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Power Quality and Utilisation Guide

Distributed generation
& renewables

Photovoltaic installations
Ton van der Wekken
Kema consulting
April 2007

Distributed generation & renewables

Distributed generation & renewables

1 Introduction
1.1 Definition of the subject
Solar energy installations can be divided into two categories: solar photovoltaic (PV) for electricity production and
solar boilers for water heating. This application note deals only with photovoltaic solar energy.
Most people are familiar with the phenomenon solar energy in its quality of generating electrical power. Solar
electricity may be applied in multiple tools serving a variety of functions. Well-known examples are the pocket
calculators powered by PV-cells and off-grid street lighting and emergency telephones along the highway powered
by one or more PV-modules.
Solar energy became known to the general public in the fifties and sixties of last century due to space programs
of the Americans, Russians and to a lesser extent other European countries. Satellites and space capsules were
equipped with solar cells for power supply of its electrical systems. From that time the application of PV moved slowly
from extraterrestrial use to terrestrial application. First and also most widely applied are the off-grid domestic and
non-domestic PV systems. Off-grid domestic PV-systems are installed in households and villages not connected to the
utility grid. Usually, a means to store electricity is used, most commonly in combination with a lead-acid battery.
Off-grid non-domestic PV serves a variety of applications such as water pumping, remote communications, safety and
protection devices etc, at locations without the presence of a public grid.
Following off-grid PV application, also as a result of the growing attention for renewable energy, from the early
eighties of the previous century a tendency could be observed to connect PV systems also to the public grid. Also,
the field of application moved from undeveloped and rural areas to well developed urban areas equipped with finely
meshed public grids.
This application note deals only with PV systems connected to the public grid.

1.2 Physical background of solar PV

The photovoltaic (PV) principle is the known ability of some materials to convert (sun) light to electricity. The basic
elements, PV-cells, are made from semi-conductor material.
Most well-known is the application of crystalline silicon (Si) material for the fabrication of solar PV cells. For extraterrestrial
application the scarce and expensive material gallium arsenide (GaAs) is also used. The energy efficiency of GaAs
is much higher than that of crystalline silicon material.
A physical characteristic of semi-conductor material is that the elements contain relatively few free electrons compared
to metals. However, semi-conductor materials show the property that due to the absorption of (sun)light electrons
are released from their encapsulated position in the atomic structure. These released electrons may move through
the material. The physical background is that light not only has the characteristics of waves, but also behaves like
energy packages, known as photons. In case the energy content of a photon is of sufficient strength it may set free
an electron from its atomic structure. The direct consequence of a freed negative charged electron is that a positive
charged hole has also been created. A prerequisite for generating electricity is that the released electron is separated
sufficiently from its original position to minimize the risk of recombining the negatively charged electron and the
positively charged „hole”.

Figure 1 – Schematic overview of the operation of a photovoltaic cell

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To split electrons permanently from the „holes” the silicon material is equipped with a separation layer. This layer
is located in between two other silicon layers: one doped with phosphorus elements (n-type) and the other layer
with borium elements (p-type) [ref. 3]. The addition of phosphorus elements leads to extra free electrons and borium
results in a shortage of electrons. Although the material has a negatively and a positively loaded side, the layer
as a whole remains uncharged. An electric field is built up between the n-type and p-type layer. In case sunlight
strikes the silicon material and photons release electrons out of the atomic structure, the electric field is responsible
for separation of the negatively charged electrons from the positive „holes”.
As a matter of fact, the doped silicon layer lighted by sunlight acts as a battery cell having a plus and minus potential.
The voltage between the plus and minus poles depends on the doping level; however, for crystalline silicon it is in the
range of ~½ Volt. Fully comparable to battery cells, the voltage can be increased by connecting PV-cells in series and
the capacity by connecting them in parallel.
Commonly known as solar cells, individual PV cells are electricity producing devices made of semi-conductor materials.
PV cells exist in different sizes and shapes, but the most common are the ones connected in series to form PV modules.
One module with a surface area of approximately one square meter consists of around 60 cells. Several modules can
be electrically connected to each other in order to compose a system, e.g. four modules for installation on a sloped
roof of a dwelling. Beside the modules, an inverter is also needed to convert the direct current (DC) power generated
into alternating current (AC) that is compatible to the local electricity distribution network.
Among the PV cells silicon is the material most applied material, which can be used in various forms, including mono-
crystalline, multi-crystalline and amorphous thin film cells.

