On the finish of September 2022, a faint cheer may very well be heard in Berlin. Germany’s economics committee had accredited a authorities movement for additional modifications in a proposed modification to the vitality safety act, the Energiesicherungsgesetz (ENSIG). The amended laws added the next sentence to Germany’s renewable vitality act, “In sentence one, the phrases ‘because of a technical defect, harm, or theft’ are deleted.”
That small modification to the wording discovered deep in Germany’s Renewable Vitality Act (EEG) might have a momentous influence. Previous to Jan. 1, 2023, photo voltaic modules in a photo voltaic park might solely get replaced in circumstances of technical defects or in the event that they had been broken or stolen. Crucially in such situations, the technology capability of the challenge was not permitted to extend from its authentic spec because of such panel alternative, if the developer wished to proceed to qualify for funds underneath the EEG.
Nevertheless, that’s all modified now. The Bundesverband Neue Energiewirtschaft (BNE), a federal renewable vitality business physique, had been campaigning for months to calm down the beforehand tight limits on the alternative of photo voltaic modules that was laid down within the EEG.
“We’re very completely happy that the [coalition government] has accepted our proposal to permit repowering in photo voltaic parks,” says Carsten Pfeiffer, BNE head of technique and politics. “Which means that urgently wanted further photovoltaic capacities might be put in in a short time on present areas.”
Karl-Heinz Remmers, one of many BNE members who operates photo voltaic parks in Germany, says that by introducing the choice of lively repowering for photo voltaic modules, it might enhance the capability presently put in in Germany from 63 GW on the present areas to 100 GW or extra. The repowering laws doesn’t apply to rooftop modules however, even so, it’s estimated that 36 GW of Germany’s 63 GW of photo voltaic capability has the potential to be doubled or in some circumstances even quadrupled through repowering.
The change within the regulation means photo voltaic turbines can increase the manufacturing capability of their property indefinitely to any extent further. Nevertheless, photo voltaic vitality subsidy funds secured underneath the EEG will solely apply to electrical energy generated by the unique manufacturing capability agreed in tenders. Any extra technology have to be offered through energy buy agreements or on the wholesale market, BNE’s Pfeiffer confirms.
That won’t deter photo voltaic park operators comparable to Remmers. “Presently, round 17 GW of ground-mounted programs are put in on round 32,000 hectares,” he says. “If new programs had been to be put in on these 32,000 hectares at the moment, an output of a minimum of 35 GW can be doable even together with areas optimized for biodiversity – an extra 18 GW.”
At industrial websites, nearer siting of the modules means output may very well be greater than doubled. “Along with new design, that is additionally because of large will increase in module effectivity, since many ground-mounted programs had been constructed earlier than 2013,” provides Remmers.
Earlier than 2009, round 6 GW of ground-mounted photo voltaic was put in in Germany, with panel conversion effectivity starting from 5% to 12.5%. That meant 8 sq. meters to twenty sq. meters was required for every kilowatt-peak of technology capability. Within the growth years, from 2009 to 2013, round 30 GW of PV was added, with efficiencies of 5% to 14%, thus requiring 7 meters to twenty meters/kWp. Remmers estimates the 9 GW of photo voltaic added between 2014 and 2018 consisted of modules with 14% to 17% effectivity and a floor footprint of 6 meters to 7 meters. Since 2019, module effectivity has ranged from 18% to 22%, for an area requirement of a minimum of 4.6 sq. meters per kilowatt-peak.
Venture instance: 12-year-old crystalline ‘workhorses of yore’
A 5.5 MW grid-connected photo voltaic park options 60-cell modules with a median peak energy of 230 W every measuring 1 meter by 1.6 meters. The modules lie in 4 rows and are linked to central inverters. Due to provide chaos on the time, mounting buildings for round 200 kW of further modules had been put in and lie empty. Such occurrences might be discovered in lots of ground-mounted programs. If the modules are exchanged for 350 W merchandise, the elevated effectivity would end result within the challenge’s nameplate capability rising to eight.4 MW. A fifth row may very well be added with a small quantity of further funding, because of the shadow angle. In that case, 10.5 MW – plus the reserve of round 400 kW – can be doable. If the racks are dismantled and restructured, round 13 MW can be possible with a six-row equal on the identical floor space.
Remmers is talking from expertise. He has needed to substitute panels at his websites because of important degradation and managed to retain agreed EEG funds. On the identical time, he has additionally repowered by putting in extra environment friendly modules. In 2017, Remmers repowered a 3 MW website into 8 MW by changing the older thin-film modules. With 350 W merchandise now the norm, the identical variety of modules and racks – on modules spaced the identical distance aside – resulted in a ten MW website. With modifications in challenge design which means it will now be doable so as to add an additional row of panels with out rising the footprint of the positioning, the placement might broaden to 12 MW, Remmers explains.
