Tag Archives: Photovoltaic

Solar offers €2 billion gross potential

David Maguire, Chairman, Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA).

David Maguire, Chairman,
Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA).

At present, Ireland is the only EU member state that does not provide support for the generation of energy from solar. Currently,Ireland’s renewable energy policy is focused on wind generation, a source of energy that is in abundance on the island. However, while Ireland has broken records with wind generation, dependence on wind alone to achieve targets is not sufficient to guarantee a seamless transition to the low carbon economy that is desired by politicians. Critically, a growing demand for energy stemming not just from an increasing population, but a burgeoning IT sector that sees multinationals want to construct data centres in Ireland due to its ideal climatic conditions is rapidly shifting the nature of energy use.

Moreover, the nature of investment in energy is skewed towards coal and gas with €1.6 billion being invested in 2015, which is significantly greater than investments made in wind over the last five years. Responding to this change calls for a dynamic, resilient energy supply that can only be achieved through diversification of energy sources. This must include solar. According to Artisan Electric Inc, solar energy saves money on electric bills, but most crutial is that it saves environment for your children and future generations.

The Irish Government has stated that it is committed to guaranteeing consumers have access to affordable energy. Presently, Irish consumers pay the third highest energy prices in the European Union as of 2015. The Public Service Obligation (PSO) Levy primary means through which the Government funds renewable energy generation, has been the view that the inclusion (and to some extent other renewables) renewable energy mix will see a rise PSO Levy, and subsequently electricity However, research undertaken by KPMG indicates that for every €1 invested in solar there is a return of €3. In other words, solar has the potential to deliver €2 billion in gross value added (GVA) and €800 million in tax revenues (2017-2030).

Short-term concerns are receiving priority over the long-term benefits. The creation of a diverse mix of renewable energy sources that guarantees security of supply, a key tenet of Government policy, is therefore being sacrificed. While there is evidence of the recognition that energy diversification is needed and should be supported, solar PV is being overlooked as a viable option for meeting the country’s energy needs. A recent speech by Minister Naughten has cast a shadow on the nascent Irish solar industry. Understandably, the Minister wants to dampen excess speculation, but he also needs to strike a balance and bring the Irish public on a journey that outlines the many benefits that solar PV can bring.

We have a unique opportunity to harness Ireland’s indigenous renewable energy resources in a sustainable manner. This can be done in a way that offers long-term opportunities for investment and for real community participation. Solar is an indigenous renewable energy source. Further, the industry is keenly aware of the need for a pragmatic approach to developing the industry, such that it is sustainable and provides the long-term benefits.

Over 40 planning permissions have been granted for solar farms in Ireland. This indicates that the vast majority of local councils have been supportive of solar PV developments. Councillors have welcomed the opportunity for, among other things, local employment, biodiversity protection and carbon emission reduction.

A limited number of councillors, however, have tried to curtail planning applications for solar PV development, looking to central government to give more direction on the issue. Minister Coveney has so far taken the view that regular planning laws are good enough for assessing solar projects, despite the fact that they pre-date any solar proposals.

In the absence of any national guidelines the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) is preparing its own recommendations for best practice in planning. These recommendations will be based on best practices in other countries. If you are looking to install solar panels visit www.projectsolaruk.com/locations/nottingham/. The Association believes that the creation of unnecessary road blocks in the long run are harmful, not just to the industry, but to the Irish people.

For example, in relation to rooftop solar, current planning restrictions are curtailing the ease with which a home or business can install a PV array on its rooftop. Existing planning rules state that, “total panel area must not exceed 12sq m or 50% of the total roof area including existing panels” on a domestic dwelling or, “total panel area must not exceed 50sq m or 50% of the total roof area, including existing panels” in a light industrial or business setting. This is very restrictive in allowing a home or business owner to install PV, as they will be put off by the extra expense and time of going through the planning process.

