German solar photovoltaic generation peaked at around 15 GW on 11 May 2014 – a record high that caused prices to sink briefly into the negative.
“Balancing supply with demand in the grid presents operators with a significant challenge and leads to market price fluctuations. That is where storage solutions come into play,” says Tobias Rothacher, renewable energies manager at Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI). Storage will be a major topic at this year’s Intersolar Europe, the world’s leading solar industry exhibition.
While politicians and the media have focussed largely on smart grids as a solution, a quiet revolution has been taking place in the photovoltaic industry.
“Many solar installations will have paid for themselves in the next couple of years and some will soon reach the end of their 20-year feed-in tariff contract,” says Rothacher, who advises and supports international companies planning to invest in Germany.
With modern and cheaper battery technology now available, these owners are able to store excess power during the day instead of feeding it into the grid at low prices and buying it back at night when it is more expensive. This helps to reduce grid fluctuations and with feed-in tariffs set to fall this summer, it makes even more economic sense.
Market research company EuPD expects sales of solar power storage systems to rise in Germany to 100,000 units in 2018, up from 6,000 in 2013. It is a development that has not gone unnoticed by politicians with the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel calling for battery technology to be returned to its position as a leading German industry.
“A number of factors are coming together that will lead to a boom in PV energy storage solutions in Germany,” Rothacher concludes.