Seoul's solar plans take shape

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Last year, the Seoul Municipal Government (SMG) released its plans to transform the city into a "Sunlight City," by adding 320 MW of photovoltaic capacity by the end of 2014. The goal is a part of the South Korean capital’s "One Less Nuclear Power Plant" (ULNPP) program, which aims to increase the city’s energy independence through a range of measures including the promotion of photovoltaics.

The programs are in part a response to public opposition to a reliance on nuclear energy, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

As a part of the ULNPP program, 100 MW of photovoltaics is planned to be installed across public school buildings in the city. The photovoltaic installations will then feature on the school syllabus, helping to increase salience about solar energy.

Another way to raise public perception as to the potential of photovoltaics is through the production of the Solar Map, which is set to be released next month.

Korea’s LG Solar reports to pv magazine that the national government is also active in fostering photovoltaic capacity growth, through its Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) program. The program came into effect last year and replaced the now-defunct FIT. The goal is for 1.2 GW of photovoltaic capacity to be added by 2015.

LG Solar’s Won Mo further told pv magazine that the RPS alone won’t be sufficient as a loan force driving photovoltaics. "The RPS scheme cannot be the only driving force for expanding solar market and relevant organizations and companies are considering other options such as the restoration of FIT scheme," said Won Mo.

LG Solar’s itself is planning to ship 40% of 2013 production to the domestic Korean market. One factor behind this, said Won Mo, is a preference in the Korean market for domestically manufactured modules. "Korean buyers prefer domestic brands since they care for durability and reliability but at the same time they want the competitively priced module also."

As installation sizes increase, Won Mo notes, this becomes less of a factor. "The utility sector has a tendency towards competitive price, domestic or foreign, since profitability, or IRR is at the top of their list."

The forthcoming March edition of pv magazine contains a feature article on the Korean photovoltaic market.

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