1.3 Application of PV
Generally, the application of solar PV differs mainly from other renewable sources like hydro power, wind energy,
energy from biomass and co-generation plants. The policy and application of these renewable energy sources
is more or less comparable to conventional fossil power plants. Key issues are scale of size, i.e. installed MW’s, energy
output and profitability and presence of a medium or high voltage grid with sufficient transport capacity. Also, for
renewables like small-scale hydro, wind and biomass, installations of 3 to 10 MW are rather common and plants
of more than 25 MW are not exceptional.
The emphasis of grid-connected PV is on the built environment, also mentioned as building-integrated PV (BIPV). The
size of the installations ranges roughly from ~200 Wp to ~5 kWp. Mostly the PV installations are part of the existing
infrastructure or integrated into the building structure of residential, office or industrial buildings. Roof-mounted
PV systems are considered as an building-integrated application. In most applications the electric power generated
by solar energy is fed into the internal electrical grid of the building. This implies that when the PV installation
is generating power and in the same building one or more devices are simultaneously consuming power, the devices
are – at least partially – powered by the PV-system without using the utility grid. The surplus of solar energy is fed into
the utility grid.

Table 1 - Pros and cons of BIPV can be summarized as follows:


No elaborate and lengthy permitting procedures Systems are relatively small
Demonstrating the awareness of the inhabitants or Without incentives not cost-effective
owners of the use of energy and environmental matters
Generating and use close to each other (same building) Depending on the metering: additional contract required
for deliveries to the public grid
May serve a multifunctional purpose: next to power In case of cutting down the budget: PV is one of the first
generation also as a building component items to leave out
High market potential (most of the building roofs)

Another application, although less widespread, of solar PV is the ground-based system. This solar PV application
is comparable for instance to the development of a wind farm. A piece of undeveloped and available land is used

Distributed generation & renewables

for installing a medium to large scale PV-system. The development process is comparable to the development
of fossil and other renewable (e.g. wind and biomass) power plants: selection and purchase of land, feasibility studies,
permitting procedures, financing and contracting, grid connection and – last but not least – the construction phase.
Compared to other renewables ground-based PV systems less attractive for the following reasons:
- Approximately 10,000 m2 is required per MWp installed;
- High costs per MWp installed;
- Development and permitting procedures comparable to other power plants, no distinct advantages.
Of course the advantages of solar PV also count for ground-based systems, as there are: neither air nor noise pollution,
no production of greenhouse gases and no visual nuisance to neighbours.
The main incentive to use solar cells instead of wind energy or biomass is for aesthetic reasons. The appearance
of PV cells compared to the other renewable sources is very good, so that PV is much more usable in the built
A PV module takes some space; a PV module of one square meter has an installed power of 100 Wp and can
be regarded as a common building component.

Figure 2a – PV in the built environment, integrated in the sun Figure 2b – Ground-based PV-system
roof (semi-transparent glass-glass modules),
[ref. 5]

1.4 PV Solar power applications and opportunities

Worldwide solar energy is regarded as the most promising sustainable energy source for the future. The cumulative
capacity of all PV systems around the world has reached almost 4,000 MW, half of which is installed in Europe. The
field of application of PV is manifold, f or instance stand-alone systems, space applications, large ground-based
power systems, various applications in the built environment and applications on small personal or household tools
and gadgets. The total capacity has more than tripled since 2000. This large growth has been primarily in the grid-
connected sector.
Approximately 15% of the PV capacity is installed in an off-grid application. However the ratio between off-grid and
grid-connected PV varies largely between countries; some install predominantly off-grid PV applications while others
largely apply grid-connected PV. The most common manner to use solar energy is grid-connected. Especially in the
built environment, usually only small and medium-sized systems, the economically optimal solution is to feed in
behind the electricity metering device. By saving purchase costs of electricity from the utility, the value of the solar
energy comprises not only the production fee but also the normally included fee for transport, management, profit
and --depending on the situation-- even VAT. The surplus of energy can be fed into the grid at a fee to be agreed upon
with the utility.
The applications of solar cells are various. They have been used on roofs of dwellings for years. But lately other
applications like sun blinds or PV systems as part of facades have been gaining ground. Sometimes they are also used
as a sound barrier along the highway.

