There are very few industries that have grown as quickly as the photovoltaic industry over the last 10 years. Its image as a fancy technology is long gone and it is now on the way to becoming one of the 21st century’s sources of energy. Lapp Group’s Michael Collet explains…
The industry has not always been in such good shape, of course. In 1905 Albert Einstein explained the “photovoltaic effect” which had actually been recognised and described for a long time. He also received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922 for this work. However, it was another 50 years before the Bell laboratories in the US produced the first silicon-based solar cell for use in space. In 1958 Vanguard One was the first satellite to take its energy from one of six solar units made up of solar cells. Then, in the 1970s, thin-film solar cells were produced to provide energy for calculators and watches as well as crystalline cells for producing electricity in regions without power supply systems.
In 1988, politicians ensured a further technological breakthrough with the German 1,000 Roofs programme, where private photovoltaic units were funded by the state. The renewable energy law was then passed in 2000 and a cost-covering compensation rate introduced in 2004. Since then the PV market in Germany and around the world has been grown markedly.
This development has also created an entirely new area of the economy. Companies that were still based in a backyard 10 years ago are now global players. What started out as simple hobby workshops have become high-tech companies with millions of Euros in turnover.