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12 May 2011 06:05:02

Yes we can: ground-mounted solar power plants, a solution that allows power to be generated faster and more cost-effectively than offshore wind

The following facts must be considered with regard to current discussions on the accelerated expansion of renewable energies and the associated swift withdrawal from nuclear power:

Consumer cost reduction through free-field solar power plants
As early as next year it will be possible to produce power from free-field solar power plants at the same price level as for offshore wind power plants. From 2013, the power generation costs will be even lower than for offshore wind power plants. This renders a further increase in the compensation for offshore wind power in Germany wholly unnecessary. Free-field solar power plants are the "low-cost producers" in the photovoltaic industry and the increased expansion can take place immediately without increasing the feed-in tariffs. Above all, this means that clear limits can be placed on the extent of the German Renewable Energy Act (EEG) contribution, which in the past was determined by the huge development of small photovoltaic rooftop installations. Utility-scale solar power plants can thereby significantly relieve consumers.

Expansion of the existing grid capacities
Offshore wind power plants in particular require substantial expansion of existing electrical transport grids, as the power is generated at a great distance from consumers. Through the resulting increase in grid utilisation fees, a significant cost increase is also incurred. This time-consuming grid expansion also prevents a swift withdrawal from nuclear power.

Free-field solar power plants can be rapidly constructed in the regions where the power is needed. A further expansion of the electricial transport grids is only necessary to a limited degree. Primarily, free-field solar power plants can immediately use the existing grid connection capacities of inoperative nuclear reactors. Furthermore, the use of available, intelligent feed-in technology allows the existing power grid to be stabilised by free-field solar power plants. Thanks to this grid management, grid fluctuations resulting from uncontrolled feed-ins from other generation plants on the grid can be avoided, through which the expansion of the 20 kV grid is also significantly reduced.

Small photovoltaic systems in particular feed into the low-voltage grid in a completely unregulated manner, without the corresponding consumption. This is the cause of the existing grid fluctuations, which results in unregulated voltage peaks that cannot be regulated without grid expansion. That is exactly what the professional grid management of free-field solar power plants can avoid. This is accompanied by the cost savings in relation to further grid expansion as described above.

Overcoming hurdles when developing areas
At present, the expansion of free-field solar power plants is limited by Article 32 EGG and shifted to expensive area types that are limited in terms of availability. By abolishing Article 32 EEG, the project development time can be reduced to less than a year if the currently applicable regulations are simplified. For offshore wind power plants, the planning and approval lead time runs to several years, which means that a withdrawal from nuclear energy and from other fossil fuel sources would be further delayed.

It is therefore preferable to continue to put the entire construction planning process in the control of the local planning authority and increase its competence in terms of selecting locations. Central regulation through the EEG is not necessary.

Use of land and ecological improvement of areas
Around 0.006 million hectares of land are required for the construction of the free-field solar power plants that exist today. Almost two million hectares are currently used for the production of energy crops. Around 0.018 million hectares would be needed to replace the annual power production of a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 1.0 GW with free-field solar power plants. At approximately 19 million hectares of agricultural land plus a large amount of fallow and meadow land, the land consumption amounts to less than 1% of the areas previously mentioned, even if the entire power production of all nuclear power plants in Germany were to be replaced by free-field solar power plants. Due to this low land consumption, there would be no effect on food production in Germany.

Free-field solar power plants make a significant contribution to nature conservation and to increasing biodiversity compared with previous usage. Through conditions similar to those in a biotope, the new areas primarily create new habitats for rare animal species.

Strengthening regional energy supply and relieving municipal budgets
Through the local and regional expansion of energy production in every German state/municipality, the regional economic strength is significantly increased by free-field solar power plants. In southern Germany alone, thousands of jobs will be secured, primarily through the production of system components (converters, assembly systems, transformer sub-stations), as will technological leadership in the world market. Furthermore, solar power plants will also be constructed by German specialists. The photovoltaic modules of the free-field solar power plants are mainly produced by global market leaders from Brandenburg. Each municipality thereby increases its independence from national and international power imports.

Furthermore, the municipalities achieve a significant increase in income from trade tax, as the power plants are not constructed off-shore. This entails significant relief for the public budgets.

With the key points mentioned above, Belectric is presenting a concept for the cost-effective and swift expansion of renewable energies and thereby supports consumers in an affordable withdrawal from nuclear power. Belectric is the global market leader for the development, production and construction of free-field power plants and both on land and roof tops. With approximately 1,500 employees, Belectric is the largest German employer in the solar system integration field.

Almost 10 years' experience and the deep-rooted integration in almost all areas of the value creation chain in all segments of the photovoltaic industry allow Belectric to follow a holistic approach to making power generation from solar energy sustainable and cost-effective.

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