Photovoltaic installations

Figure 3a – PV as part of a sound barrier [ref. 5] Figure 3b – PV as part of a sun blind [ref. 5]

1.5 Current status of PV Solar

At the end of 2005, the total PV capacity installed worldwide was 3,700 MWp, almost 90% of which was grid-connected.
In comparison with the year before this means 40% growth worldwide. It has to be noted that the statistics include
only the IEA-PVPS member countries; however, the contribution of non-member countries is considered as negligible
[ref. 4].
The average annual growth of the worldwide PV market up to 2009 is projected to be 25 to 30%, then increasing
to ~35% between 2010 and 2020.
Japan and Germany are dominating the solar PV installation market by the end of 2005 both countries counted almost
1,500 MWp, each representing 40% of the total installed PV power. Third on the list is the USA with almost 500 MWp
installed by the end of 2005.
The European countries are lagging behind, except for Germany. As a matter of fact, Germany might take over Japan’s
lead position by the end of 2006.

Figure 4 - Cumulative PV capacity installed worldwide [ref. 4]

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The cumulative installed PV power in the leading European countries is listed in Table 2 [ref. 4].
Table 2 – Installed PV capacity in leading European countries

Cumulative installed PV
European Country 2003 2004 2005
[MWp] [MWp] [MWp]
Austria 16.8 21.1 24.0
France 21.1 26.0 33.0
Germany 431 794 1429
Italy 26.0 30.7 37.5
Netherlands 45.9 49.1 50.8
UK 5.9 8.2 10.9
Spain 27.0 37.0 57.4
Switzerland 21.0 23.1 27.1

The table shows that Germany has installed the majority of PV in Europe by far. Of the other countries Spain is coming
up with 20 MWp installed in 2005.

1.6 PV manufacturers
The following section distinguishes between PV cells and PV modules. The PV cell made from crystalline silicon is the
base component producing solar electricity. A number of cells connected in series and mounted in a workable frame
is called a PV module. PV modules are available in the dimensions 0.7x1.0 to 1.0x1.3 square meters.
The yearly increase in production of PV cells and modules was in step with the yearly growth in installed PV power. In
2005 cell production increased more than 40% worldwide. For the first time not only the leading but also some small
global producers doubled their production in 2005. The crystalline silicon used in the semi-conductor microprocessor
industry is identical to the PV-cell material. The high demand in the microprocessor industry worldwide caused the
shortage and an increase in cost price.
Before 2003 BP Solar dominated the market, but for a few years now Japanese companies have been world leader
with about 50% of the PV cell and PV-module production market. The European companies, mainly in Germany
and Spain, have a 20% market share but are growing faster than the Japanese competitors. The third largest market
is the US. The US market only grew by 10% in 2005, with a growth of approximately 44% for the European market and
36% for the Japanese market at the other end of the scale. The production in the rest of the world is also expanding;
for example BP Solar has set up production facilities in both Australia and India.
The leading European PV-cell producer is Q-cells, which more than doubled its production in 2005. Two other success
stories are Schott Solar and Sunway, both from Germany. The numbers 1 to 4 on the world’s list are all of Japanese
origin: Sharp, Kyocera, Mitsubishi and Sanyo.

