German PV trade association lobbies for ‘cheaper than coal’ ground-mount solar

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German PV trade industry association BSW Solar has cast fresh doubts over the country’s new tender process for awarding ground-mount solar energy projects, saying that many would-be developers are likely to miss out.

The association’s spokesman David Wedepohl told PV Tech today that while it is too early to comment on several aspects of the process until the full results are made public, the association was not happy to see relatively low caps on the country’s new installations for an energy generation technology competitive on price with coal.

PV Tech reported on 22 April that the first round, to award 150MW of ground-mount, or ‘open-field’ projects, received 170 applications. Over 2015, 2016 and 2017, the competitive auction process is expected to be applied across the ground-mount, residential and commercial scale solar sectors. Not many details besides the number of applicants have been revealed, although government minister Rainer Baake was quoted widely in various industry reports as confirming the price as roughly averaging out at just over US$100 per MWh.

Administered by the regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), the auctions are aimed at bringing 7.5GW more solar online by the end of 2017. When announced at the beginning of this year, the plans were slammed by groups including BSW Solar and the European Photovoltaic Industries Association (EPIA).

EPIA director of public policy Frauke Thiess said in a January interview with PV Tech that the plans appeared to “make no sense”, in effect restricting market volumes while the cost of solar is still falling relatively quickly.

Wedepohl today said that it seemed like an “unnecessary” curb on Germany’s enthusiasm for solar.

“As an association, we regret that we will only have 1.2GW of power in the tender process in the next three years,” Wedepohl said.

“Divide that by three, that’s not a very large market and I think that this means the majority of those interested in building these systems won’t be able to, because the interest is higher than the space allocated for it.”

Wedepohl explained that in his and BSW Solar’s thinking, it was good that some ground-mount PV would be allowed through the process after a couple of lean years, although installations sired by the auctions would be limited to 10MW capacity per project. Germany has over 38GW of PV generation capacity already installed across the three main market segments.

“Open field installations are the cheapest form of generating solar energy. It doesn’t have some of the other benefits [of the other segments], like if you had it on a building you could consume it directly [onsite], but on the other hand it’s the cheapest way,” Wedepohl said.

“We could, without a lot of costs, have a much larger market which we think would be necessary. I think we’re unnecessarily limiting open-field installations to 1.2GW in three years. We could do a lot more without doing any harm. We would strongly encourage the government to do so.

“Given where we are price-wise now, [ground-mount solar] can compete with newly built coal-fired plants. That’s how cheap solar energy has become,” Wedepohl said.

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