DW: Professor, you are the director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, which is the largest institute for applied solar energy research in Europe. We instinctively guess the strengths of this type of energy, but please tell me – what makes it superior to other sources?
a. Dr. Andrew Pete: It is available anywhere in the world. Of course, the sun produces more rays in some places than others, but it still doesn’t change that RealityIt is an accessible resource. Due to the dynamic development of this technology, it is cheap, which means that in most regions of the world we can provide cheap electricity from the sun. This is a clear advantage over other sources, although I think it is advantageous to combine it with wind energy, which perfectly compensates for the days with less sunlight.
Photovoltaic cells. ‘Dunkelflaute’ happens
But what if the wind does not blow also in those places where there is little or no sun? Germany even has its own name “dunkelflaute” on this day.
– However, we must strive to build an energy system that is a mixture of renewable energy sources – preferably the sun and Wind. Dunkelflaute happens, so we need ways to store energy for sun- and wind-free days.
Do you have any specific ideas?
– We actually need to rethink the energy system. To make it modern and stable, we need short-term storage, such as batteries, and long-term storage, such as hydrogen, as a storage for surplus energy.
Different countries and regions will have different needs in terms of sun, wind and storage ratios. However, this sun will be much more in Africa than in Europe.
– That’s why we have to look for a different set of solutions for each country. However, this does not change the fact that, from a technological point of view, there is a method of stable energy supply throughout the year.
The energy source is really free – the sun’s rays cost nothing. But the technology itself or its installation costs money. Do you think it will become cheaper or more and more productive?
– And it is worth emphasizing – solar energy is free, while in the old energy system we pay for combustion coalAnd oil for gas. Here is a big difference. the facilities themselves PV However, high investments must be made. However, when we calculate it along with the lifetime of the modules or resource consumption, it turns out that solar energy is the least cost per kilowatt-hour from all sources.
Is the future more promising in this regard?
Technology is evolving. The efficiency of the panels is increased and the production cost is reduced. However, you do not have to delay investing in this technology in anticipation of progress, because this energy is already cheap now. I would like to compare it to cars.
– We have cars for many years. We lead them, even though the industry is still developing. Today’s cars are better than the ones 10 years ago. The same thing happens with solar panels. Existing technologies are already high-level technology. It will improve.
cheap and available. Anything else for this power source?
Solar installations are generally more dispersed and therefore more resilient during crises such as war. Of course, there are large photovoltaic facilities in China or the USA, producing several gigawatts, but, as a rule, this technology allows us to distribute more and produce energy when it is needed. Safe deliveries are a huge advantage.
What will be the future of solar energy in terms of its globality? Should we expect to see small solar panels on balconies or rooftops more and more?
– absolutely yes. I think that consumers of products will become more frequent, that is, users who produce energy themselves, for example on a balcony or rooftop, and then consume it. It is also a great financial asset. This conviction is increasing in Germany. It should be noted, however, that full self-sufficiency, and therefore energy self-sufficiency, is unlikely. We need the entire power system. However, the independent solar energy sector is sure to thrive and develop very quickly. It can be integrated with different systems, for example with electric mobility.
What about the production technology itself? Do we fear the emergence of monopoly?
Yes, these are real concerns. The vast majority of photovoltaic production is now carried out in China. We must try to restore PV production in Europe and thus gain independence in this field.
Consumers and network problems. “There were also many complaints in Germany at one time.”
We are witnessing a real boom in home solar power plants in Poland. There are so many of them that it is difficult to obtain permission to connect the installation to the network due to inefficient power networks. Lots of investors were fired empty-handed. Are we seeing a similar problem in Germany?
There are many coal-fired power plants in Poland. By connecting distributed power sources to the system, we are actually creating differences in the network. There have also been many complaints in Germany that the chain will not be able to handle the large influx of consumers. But these predictions turned out to be very pessimistic. In the end, a lot of solar energy was absorbed into the grid. But in fact, in such a situation, energy storage is very beneficial for the stability of the entire system. This solution is becoming more and more popular in Germany – people who use photovoltaic panels also put a battery. Such storage may be necessary.
However, I wonder if the energy storage technology is advanced enough? We can store energy overnight, but it would be nice to be able to store it long enough to use it during the winter, for example. Do you see space to develop this branch here?
– Indeed, at this stage, storage is possible only for short and medium-term periods – that is, for a day or a week. However, believe me, this sector is developing very dynamically. Along with better and better technical solutions, their cost also decreases. This process is driven by the demand for electric mobility. In contrast, long-term storage is enabled by hydrogen. Energy storage technology in this way is well available, although it requires further development and research funding.
Are you optimistic about the development of energy storage?
– Of course. Let’s look back 20 years. Photovoltaic panels were very expensive at that time. No one imagined that they could generate energy so cheaply. And now we can see the panels on the balconies and roofs in the immediate vicinity.
* a. Dr. Andreas Bett is Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems. He did a lot of research on advanced technologies to get energy from the sun. He has been honored many times for his outstanding services in the photovoltaic field.
The article comes from the site Deutsche Welle.
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