1.7 Trends
Due to a shortage of crystalline silicon cells many projects were delayed or even terminated in 2005. As a result,
producers of solar cells have a growing interest in thin film modules and concentrator PV (CPV) systems. Thin film
modules require less scarce silicon and although CPV requires crystalline silicon cells as a result of the concentrator,
the material is more efficiently used.
Another advantage of thin film modules is that these do not have the disadvantage and limitations of normal solar
modules, i.e. thin film can also be used on rounded and flexible materials. For instance, thin film modules may
be incorporated in textiles and rolls of synthetic roofing material.
Another trend seems to be the use of tracking systems for ground-based PV plants with an output of more than
20 to 30 kWp, also leading to a more efficient material use.

Photovoltaic installations

2 PV Technology
Before going into more detail, some general remarks and figures will first be given on crystalline and thin film – also
called amorphous – silicon PV systems.
Generally, specialists in the field of PV do not express the installed power of a system in Watt (W) but in Watt-peak
The maximum solar irradiation values are between 1000 W/m2 for Central and Northern Europe, with the exclusion of
Northern Scandinavia, and about 1600 to 1700 W/m2 for Southern Europe. The installed power for crystalline silicon
modules is 100 to 110 Wp/m2 and 50 to 60 Wp/m2 for thin film cells.
The optimal orientation of the PV modules is to the south and the optimal tilt angle, with respect to the horizontal,
is 35°.
For crystalline and amorphous silicon the following average efficiency and yearly yields are demonstrated in the field.
Under laboratory conditions higher achievements are realized.
Table 3 – Overview of silicon PV cell performance characteristics

Cell material Cell efficiency System efficiency Yearly yield

[%] [%] [kWh/m2]
Mono-crystalline (m-Si) 17 13.5 85 - 90
Poly-crystalline (p-Si) 15 12 80 - 85
Thin film (a-Si) 8 6.5 50 - 60
On average, system efficiency is about 80% of cell efficiency, which is caused by losses in the wiring and inverter, non-
optimal string and array design and deviation of the actual sunlight spectrum from standard conditions.

2.1 Shading losses

PV system shading losses are not proportional to the part of the shaded cells or modules as contribution in the full
PV area. The most usual procedure is to connect a number of modules in series in a so-called string, and subsequently
the string is connected to the direct current input of the inverter. The problem is that shaded PV cells act like a strong
resistor, also dissipating the electricity generated by solar units in the remaining, non-shaded, part of the string.
This may by noticed through the high temperature in the shaded modules of a partly shaded system. Frequent high
temperature cycles may strongly shorten the lifetime of a cell and module.
A main principle in designing and placing a new PV system is that it is free from obstacles causing shading on a part
of the PV system. For instance, chimneys and other roof protrusions are well-known obstacles that may cause shading
losses on roof-mounted PV systems.
Currently most module manufacturers provide their products with bypass diodes to avoid that a (partly) shaded
module dissipates the generated energy of the other string modules.

2.2 Technology
A PV system is composed of the following main components:
- Photovoltaic cells
- PV modules
- Junction box and wiring
- Control and inverter
- Support structure.

Photovoltaic cells
The most common procedure is that photovoltaic cells are produced from mono-crystalline or multi-crystalline silicon
material. The efficiency of mono-crystalline cells is significantly higher than that of multi- or poly-crystalline silicon.

Distributed generation & renewables

Mono-crystalline silicon is produced as single crystal ingots and multi-crystalline manufacturing starts with melting
the material followed by a solidification process with a predetermined crystal orientation structure resulting in multi-
crystalline blocks.
For the production of PV-cells the silicon ingots or blocks are sliced into thin wafers. Typical dimensions of crystalline
cells are 10x10 and 12.5x12.5 square centimeters. The color of multi-crystalline silicon cells is steel blue and anthracite
for mono-crystalline silicon. On top of the cells a screen of aluminium conductors is installed.

PV modules
The PV module is the basic building block of any PV power system. A PV module is composed of interconnected cells
that are encapsulated between a glass cover and weatherproof backing. The modules are typically framed in frames
suitable for mounting. A PV module usually contains between 48 and 72 cells connected in series. Typical dimensions
of a PV modules are 0.8x1.2 and 0,8 x 1.6 square meters, corresponding to approximately 80 to 150 Wp.

