Let’s get going and get it done: That’s how the general atmosphere at the 38th PV-Symposium can be summed up. The most important application forum for photovoltaics (PV) in German-speaking Europe took place at Kloster Banz in Bad Staffelstein / Bavaria from February 28 to March 2, 2023.
Around 480 solar experts from the fields of research, industry and services got together for three days to discuss how the second PV boom in history can be turned into a sustainable success in Europe by applying technologies and applications, and by improving framework conditions. While the event at Kloster Banz identified the challenges facing the industry, the general attitude was one of optimism – it can be done.
What are the most discussed topics in the industry? The turning point in European geopolitics has made the transformation of the energy system imperative, and the agenda at Bad Staffelstein reflected this: How can we achieve the expansion goal of one Terawatt (TW) of solar power by 2030 in Europe?
Representatives from the spheres of politics, associations and industry were very clear in their answer to this question: We need unobstructed market access, a comprehensive waiver of the need for construction permits, the elimination of red tape and professional training. The PV production industry has to be brought back to Europe. Obligatory solar installations and financial incentives are needed to tap hitherto unused spatial capacities. The power grid continues to be a main worry in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Everyone agreed that grid expansion is a basic precondition for the ongoing, large-scale deployment of renewable energies.
At the PV-Symposium, Carsten Körnig, CEO of the German Association for Solar Energy (BSW-Solar), welcomed the recent position paper by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), which promotes the return of PV production to Germany. At last, the urgently needed support for investments and operating costs, as well as hedging instruments for large-scale projects and innovation programs are getting political support.
The strategic dependencies on China as the dominant exporter of all components along the PV value-added chain – were spelt out at the PV-Symposium: The dependency on China is 85 percent for modules and 99 percent for ingots and wafers. European industrial policy should contribute to the global diversification of production capacities and promote the fast return of PV production to Europe.
The German-speaking experts agreed that the region has an excellent research and machine engineering infrastructure, and that measures for performance improvements and the reduction of manufacturing costs, as well as recycling, could create a unique feature for the region.
The issue of available surface areas was a hot topic both at the PV-Symposium and the concurrent BIPV-Forum for Building-integrated Photovoltaics. Speakers and attendees discussed options for the ratio of free areas and roof areas for new installations. Researchers and industry representatives also showcased some visionary applications for innovative technologies that can help make the most of available space, such as agricultural PV, wetland PV, parking lot PV and façade-integrated PV.
The carbon-saving potential of these options was also discussed. Medium-sized (135 to 950 kilowatts) installations surface areas in Germany, for instance commercial properties, are still being discouraged by regulatory hurdles. Thomas Nordmann, founder and managing director of TNC Consulting AG from Switzerland, explained how PV is going to be deployed in the Alps and how it complements hydropower.
As Gerald Obernosterer from Kärnten Netz GmbH was able to demonstrate to the amazement of the audience, accelerated, fully-digital grid connection processes are possible. The experts gathered in small groups to discuss the industries’ key requirements, such as talent and talent development, because the lack of qualified people is threatening to slow down the energy transition. Meyer Burger, sponsor for young talents, invited ten graduates to the PV-Symposium, where they took part in a business-dating dinner.
To confirm the status of the PV-Symposium as important technology conference, the who’s who of the research and innovation scene for renewable energies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland showcased the latest developments in PV quality assurance, yield optimization, new storage technologies in combination with solar power, as well as recycling and revamping projects. Digitalization in connection with photovoltaics and power grids as well as systems integration and sector coupling were the focus at the Bad Staffelstein gathering of experts.
Markus Rennhofer, Senior Scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, concluded the PV-Symposium 2023 by combining a look back with a vision for the future: “In the past, photovoltaics has been worth-while and has consistently contributed to climate protection and the energy transition. As an industry, we now have to produce energy in a sustainable, resilient and reliable way.”