PV energy in the THERMIE programme

by B Yordi, EC DG XVII

The European Commission's demonstration programmes have provided financial support to 184 completed or on-going photovoltaic (PV) projects with a total installed capacity of more than 11 MWp since 1979, and have also supported a wide range of associated measures, including technology and market related studies in the PV sector.

100 kWp PV array at the Berlin Bank.

The PV part of the THERMIE programme is now gathering results and lessons from its on-going portfolio of about 100 live projects. The programme provides up to 40% of the investment costs for PV demonstration projects, with the aim of promoting greater use of European PV technologies in the EU and increasing the competitiveness of the European PV industry in international markets. The costs of PV technology are continuing to fall world-wide. It is therefore vital to build upon the successful private­public partnerships which have been established through the THERMIE programme and, by continuing to work together through the 5th Framework Programme, to ensure that the PV industries in the EU maintain their competitive position in world markets.

A growth industry
The European PV industry is working hard to maintain its share of one third of the global PV market. In The Netherlands, the PV module manufacturer Shell Solar has announced increases in its PV module production capacity from 5 MWp/year in 1997 to 15 MWp/year in 1998, and to
20 MWp/year before the year 2000.

In Germany, a new PV module production plant is being established in Gelsenkirchen by Pilkington and Shell Solar with a production capacity of 25 MWp/year.

In France, Photowatt has announced increases in its production capacity for PV cells and modules by a factor of three and a growth in its work force to 200 staff by 1999.

In Spain, the engineering company ATERSA has established a new facility encapsulating PV cells with a production capacity of 2 MWp/year.

Cost reductions
Further reductions in the costs of PV modules and other system components are vital to the future competitiveness of PV technologies in global electricity markets.

With these objectives in mind, the EC Thermie PV demonstration programme has sought to achieve a reduction of 10­15% per year in overall project costs. These reductions can be seen in the graph above, which presents the ranges of total project costs per Wp of installed PV generator, including the costs of two years of performance monitoring in accordance with the EC monitoring guidelines.

Reduction in PV module and component costs.

Decentralised, grid-connected houses, often provide not only kWh of electricity but also daylighting, solar thermal gains and other energy savings. Successful decentralised grid connected systems on individual houses include both simple social housing and large high quality prestige houses, for example:

  • The integration, carried out by the company EHN, of PV energy  in a wind farm i n Navarra, Spain. A good adaptation of a wind-inverter  to PV needs, together with impressive regional planning. (By  2005 all the energy produced in Navarra will come from renewable  sources.)
  • A 1 MWp decentralised, building-integrated PV system in new  housing at Amersfoort in The Netherlands. Different financing  schemes are being demonstrated in this project. In one example,  the utility REMU leases the roof from the house owners and owns  100% of the PV systems; in another, house owners participate  in the financing of the PV systems, and are paid for the energy  produced. Building integration is currently involved in 85% of THERMIE photovoltaic projects.
  • The AUTOSOLE project; where AGAC, an agency representing  45 municipalities, has integrated a PV generator into parking  structures in the north of Italy. A newly-developed, PV-powered,  "green" petrol pump has also been designed as part of this project.
  • The Toledo campus project; where PV will be integrated into  an eighteenth century weapons factory. A whole new renewable  energy area will be established to demonstrate the capacity of new technology to contribute to the redevelopment of degraded  industrial areas.
  • The Berlin Bank; where a service centre is powered by a PV  array of 100 kWp, installed on the roof of this important building, which is in a neighbourhood with many historic buildings. The  PV electricity is consumed within the building and the Bank is  studying possible soft loan schemes for future PV users. The  architect is Kleihus.

In new technology projects, new developments are demonstrated at full scale in typical operating conditions. Frequently these projects involve taking forward the results from R&D projects supported under the JOULE programme. For example, in the EUCLIDES project, a large-scale (480 kWp) PV concentrator is under construction in Tenerife. This modular plant concentrates the sunlight by a factor of 32, and uses single- axis tracking with reflecting optics and encapsulated concentration modules. This technology has good market potential in sunny countries.

The average size of a typical PV demonstration project has risen dramatically from 30 kWp in 1990, to 200 kWp in 1998.

Impact of THERMIE PV
As the EU moves into the next millennium, and the new 5th Framework programme for Research and Technological Development becomes established, it is important to review the progress which has been achieved during the last eight years of THERMIE PV demonstrations, and to consider the benefits which have resulted from these EU-level activities.

In the transfer of PV technology to society and industry it is important to develop wider participation in the market through Commission projects. Since 1990 about 300 contractors have been involved in THERMIE PV projects; for 200 of these, it was the first time that they had had a THERMIE contract.

An important element of an innovation programme is that activities must respond to the real needs of the market participants and the final consumer; it is not enough that technologies are developed and successfully demonstrated. So, the THERMIE programme includes accompanying measures varying from market studies to the specific problem of batteries.

As an example of this type of action, and concerning stand-alone PV systems for use in rural electrification in both the EU and in developing countries, a new "Universal Standard" for solar home systems has been produced. It is now available as an important reference for use by manufacturers, investors and decision makers throughout the world.

An important indirect benefit of the THERMIE projects is networking: coalitions and consortia between THERMIE PV project partners and their end-user groups are established all over Europe.

Integration of solar energy at the Navarra wind farm.

As we approach the end of the second four years of the THERMIE programme, it is clear that the PV sector has matured dramatically during this period. The primary focus has moved from being one of technology development, with a strong emphasis on technical R&D to one of market development, with a strong emphasis on energy services and competitiveness.

Fundamental research and technological development on PV devices and components remains vitally important for the future, and it is still particularly important to develop lower cost PV modules with high efficiencies and long lifetimes. However, it is equally important to move forward with the demonstration of PV energy services in the competitive energy markets of both the EU and developing countries.

Further work on the environmental integration of PV in urban and rural areas remains important, as do further demonstrations of sustainable schemes for supplying and financing PV energy services.

For more information contact Ms B. Yordi, EC DG XVII, 200 Rue de la Loi, B 1049 Brussels. Tel +32 2 296 0072, Fax +32 2 296 6261. E-mail: beatriz.yordi@bxl.dg17.cec.be

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