Junction box
Most of the PV systems are composed of several PV modules. The modules are connected in series and parallel
to obtain the optimal system voltage (dc) and current. A number of modules connected in series is called a string
and subsequently several strings connected in parallel are defined as an array. For connecting the PV modules either
in series or in parallel, most PV modules are equipped with a junction box at the rear side.

The PV cells and modules generate direct current (dc) while the utility grid requires alternating current (ac) properties.
The conversion from Vdc to Vac, matching the frequency and voltage of the local grid, is performed by the inverter.
Inverters for PV application include control functions to optimize the power output, referred to as maximum power
point tracking (MPPT). The power is equal to the voltage times current – P= V x I - and the MPPT function is continuously
adjusting the load impedance to guarantee that the power is maximal.
In the past one inverter was applied for an array or complete PV system. Currently it is common practice to install
an inverter for each string or even to equip each single module with its own inverter, also referred to as „ac modules”.

Support structure
The applications of PV in the built environment as well as ground-based are manifold, each requiring its specific
integrating or support structure. A wide range of products have been developed for installing PV modules. Especially
in the built environment mounting and support structures are designed in such a manner that the PV system is fully
integrated in the building and contributes to its aesthetic and architectonic value. PV support structures are available
for façades, sloped roofs, flat roofs and „PV tiles” that can be used to replace conventional roof tiles.
As an example, a rough design of a 5 kWp roof-mounted PV system is shown in Table 4.

Photovoltaic installations

Table 4 – Example of roof-mounted 5-kWp poly-crystalline PV system in Central or Northern Europe

Orientation Sloped roof, 45°; orientation south or south-west

Installed on the roof of an ordinary family dwelling
Support structure In the roof tile plane upon the roof battens
Measures to keep the roof watertight
Module support profiles (aluminium) mounted on the roof battens
Brackets to clamp the modules on the support profiles
Module data Gross dimensions 0.8 x 1.6 meters
Maximum power 150 Wp
72 multi-crystalline Si-cells measuring 12.5 x 12.5 cm
Aluminium frame
MPPT between 28 and 35 Vdc
Module efficiency 13%
Junction box At the back of each module
Including bypass diodes to avoid shading losses
Inverter data Fit for inside and outside use
maximum power 2500 W
MPPT between 220 and 300 Vdc
Connection of at least 2 strings
Output voltage 230 Vac at 50 Hz
Efficiency 95%
System layout 32 modules (lay-out 4x8)
Gross area 6.4 x 6.4 m (41 m2)
Installed power 4800 Wp
4 parallel strings, 8 modules per string connected in series
2 inverters of 2500 W, 2 strings per inverter
Performance 3500 kWh per year
The dwelling is about energy (electrical) neutral on a yearly basis
Electrical connection PV system Two separate electrical connections of 2500 W
Two different meterings, one for use by the house equipment and the other for
feed-in by the PV-system; or a single meter that can both measure supply by the
grid and feed-in by the PV-system
Lifetime Modules and support structure 30 years
Watertightness of materials 20 to 25 years
Inverters 10 to 15 years
Financial data Turnkey investment € 30,000
Simple Pay Out Time (SPOT) 43 years at € 0,20 /kWh, an average consumer tariff
17 years at € 0,50 /kWh high feed in tariff (based on incentives)

