportunities to medium-sized German companies, consultants and engineers in areas like photovoltaic integration with smart energy and storage systems.

The TÜV Rheinland chief was critical of unlimited expansion of renewables in his country, which had led, he said to "a glut of green electricity" adding, "the incentives to build solar plants were and are covered today".

Instead, explained Dr Bayerlein, it was time to look to the urgent need to integrate renewables into national and European grids.

"Since the energy revolution began," he said, "the risk of blackouts has already increased significantly. The network expansion in Germany is late but hopefully, with the decisions of recent months, not too late."

He added that the prevalence of solar rooftops in Germany negated any need for social acceptance of renewables in the country, adding: "Solar electricity generation is quite commonplace in the neighborhood or on the house roof. Green electricity is not a vision, but already a reality."

With TÜV Rheinland a world leader in solar testing and quality control, Dr Bayerlein said the global explosion in photovoltaics is a huge opportunity for quality-assurance businesses, with investors keen to ensure the return on their capital through rigorous testing and maintenance.

There is "no sustainable development of the solar industry without quality," said Dr Bayerlein, "meanwhile insurability comes into view. Insurers call for the best technical and economic security."

And the TU Kaiserslautern speaker said quality control should be a higher priority for policymakers because in Germany "toward the end of a funding period there has been a stress on getting plants installed which has led to design and installation quality being a secondary consideration".

Dr Bayerlein ended with a rallying call to solar policymakers, adding: "What we need is not just an energy revolution. What we need is a solar revolution."