Solar Energy on a Grand Scale: Intersolar Europe 2012 Spotlights Large-Scale Photovoltaics

Newly installed photovoltaic capacity reached all-time record levels in 2011, and PV plants with an output of over 200 kilowatt peak (kWp) occupy a rapidly growing share of the market. Europe holds the number one spot for plants of this size, though other markets are hot on its tail: New large-scale projects are currently being planned in the U.S. and Canada that are set to test the bounds of what is technically feasible. The main factor driving this development is that of cost, as it generally follows that the larger a plant is, the lower the costs are per kilowatt of rated capacity. This is also the reason why countries such as China and India, as well as fledgling markets like South Africa and South America, are increasingly turning to large-scale PV formats. Dynamic development in this field therefore features among the central topics of the exhibition and the accompanying Intersolar Europe Conference 2012. The conference will take place in parallel to Intersolar Europe from June 11–14, 2012 in the International Congress Center (ICM) of the New Munich Trade Fair Centre. On June 12, international experts will spotlight the latest technologies, most interesting markets and the political contexts of these markets over the course of a day in the PV Power Plants panel discussion.

According to the latest figures from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) in Brussels, photovoltaic installations with a total capacity of 27.7 gigawatt peak (GWp) were put into operation during 2011, three quarters of them in Europe. The key markets were Germany and Italy, each adding around 7.5 GWp of capacity. With new installations totaling 2.2 GWp, China became the world's third largest PV market during 2011.

Large-scale PV plants play an ever increasing role in these figures: Even back in 2010, over 2,400 large-scale photovoltaic installations were commissioned, and this number steadily continues to grow. But it is not only the number of such systems that is increasing – the size of the installations themselves is also on the rise. Multi-megawatt plants especially are a case in point, with more being connected to the grid during the past few years than ever before. Eighteen percent of commercial PV power plants already have an output of between 20 and 100 megawatt peak (MWp), with ever larger projects expected for the future. Currently the largest photovoltaic project is the Agua Caliente installation in the district of Yuma, Arizona/USA, which has a planned capacity of 290 MWp and is due to be completed by 2014. Construction has also begun on the California Valley Solar Ranch near San Luis Obispo, California/USA. A rated capacity of 250 MWp is planned for this installation.

Cost efficiency drives markets
An important reason behind the growing plant dimensions are the falling investment costs: Whereas the cost per megawatt peak (MWp) of capacity was around 6 million Euro in 2008, in 2011 this had dropped by around two thirds to just 2 million Euro/MWp. It is already possible to realize such plants even more cheaply in certain other countries, however. For example, project developers in India currently work with costs of around 1.3 million Euro/MWp – and the system costs continue to fall. As a result, multi-megawatt power plants are now supplanting systems that were previously far more cost-effective, such as solar thermal power plants: For instance, a power plant in Blythe, USA, designed with a total output of 1,000 MWp was originally intended to be a solar thermal power plant. As a result of more favorable conditions for photovoltaics in the U.S. market, however, the first 500 megawatts of the solar project are now to be realized as a PV system.

PV Power Plants therefore also constitute one of the most exciting key topics at Intersolar Europe. Over 90 exhibitors from around the globe have registered in this category to present products and services all connected with large-scale PV installations: from the hottest system solutions through mounting systems and inverters to monitoring technology and the latest modules.

Large-scale PV plants at Intersolar Europe Conference
From June 11–14, 2012, over 400 speakers and 2,500 attendees from more than 50 countries are expected to attend the Intersolar Europe Conference in the International Congress Center (ICM) of the New Munich Trade Fair Centre. The conference consolidates the exhibition topics and places markets and technologies, industry and research in an international context.

In addition t o many issues surrounding photovoltaics, PV production technology and solar thermal technologies, this year the conference is focusing specifically on the topic of large-scale photovoltaic plants. Led by Uwe Ilgemann, CEO of Invecco, Freiburg, and member of the Photovoltaics Conference Committee of the Intersolar Europe Conference, the session entitled "PV Power Plants" on June 12, 2012 will look at innovative aspects of the topic: from system design through questions on financing large-scale installations and achieving optimum cost efficiency to component and system quality management. The speakers include Manfred Bächler (Founder and Managing Director, PerVorm GmbH, Ulm), Dr. Zoltan Bognar (Chief Executive, Capital Stage AG, Hamburg), Dirk Morbitzer (Managing Director, Renewable Analytics LLC, San Francisco, USA) and Robert Pfatischer (CEO, Meteocontrol GmbH, Augsburg).

Intersolar Europe 2012 takes place from June 13–15 at the Munich Trade Fair Centre.

Source: Intersolar/