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2.3 Future developments

Thin film cells and modules are constructed by depositing extremely thin layers of photosensitive material on
a low-cost backing such as glass, stainless steel or plastic. Thin film cells offer the potential for cost reduction, as less
semi-conductor material is required, less material is spoiled and lower production costs are envisaged. Especially
the current shortage of crystalline silicon may enhance the development and production of cost-effective thin film
modules. Nowadays, three materials are commercially available: amorphous silicon (a-Si), copper indium diselenide
(CIS, CIGS) and cadmium telluride (CdTe). Of these materials amorphous silicon (a-Si) is most frequently installed. The
efficiency of the a-Si cells reaches 7-9%. The moderate efficiency of thin film leads to a low installed power level per
square meter, i.e. 50 to 60 Wp/m2, for a fixed power quantity this requires almost double the covered area compared
to crystalline silicon modules. Although in most applications the useful area is limited, this still leads to a preference
for crystalline silicon over thin film.
The relatively low efficiency of thin film cells may be enhanced by using multiple (double or triple) layers of photovoltaic
material instead of one single layer. The layers differ physically in that they are sensitive to different frequency bands
of the sunlight spectrum. With triple junction thin film cells efficiencies up to 13% have been demonstrated. Other
types of thin films can be produced using micro-crystalline silicon (μ-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium
gallium diselenide (CIGS).
Besides crystalline silicon and thin film solar cells, two other cell types exist: high-efficiency concentrator cells
and spheral solar technology. Concentrator cells, abbreviated as CPV, technology uses relatively low-cost mirrors
or lenses to concentrate the light before it strikes the photovoltaic material. The concentrator cells have an efficiency
of 20 percent or more. Up to now a disadvantage is that for proper operation concentrator cells have to be pointed
to the sun, requiring a tracking system which is expensive and especially in the built environment not always
Spheral solar technology uses minute silicon beads bonded to an aluminium foil matrix. This offers a major cost
advantage because of the reduced requirement for silicon material. Spheral solar cells are relatively new in the solar
market and have an efficiency of 11%.

Figure 5a – Roof with a-Si modules [ref. 5] Figure 5b – Concentrator module

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3 Costs And benefits

3.1 Costs of PV systems
Since the mid-nineties of the previous century the costs of PV systems have shown a gradual decrease, which
is caused by a reasonable rise of system efficiency, but even more so by the increased scale of production in order
to take advantage of economy of scale.
While in Western Europe the PV system’s price was approximately 15 €/Wp in the early nineties, ten years later it had
dropped to approximately 5 €/Wp. Due to a shortage of crystalline silicon the module prices have lately increased
significantly, which has only partly been compensated for by a recent fall of the inverter prices.
In 2005 and 2006, the turnkey price for PV systems up to 10 kWp was 6 to 6.5 €/Wp and for larger systems
5.5 to 6 €/Wp.
For a PV system of medium size the following cost breakdown can be made (Table 5).
Table 5 – Cost breakdown PV system

PV component Costs
Modules 4.0 – 4.5
Inverter 0.5 – 1.0
Balance of System (BOS) 1.0
TOTAL 5.5 – 6.5

Balance of system usually means the complete system minus the modules. However, in the cost breakdown presented
above it is defined as the system without modules and inverter.

3.2 Benefits of PV systems

The costs of solar electricity is approximately 0.5 €/kWh in Central and Northern Europe and about 0.4 €/kWh
in Southern Europe. Unfortunately, the feed-in tariff is significantly lower in most European countries. Also, for
renewable energy sources feed-in tariffs up to 0.1 €/kWh are quite common, resulting for PV systems in recovery
times beyond the technical lifetime.

As a consequence, if the incentives on solar electricity are not sufficient to set up an economically feasible project
there have to be other means of applying photovoltaics.
Especially in the built environment PV systems may have an additional function besides energy production, e.g.:
- A building element, such as a roofing element, part of the sun blinds, a façade element etc.
- An architectonic or aesthetic function, for instance as part of a sun roof or solar home, solar façade
or included in the curtain wall.
- Part of the image-building, showing environmental concern, of the company, owner or inhabitant

3.3 Future costs

In the nineties of the previous century and in early 2000 the turnkey costs of PV dropped by 7 to 10% a year, mainly
caused by falling production costs making use of economy of scale. Somewhere in the period 2004 to 2005 this
process slowed down due to a large demand for crystalline silicon in the semi-conductor industry.
The solar PV sector has great expectations of thin film PV cells and modules, requiring less rare and costly material.
However, the current status is that the costs of thin film and crystalline silicon PV is comparable per Wp, also due to the
lower efficiency of thin film cells.