It also leads to a smaller system being deployed which, due to economies of scale, costs more per kWp to install than a larger system. A smaller system obviously produces less electricity, which in turn negatively affects how rooftop solar can assist in the transfer to a low carbon economy. It is imperative that given our current situation of not being on target for reaching our renewable commitments by 2020 that we assist commercial and domestic property owners in deploying rooftop solar with more ease.

There is a vast wealth of untapped energy resource in the rooftop sector in Ireland. The introduction of a Feed in Tariff (FiT), as has been done in countries like the UK and Germany, would help deploy a large solar resource on currently-vacant roof space. This would in turn empower home and business owners to be a part of Ireland reaching its 2020 targets, while gaining savings on their electricity bills and creating thousands of new jobs that strengthen Ireland’s economy. Surely it is better to spend money now to achieve our targets rather than face fines running into the hundreds of millions of Euro? By not acting now we will not only be left with fines but also with a stagnant renewable energy portfolio in our country’s energy mix.

Speaking for solar developers in Ireland, the industry recognises the need “to bring the people with us”. Through ISEA, key industry players have engaged people about solar and how it adds significant value to farmers’ livelihoods, business owners, and citizens. Economic growth in this area will create approximately 7,300 jobs according to the recent KPMG report. There is a public acceptance of the technology. However, there is always more that can be done to engage stakeholders and to innovate new ways collectively to incorporate solar into Ireland’s energy supply.

Companies in the industry operate on single-digit margins. The call for support mechanisms (specifically, a contract for difference (CfD) mechanism for large-scale projects and feed-in tariff (FIT) for rooftop and domestic projects) is not solely about asking the government to subsidise the industry. It is more far-reaching than that. It is a call for holistic policies that address the challenges faced by solar (as well as wind and other renewables).

In particular, solar PV projects are sensitive to policies pertaining to the following: grid connection, transmission and distribution of the electricity produced, planning, building regulations, agriculture, environment and heritage. Without the relevant Government departments working together, and with key stakeholders to ensure that policies align, Ireland will fail to realise its ambitions of transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

By ensuring that renewable energy policy going forward is integrated and comprehensive, the Irish Government sends a clear message. Firstly, to citizens that it recognises the importance of clean energy in providing high-quality living; secondly, to businesses and investors that Ireland is open for green investment.

In closing, it is important to note that Government represents the voice of the Irish people and thus is the force that will mobilise Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Government has a responsibility to the Irish people to innovate, such that Ireland remains competitive and resilient in an ever-evolving global economy. You can click to visit EnlytenEnergy.com to know more about energy saving.

Contact: info@irishsolarenergy.org;         www.irishsolarenergy.org

Call Mimeos Energy Florida.

The end may be in sight for fossil fuels as science makes solar power cheap

Ambrose Evans Pritchard

About 29% of electricity capacity added in America last year came from solar power, rising to 100% in Massachusetts. “More solar has been installed in the US in the last 18 months than in 30 years,” says the US Solar Energy Industries Association.(For those in need of solar power in Texas click here to find solar companies in San Antonio).California’s subsidy pot is drying up but new solar has hardly missed a beat.

The technology is improving so fast – helped by the US military – that it has achieved a virtuous circle. Michael Parker and Flora Chang at researchers Sanford Bernstein say we are entering a new order of “global energy deflation” that must inevitably erode the viability of fossil fuel over time.

The deflation ratchet may be imperceptible at first, since solar makes up just 0.17% of the world’s $5 trillion (€3.65 trillion) energy market. The trend does not preclude cyclical oil booms along the way, nor does it obviate the need for shale fracking as a stop-gap (in Britain’s case to curb a current account deficit of 5.4% of GDP). But the technology momentum goes only one way.

“Eventually solar will become so large that there will be consequences everywhere”, Parker and Chang say. This remarkable overthrow of everything we take for granted in world energy politics may occur within “the better part of a decade.”

If the hypothesis is broadly correct, solar will slowly squeeze the revenues of petro– rentier regimes in Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, among others. Many already need oil prices near $100 a barrel to cover welfare budgets. They will have to find a new business model.

