Fun Facts from Fraunhofer on Solar

Fraunhofer has published an excellent compilation of facts on solar energy in Germany (in German language). Thanks to this tweet by Energiewende Germany for the link.

One interesting question is how much the cumulative costs for surcharges from solar until now actually were.

The study answers this question on page 15. Those costs add up to about 22 billion euro.

To put that in perspective, that is about 268 euro per capita. Averaged out over the 10 years solar has been added under this system, less than 30 euro per year, or about 2.50 euro a month.

And what did Germany get for that? Over 30 GW of solar capacity and counting, a massive reduction of solar panel prices that will lead to explosive growth world wide.

Going forward, Fraunhofer estimates the cumulative costs until 2020 at about 70 billion euro, which is about 850 euro per capita over 20 years, or around 40 euro a year, or slightly over 3 euro a month.

But then those costs will get negative. The savings from avoided fossil fuel costs will by far outweigh the remaining surcharges.

In the long run, having solar in the mix will save money. For the very least, it will lock in cost over decades, making unexpected cost spikes impossible.

Anyway, the time where solar was much more expensive than wind is over already. The feed-in tariff did bring those costs down massively, which would have been impossible in a model based on  a renewable portfolio standard. That would never have given solar a chance.

The result is that Germany now has wind and solar. And solar is an excellent match. It produces exactly in the months where wind production goes down. Adding up production from solar and wind leads to a much more stable system than having only cheap wind in the mix.

Another very interesting point was discussed on pages 40 to 41. Right now all solar modules are facing south, so as to maximize production.

It might make sense to have more of them facing east or west. That would result in less production, but that would be distributed better over the whole day, reducing the number of time slots where there is not enough demand to take up supply. That’s a very simple solution.

On the other hand, for the individual owner of solar panels, there might be a need to compensate. Maybe there should be slightly higher feed-in tariffs for solar panels facing east or west, just as there are higher tariffs for wind at locations with less wind resources.

Other ways to deal with lacking demand would be to get all cars to electric power and charge them in peak time slots, and to exchange the electricity for heat over heat pumps and use the heat for hot water or room heating (pages 43 and 44 of the report).

Silicon wafer solar panels don’t contain any toxic substances, and they have a market share of about 88% in Germany.  Over 200 panel makers have started a recycling cooperation in 2010 (PV Cycle).

Silicon wafer panels don’t need any scarce raw materials. They do use 1.500 tons of silver per year, which is about 7% of yearly production, but that may be substituted by copper in the future (page 46).

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