The decline in PV system efficiency over time was a driving motivation in bringing concerning the repowering modification to the laws. Social Democratic Occasion (SPD) politician Timon Gremmels says panels typically lose 10% to 25% of their authentic efficiency over 20 years. He championed the legislative change due to the BNE’s estimate Germany’s 60 GW of photo voltaic might change into 100 GW by means of repowering “even when we gained’t attain these numbers as a result of the rooftop programs are excluded,” he says.
The necessity to approve repowering for ground-mounted programs is obvious, says the politician. “As a result of the necessity for house is a bottleneck within the growth of photovoltaics,” he explains. “Within the visitors mild coalition, we’re presently making an attempt to make further areas obtainable for photo voltaic parks wherever doable.”
BNE’s Pfeiffer is assured repowering provisions will even be launched for rooftop panels, in the end.
However what occurs to changed photo voltaic modules that aren’t faulty? “Used modules can present reduction on the sold-out market and can be utilized for balcony photovoltaic programs, for instance,” says SPD’s Gremmels, in reference to demand for photo voltaic presently outstripping provide.
Venture operator Remmers additionally advocates persevering with to make use of changed modules, for plug-in photo voltaic gadgets, for instance. “We must always present all usable modules from repowering very cheaply, and even ‘at no cost from the photo voltaic park’ for a second use,” he says. “With bigger portions, knowledgeable inverter answer will definitely be developed.”
There are doubts concerning the quantity of usable photo voltaic panels repowering will produce, nonetheless. “I feel there might be plenty of thin-film modules, particularly within the early days,” says Martin Schachinger, from wholesale photo voltaic buying and selling platform pvXchange, which stopped shopping for thin-film merchandise years in the past. “The skinny-film modules have too little energy and an excessive amount of weight. Due to this fact, the transport prices don’t repay,” says Schachinger.
As a substitute, Schachinger is satisfied most of the photo voltaic modules produced because of repowering tasks will find yourself being recycled for glass. That in itself may very well be a profit, says Remmers, in a world nonetheless missing a compelling enterprise case for photo voltaic panel recycling. The big amount of panels which is likely to be produced for recycling in Germany, he says, might drive an “environment friendly full-module recycling economic system,” making the nation a world chief.
Zain El Jouhari, normal supervisor of German panel maker TrippleZ, says there are already numerous multicrystalline photo voltaic modules obtainable because of repowering in Germany, considerably greater than changed thin-film merchandise. “Fifty per cent to 70% of the exchanged modules can nonetheless be used,” he says. “With a remaining service lifetime of round 10 years, such modules are extraordinarily fascinating for tasks in Africa, the Center East, and all different sunny areas.”
TrippleZ delivers used modules to these markets to be used in small off-grid installations and demand for panels of that nature has spiked because the onset of warfare in Ukraine. “The used modules are as much as 70% cheaper and export is worthwhile regardless of the elevated transport prices,” says El Jouhari. His firm collects changed panels from the repowered websites and offers with them as dictated by round economic system authorized necessities, together with offering disposal certificates. “The modules that may nonetheless be used are ready in our personal manufacturing unit in Hilden, close to Düsseldorf,” provides El Jouhari.
“Africa will not be our dumping floor,” warns Stefan Wippich, of latest and used photo voltaic buying and selling platform Secondsol, voicing concern about exporting lower-quality merchandise to the growing world. Remmers, in the meantime, says making certain such panels proceed to generate is an efficient factor. “Photo voltaic modules that also work don’t find yourself dumped so shortly in a growing nation, as a result of electrical energy is rather more helpful there.”
Secondsol is working with photo voltaic operations and upkeep corporations to develop a “repowering software” to assist determine whether or not to reuse or recycle the panels changed. The product would monitor used-module high quality, amount, and efficiency and supply thermographic and upkeep info to make sure solely good, secure merchandise stay in use.
Amid the thrill concerning the technology potential of latest, extra environment friendly modules, Secondsol’s Wippich believes used modules will even be retained by photo voltaic website house owners as spares. It isn’t all the time value changing all of the modules in a challenge.
No matter second-life makes use of the changed panels find yourself in, there is no such thing as a prospect of their EEG fee rights being transferred with them any time quickly, because the Federal Ministry of Economics has confirmed. The physique accountable for settling disputes arising from the EEG, and from mixed warmth and energy act the Kraft-Wärme-Kopplungsgesetz, has reached the identical preliminary conclusion. Funds, for now, will reside with the challenge tendered, making it extra probably used panels may have a second life overseas or on balconies.