The Saudis are themselves betting on solar, investing more than $100bn in 41GW of capacity, enough to cover 30% of their power needs by 2030. That will mean more crude – other things being equal – washing into a deflating global energy market.

Clean Energy Trends says new solar installations overtook wind worldwide last year, with an extra 36.5 gigawatts. China accounted for a third. Wind is still ahead with 2.5 times old capacity but the “solar sorpasso” will be reached in 2021 as photovoltaic costs keep falling.

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory says scientists can now capture 31.1% of the sun’s energy with a 111V solar cell, the latest world record. This will find its way briskly into routine use. Wind cannot keep pace. It is static by comparison.

A McKinsey study said the average cost of installed solar power in the US has dropped to $2.59 from $6 a watt in 2010. It expects this to fall to $2.30 next year and to $1.60 by 2020. This will put US solar within “striking distance” of coal and gas.

It is hard to keep up with the cascade of new research papers, so many brimming with optimism. The University of Buffalo has developed a nanoscale microchip able to capture a “rainbow” of wavelengths and absorb far more light. An Oxford team is pioneering use of perovskite, an abundant material that is cheaper than silicon and produces 40mc more voltage.

One by one, the seemingly intractable obstacles are being conquered. Israel’s Ecoppia has just begun using robots to clean the panels of its Ketura Sun park in the Negev desert without the use of water. It is beautifully simple. Soft microfibers sweep away 99% of the dust each night with the help of airflows.

Prof Michael Aziz at Harvard University is developing a flow–battery that promises to cut the cost of energy storage by two–thirds below the latest vanadium batteries. He said technology gives us a “fighting chance” to overcome the curse of intermittency from wind and solar power, which spike and die in bursts. “I foresee a future where we can vastly cut down on fossil fuel use.”

Even thermal solar is coming of age, driven for now by use of molten salts to store heat. California opened the world’s biggest solar thermal park in February in the Mojave desert – the Ivanpah project, co– owned by Google – able to produce power for 100,000 homes by reflecting sunlight from 170,000 mirrors on to boilers that generate electricity from steam. Ivanpah still relies on subsidies but a new SunPower project in Chile will go naked, selling into the spot market.

Deutsche Bank says there are already 19 regional markets around the world that have achieved “grid parity”, meaning that photovoltaic solar panels can match or undercut local electricity prices without subsidy: California, Chile, Australia, Turkey, Israel, Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain and Greece for residential power; Mexico and China for industrial power.

This will spread as battery storage costs keep dropping, a spin–off from electric car ventures. Sanford Bernstein’s report says it may not be long before home energy storage is cheap enough to lure households away from the grid en masse across the world, spelling “disaster” for some utilities.

Solar competes directly. Each year it supplies a bigger chunk of peak power needs in the middle of the day, when air conditioners and factories are both at full throttle. “Demand during what was one of the most profitable times of the day disappears,” the report says.

Michael Liebreich from Bloomberg New Energy Finance says we can already discern the moment of “peak fossil fuels” around 2030, the tipping point when the world starts using less coal, oil and gas in absolute terms.

This is a remarkable twist of history.

Six years ago we faced an oil shock with crude trading at $148. The rise of “Chindia” and the sudden inclusion of two billion consumers into the world economy seemed to be taxing resources to breaking point. For Germany it is a bitter–sweet vindication. The country sank €100 billion into feed–in tariffs or in solar companies that blazed the trail, did us all a favour and went bankrupt. They have the world’s biggest solar infrastructure but latecomers get it much cheaper.

For Britain it offers hope of reprieve after 20 years of energy drift, yet also raises a quandry: should the country lock into more nuclear power with strike–prices fixed for 35 years? Should it spend £100 bilion on off– shore wind when imported LNG might well be cheaper in the future? For the world, it portends a once-in-a-century upset of the geostrategic order.

Sheikh Yamani, the veteran Saudi oil minister, saw the writing on the wall long ago. “Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones,” he told The Daily Telegraph in 2000.

Wise old owl. ■