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It is anticipated for the coming years that the costs of crystalline silicon cells will remain stable or lower somewhat, up to 5%
yearly; in terms of costs, however, the potential for more cost-effective thin film cells is much better. Large improvements
in cell efficiency as well as large production volumes, leading to scale advantages, may lead to considerable yearly
costs reductions. Cost reduction percentages of 10% or more have to be achievable. However, in this way of thinking it
also takes at least a decade to make solar PV cost-effective without the necessity of additional incentives. Without the
contribution of incentives for renewables or specifically for PV, and further of course depending on the current feed-in
tariff, it is envisaged that a cost price of 1 €/Wp and below is needed to install cost-effective PV systems.

3.4 Taxes and incentives

Currently solar PV is not yet a profitable technology for converting sunlight into electrical energy. Up to now incentives
from local authorities, utilities, national governments and the European Union are unavoidable in promoting large-
scale application of PV.
The main reason for providing incentives is that solar PV is a clean energy source without generating greenhouse
gases or other environmental pollution.
Germany and Spain are good examples where incentives significantly enhance the installation of grid-connected
photovoltaic installations. In Germany the feed-in tariff is between 0.55 €/kWh, for small installations, mainly in the built
environment, and 0.45 €/kWh for large plants including ground-based PV installations. In Spain, for PV installations
up to 100 kWp, the feed-in tariff is approximately 0.40 €/kWh and it is about half this price for plants with higher
installed power levels
Other European countries have no specific feed-in tariffs for PV and generally speaking, incentives that are sufficient
for other renewable energy sources are not satisfactory for economic operation of solar PV.

4 Policy & regulation

The European Commission has committed itself to an ambitious target for increasing the use of renewable sources.
The main document defining the EU policies on the application of renewables is the White Paper on renewable energy
from November 1997 [ref. 1]. The target is 12% energy from renewables with respect to the EU’s gross inland energy
consumption in 2010. The White paper requires a contribution of 3000 MWp from grid-connected PV installations.
Based on the current installed capacity the European PV Industry Association (EPIA) has requested the target to be
raised to 4000 MWp [ref. 2].
In general the EU supports and contributes to the development of legislation intended to promote installation
of renewable energy sources by a combination of targets, obligations and financial support programs.

This application note deals only with photovoltaic (PV) solar energy for the renewable production of electricity. Although
use is still limited, solar energy is regarded worldwide as the most promising sustainable energy source for the future.
The field of application of PV is manifold, for instance stand-alone systems, space applications, large ground-based
power systems, various applications in the built environment and applications on small personal or household tools
and gadgets. The most common manner to use solar PV is to feed the generated electricity into the utility grid. The
emphasis of grid-connected PV is on the built environment, also referred to as building-integrated PV (BIPV). In Europe,
the potential for PV in the built environment is immense, i.e. all roofs of industrial, office and residential buildings.
Another advantage of BIPV is that generation and usage of electricity are close to each other.
The majority of the photovoltaic cells and modules are produced from crystalline silicon material. Over the past
decade the costs of PV systems diminished by about 70%, from approximately 15 €/Wp in the early nineties to 5 €/Wp
in early 2000. Currently the price has increased again by 10 to 20% due to a shortage of crystalline silicon.
The PV market has high expectations from thin film (amorphous) cells and modules, requiring less scarce and costly
silicon and a better prospect for cost reduction in the near future.
Currently grid-connected PV is not yet cost-effective and incentives are needed to promote large-scale application
of solar-generated electricity.

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1 Energy for the future: Renewable sources of energy – White paper for a community strategy and action plan, COM
(97) 599 final, 27 Nov. 1997, European Commission
2 Renewable energy in European Union Policies, G. Hanreich, European Commission DG TREN, 2002
3 From sunray to solar power (In Dutch: „Van Zonnestraal tot zonnestroom”), ECN, The Netherlands, 2006
4 Website www.iea-pvps.org, statistics on PV by the International Energy Agency, working group PV Power Systems,
5 Photographs by courtesy of SenterNovem, Dutch agency of Ministry of Economic Affairs on sustainable development
and innovation

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