Experts agree that if Germany wants to achieve its energy transition and goal of climate neutrality, it must massively grow its solar PV, wind, and solar thermal energy capacity. “In order to cover 100 percent of our electricity requirements with renewables, we have to install 6 to 8 times more photovoltaic output than today,” said Christoph Kost, head of the Energy Systems and Energy Management group at Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.
This growth would correspond to an installed PV capacity of 303 to 446 GW. The output of the solar thermal systems, meanwhile, would have to be at least tripled from the current around 15 GW to between 45 and 49 GW, according to a study that the researchers conducted on behalf of Greenpeace.
A lot of space is required for such strong growth in the next few years. However, according to the paper, there are more than enough surfaces available. If installed in agricultural areas, artificial lakes, facades, parking lots, streets, noise barriers, or vehicles, solar could reach an installed power of up to 3,160 GW.
“Here, photovoltaics is combined with agriculture, floats on flooded open-cast mines, fits into building and vehicle superstructures, follows traffic routes or covers areas that have already been sealed, such as parking lots,” said Harry Wirth, who is in charge of the Integrated Photovoltaics research field at Fraunhofer ISE. “The integration of photovoltaic systems in such areas that are already in use opens up huge potential for power generation – and creates a wealth of additional synergies.”
The paper further states that significant growth of PV could create thousands of new jobs in Germany. For instance, the establishment of vertically integrated PV production in Europe would create around 750 jobs per GW of module manufacturing capacity, according to Fraunhofer ISE. At the same time, the current dependency on imports for PV components and their CO2 footprint could be reduced. The installation of new PV power plants would add another 3,500 jobs per GW. Fraunhofer ISE also refers to the low levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) reached by PV in Germany, which today range between €0.03 and €0.05/kWh for large power plants and between €0.06 and €0.11/kWh for rooftop systems with an output of up to 30 kW.
Political unwillingness alone stands in the way of a solar boom, stated Greenpeace. “It is irresponsible that regulatory hurdles are still blocking the expansion of solar energy,” said Jonas Ott, Greenpeace expert on renewables. “Both solar and wind energy must be massively expanded. Only if the federal government stops its policy of preventing renewables will Germany make progress in terms of climate protection.”
The goals outlined by Fraunhofer ISE are ambitious, but feasible. The annual PV expansion must be tripled to at least 15 GW. “In order to raise the [potential], the federal government must immediately introduce measures such as compulsory solar power for new buildings and roof renovations, and increase the tender volumes,” continued Ott.