Tuesday, May 29, 2012

German Solar PV Power Plants makes record production



German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, according to reliable sources. 
The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.
They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.
Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs.
"Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity," Allnoch told Reuters. "Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over."
The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.
Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources.
Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
SUNSHINE
Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible.
The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide.
The 22 GW per hour figure is up from about 14 GW per hour a year ago. Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.
"This shows Germany is capable of meeting a large share of its electricity needs with solar power," Allnoch said. "It also shows Germany can do with fewer coal-burning power plants, gas-burning plants and nuclear plants."
Allnoch said the data is based on information from the European Energy Exchange (EEX), a bourse based in Leipzig.
The incentives through the state-mandated "feed-in-tariff" (FIT) are not without controversy, however. The FIT is the lifeblood for the industry until photovoltaic prices fall further to levels similar for conventional power production.
Utilities and consumer groups have complained the FIT for solar power adds about 2 cents per kilowatt/hour on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world with consumers paying about 23 cents per kw/h.
German consumers pay about 4 billion euros ($5 billion) per year on top of their electricity bills for solar power, according to a 2012 report by the Environment Ministry.
Critics also complain growing levels of solar power make the national grid more less stable due to fluctuations in output.
Merkel's centre-right government has tried to accelerate cuts in the FIT, which has fallen by between 15 and 30 percent per year, to nearly 40 percent this year to levels below 20 cents per kw/h. But the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has blocked it.
Ref: Reuters 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Software for Optimal Planning of Solar Power Plants

The photovoltaics industry is booming, and the market for solar farms is growing quickly all over the world. Yet, the task of planning PV power plants to make them as efficient as possible is far from trivial. Fraunhofer researchers, working with Siemens Energy Photovoltaics, have developed software that simplifies conceptual design.

The share of renewable energies in the overall energy mix is rising rapidly worldwide. With three-figure growth rates, photovoltaics (PV) play a major role. According to market research organizations, the PV market grew by 139 percent in the year 2010. Germany is among the world's leaders in this technology that uses solar cells to convert sunlight straight into electrical energy. Yet the task of planning large-scale PV power plants spanning several square kilometers is a complex one. With customer specifications, regulations and government subsidy programs to consider, designers must also account for numerous other factors including weather, climate, topography and location. These factors, in turn, influence the selection and placement of the individual components which include the PV arrays with their solar modules, inverters and wiring, not to mention access roads. Until now, engineers have designed solar power plants using CAD programs, with every layout and every variation painstakingly generated separately. This is a very time-consuming approach. To improve a planned power plant in terms of certain criteria, or to compare different concepts with one another, oftentimes the entire planning process has to be repeated.

Several hundred plant designs at the push of a button
In the future, this approach will be improved considerably: researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern, in collaboration with Siemens Energy Photovoltaics, have developed a new planning software that makes it possible to build solar power plants better and more quickly. "Our algorithms programmed exclusively for the Siemens PVplanet (PV Plant Engineering Toolbox) software provide engineers with several hundred different plant designs in a single operation. It takes less than a minute of computation time," ITWM researcher Dr. Ingmar Schüle points out. The only user inputs are parameters such as the topography of the construction site and the module and inverter types that will be used. The user can also change a number of parameters - such as the orientation, spacing and inclination of the solar arrays - to study the impact on the quality of the planning result.
Cost estimates and income calculations included
To evaluate the designed PV power plants, an income calculation is performed that includes a simulation of the weather in the region in question, the course of the sun throughout the year and the physical module performance including shading effects. With the results of this computation and an estimate of the investment and operating costs, the planning tool can come up with a figure for the LCOE (levelized cost of energy). By comparing the plant with a large number of similar configurations, the planners can investigate the sensitivity of the various parameters to find the right solution from a large array of options. "The software assists the expert with decisionmaking and helps with the design of the best possible PV power plant for the site involved.
Which one is 'best' depends on a number of aspects - from the customer's objectives to the site and environmental conditions, but also on the financing concept and the financial incentives for photovoltaics in the target region. All of these criteria are taken into account." Schüle points out. Dr. Martin Bischoff, project manager at Siemens AG, Energy Sector, is also convinced of this approach: "Aside savings, more than anything else the planning tool provides an overview of the scope for optimization. This provides the best possible support for planning the most cost-efficient systems. There has been no other planning software with this scope or level of detail until now."

Ref: Science Daily and Fraunhofer Institute Germany

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