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Solar power on the threshold of grid parity

Current trends and technologies in the photovoltaics industry at the 5th PV Industry Forum

The term “grid parity” refers to the point at which electricity generated by a photovoltaic installation can be supplied for the same price as conventional electricity. Market researchers expect this point to be reached in as little as a few years.


In Germany, grid parity could be achieved by 2012 or 2013. In extremely price-sensitive photovoltaic markets and at locations with particularly high solar irradiation, such as California, grid parity could be achieved even sooner.

How close are the system prices of various solar power installations to grid parity? In which countries can grid parity be achieved first? These questions will be the central focus of the 5th PV Industry Forum at the International Congress Center Munich (ICM), which approximately 850 participants from around the world are expected to attend.

Grid parity in price-sensitive markets possible this year
GTM Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a subsidiary of the market research company Greentech Media, stresses that achieving grid parity depends on a number of factors, including module technology, project design and the development of electricity prices. Owing to the dependence of solar power generation on climatic conditions, location is of central importance. In regions like California, especially high levels of solar irradiation create the perfect conditions for photovoltaic installations.

Progress in solar mass production is accelerating the process of achieving grid parity: increased efficiency through automation and new production capacity are reducing costs and successful research is continually improving the efficiency of photovoltaic installations.

First Italy, then Germany and then, considerably later, France
Italy appears to be on track to become the first country in the EU to achieve grid parity. Italian solar power suppliers are benefiting from the comparatively high electricity price in the country (0.23 €/kWh in 2007). If, as expected, prices rise by an average of 6% per year, Italian free-standing plants could achieve grid parity by 2011.

In Germany, large-scale photovoltaic plants will be first to achieve grid parity. It has been widely forecast that this will happen by 2012. Large plants have the advantage of proportionally lower investment costs and are therefore able to provide electricity at a lower price than small suppliers. Against this backdrop, Greentech Media forecasts that smaller roof-mounted PV installations will not achieve grid parity until 2013 or 2014. This prediction is based on the assumption that inflation-adjusted grid-supplied power prices will rise by 6% per year on average. The fact that feed-in tariffs are being cut back is also providing extra impetus for the development. This means the pressure is on in the German market to produce solar power efficiently using cutting-edge technologies, and the industry is working at full capacity to create ever better concepts.

France, however, is still a long way from achieving grid parity. One problem presenting an obstacle to grid parity is the low cost of grid-supplied electricity. State subsidies ensure that the price of “standard electricity” remains very low (only 0.15 €/kWh in 2007). In addition, feed-in tariffs are not set to fall in the coming years but will only be adjusted in accordance with the inflation rate. Due to these factors, French solar power suppliers have so far been under less pressure to lower production costs than their German counterparts.

Solar power replacing coal and nuclear
Anton Milner, Chief Executive Officer of Q-Cells SE, Bitterfeld-Wolfen, gave the following prognosis for the future of the PV market: “A practically unlimited, self-sufficient photovoltaics market is far from pie in the sky. Provided that demand continues to rise, as expected, long-term cost reductions by photovoltaic producers and rising prices for conventional electricity could very soon put the traditional energy industry under enormous pressure.”

Grid parity is a central theme of the 5th PV Industry Forum
In his presentation at the PV Industry Forum on May 25, 2009, Shyam Mehta, Senior Analyst for Global Solar Markets at the market research company Greentech Media, will provide an insight into the many factors driving the development towards equal costs for photovoltaic and conventional electricity. Following two further keynote speeches by Anton Milner and Eddy Blokken, Director for Technology and Standards at the international semi-conductor association SEMI, there will be a panel discussion to conclude the first day of the conference. On the following day the focus will be on the technologies facilitating the achievement of grid parity. Presentations on inverter technologies and concepts will be a central focus. These are new to the PV Industry Forum program and complete the subject area of large-scale installations. With its comprehensive program, the PV Industry Forum will be enriching the fringe program of the world’s largest solar technology trade show Intersolar for the fifth time in 2009.

The PV Industry Forum will take place on May 25 and 26, 2009 at the International Congress Center Munich. 850 participants are expected to attend the two-day event.

Silver sponsors of the PV Industry Forum are: Applied Materials Inc., SMA Solar Technology AG and Q-Cells SE.

Further information on the PV Industry Forum and Intersolar 2009 can be found at www.pvindustry.de and www.intersolar.de

The sponsors of Intersolar 2009
Intersolar 2009 is supported by the leading industry associations of the solar industry: the German Solar Industry Association (BSW) as exclusive partner of Intersolar, the German Solar Energy Society (DGS), the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) and the International Solar Energy Society (ISES).

About Intersolar
The international trade show Intersolar is Europe’s largest trade show for solar technology and has been organized jointly by Solar Promotion GmbH, Pforzheim and Freiburg Wirtschaft Touristik und Messe GmbH & Co. KG since 2000. In 2009, Intersolar will take place in Munich for the second time.
Intersolar focuses on the areas of photovoltaics, solar thermal technology and solar architecture. Since its inception, it has established itself among manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and service providers as the industry’s leading international trade show.

Further information on Intersolar 2009 can be found at www.intersolar.de

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