The German political establishment has agreed to substantially raise the target installation rate of solar photovoltaic (solar PV) systems from 1,100 MW-1,700 MW per year in 2010 to 2,500 MW-3,500 MW per year. Parliament will also reduce solar PV tariffs across the board to reflect a dramatic drop in the cost of solar PV panels and will eliminate one tariff tranche: groundmounted systems on crop land.
Germany’s upper chamber of parliament is expected to vote 4 June on revisions to the country’s feed-in tariffs for solar PV. The chamber, the Bundesrat, has proposed cuts of 10% in solar PV tariffs for rooftop systems while the Bundestag, the chamber of deputies, has passed cuts of 16% for rooftop systems.
If the Bundesrat does not accept the Bundestag’s tariffs and passes its own version, the two chambers will attempt reconciliation. The wrangling over the amount that the tariffs will be reduced could extend beyond 1 July when the new tariffs are scheduled to take effect. Ultimate authority, however, rests with the Bundestag.
Proposed revisions include a new target installation band from 2,500 MW to 3,500 MW for 2010. As in the previous band for 2009, an installation rate greater than the maximum raises the degression rate. The proposed tariff degression for solar PV in 2011 and beyond is -9% per year. The degression increases -1% for every 1,000 MW above the maximum target in 2011, and increases -3% for every 1,000 MW above the maximum target in 2012.
The Bundestag’s legislation includes a mid-year degression of -16% for rooftop PV systems, -15% for groundmounted systems, and -11% for groundmounted systems in commercial and industrial areas. These cuts in the tariffs are on top of the regular annual degression of -9% at the beginning of 2010.
The mid-year correction is to adjust for a dramatic drop in panel prices of as much as 40%.
The tariffs for wind, biogas, and other technologies remain unchanged.
2009 Record Year
Germany installed a record 3,800 MW of solar PV in 2009. The previous record, 2,600 MW, was set by Spain in 2008. Industry observers speculate that Germany could install more than 4,500 MW this year.
In contrast, the US installed about 500 MW in 2009 and California, a one-time leader in renewable energy, installed only 250 MW or less than 10% of that installed in Germany.
Distributed Rooftop Systems Continue to Dominate German Market
Despite the media’s unfailing preoccupation with large multi-megawatt solar PV plants, small rooftops systems continue to dominate the massive German market. The role of what are effectively central-station plants has grown, but they still only account for 17% of the installed capacity. This alone is a remarkable achievement of the German market. More than four-fifths of the 9,000 MW of solar PV operating in Germany has been installed on rooftops.
- 18% < 10 kW
- 60% 10 kW to 100 kW
- 6% over 100 kW
- 17% ground mount
For comparison, there is only 1,600 MW installed in the entire US, and less than 800 MW operating in California. There is less than 100 MW installed in Canada, about half of that in Ontario.
Mike Brigham of the Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative contributed to this article.