What are the key advantages of PV technology?
PV cells are modular and light, have no moving parts, have no direct impact on the environment and require minimal maintenance. In theory, they are available anywhere in the world, can be installed and operated in areas of difficult access and are an easy route to a power source for the developing world. In addition, they have a long life and durability as well as low operating costs.
What is the future potential of PV technology?
Photovoltaic electricity generation has a low energy density per hectare and its efficiency does not depend on the size of a photovoltaic plant. This makes it extremely suitable for a wide range of applications. Photovoltaic systems can be used in small, decentralised plants as well as in larger, central power plants; they can be built in sizes from cm2 up to km2 and can be used in many different types of locations.
What specifically does it offer the EU?
In the long term, the EU objective is to create a sustainable energy supply based on Renewable Energy Sources (RES). PV could contribute substantially to total EU energy consumption and can be easily integrated into current electricity systems.
How does it contribute to achieving EU objectives?
- In the EU White Paper on RES, photovoltaic energy is part of EU action to double the share of RES from 6% in 1998 to 12% in 2010. The White Paper estimates that by 2010 the installed PV capacity will have increased to 3GWp from today's 250MWp.
- The EU initiated a "Campaign for Take-Off" for RES which includes the construction of 500 000 grid-connected, roof and façade PV systems and an export initiative for 500 000 PV village systems to kick-start decentralised electrification in developing countries.
A look into the futureWhat are the future applications of PV?
As PV energy is area-dependent (providing approximately 1GWhr per hectare per year) it is extremely suitable for decentralised electricity production.
How can this technology be used in the short, medium and long term?
A new concept for local energy production is envisaged for the future:
- Centralised large-scale electricity production where small and medium sized producers will be connected to electricity grids.
- The development of stand-alone energy systems producing electricity and heat for single houses or apartments with different components such as PV, fuel cells, etc.
- The development of 'mini-grids' for a limited area should be investigated. With these grids, small energy systems such as PV systems and fuel cells in individual houses would be connected together to supply energy. They would be supplemented by conditioning and storage systems and could serve as an interface between the main grid and single houses.
What are the research and technological development requirements?
- For large-scale market introduction of PV power, the key issues are to reduce investment costs, ensure easy integration and long-term supply reliability.
- Further pre-market research should be carried out in three main areas:
- Low-cost PV integration into buildings;
- Intelligent and extremely low-cost control systems;
- Research into electricity storage and making new technologies suitable for PV use.
How can we develop a stronger market for PV technology?
In addition to technological development, market development is a prerequisite for further growth. Namely,
Setting the legal, fiscal and political framework: to define the conditions for gaining access to the electricity grid, as well as technical standards for the grid's quality, reliability and safety. Fiscal measures, such as subsidies, exemption from VAT or eco-taxes, are needed to support the introduction of renewable energies and to allow renewable energy technologies to compete in the market.
Marketing of PV-added value: the added value of photovoltaics, in terms of quality, reliability and service delivery, requires an improved common marketing effort.
Building a 21st century image: the creation of an image for photovoltaics as high tech but green, readily available almost everywhere, capable of being easily integrated into new or existing structures, and adaptable for new applications could greatly contribute to PV market growth.