ANSWER TO ELECTRICITY PRICE INCREASES AND POLITICAL HASSLE
Energy turnaround works – you only have to want and make it
Horb a.N., Germany, September 2012. Continuing electricity price increases, misgivings of the large energy providers, half-hearted solutions and continual new proclamations from politicians – the global transformation to renewable energies threatens to come adrift in our society’s vast ocean of inability to reach agreements. More and more companies and private consumers are sick and tired of it. So they take their electricity requirements into their own hands and start to produce environmentally friendly energy themselves – or invest in solar power as an investment for their old age.
March 2011. The world holds its breath. The nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, suffers severe damage and threatens to spiral out of control. For a long time it is not certain what consequences this will have for the local inhabitants and the whole population of the Earth. In the following summer the German government decides to pull out of nuclear energy and performs a dramatic U-turn in its energy policy. This caused a sensation which received worldwide respect and was a great relief not only for the environmentally conscious. The Energiewende, as the Germans call the change in energy policy, seemed to be done and dusted – at first in Germany and then more and more on the international stage.
In the meantime, however, it has become clear that the conventional energy giants are not going to take this sitting down, furthermore the politicians are squabbling among themselves – and the much praised energy turnaround looks very unstable. But with or without feed-in tariffs, with electricity prices rising and rising again: Now among consumers, a movement is beginning to gain ground which can be most appropriately described as the “Energiewende from the bottom up”.
The reasons for changing to renewable energies are actually quite varied. Günter Pitzer for example, a qualified financial advisor in Balingen, south west Germany, views this topic very soberly from the perspective of an asset planner stating: “An investment in renewable energy, no matter whether it is from wind, biomass or photovoltaic sources, can in my opinion only be regarded as a sound and wise investment. Those who have the possibility should definitely include this in their investment mix”. He himself has been advising his customers to do so as part of their investment strategy since 2005.
Up till now, says the financial expert, the recent trend towards installing solar modules on rooftops has been triggered primarily by the wish to take advantage of feed-in tariffs. “But things even get more interesting when we include possible future developments in our strategies which are not funded by subsidies currently being offered in various countries. The reason is quite simple, he claims: “The value of the subsidies which the government guarantees will decrease with inflation and the loss of purchasing power over the years. Electricity, on the other hand, is an indispensable resource in our society which will become more expensive in line with inflation and probably even more so due to the general energy price development.”
“Contrary to pure monetary investments such as savings bonds or government securities, electricity will always maintain its value even in a strongly fluctuating monetary environment. If I can participate in the production of this resource, I have a financial investment which can adapt to inflation and also to fluctuating currency rates”.
In conjunction with efficient and affordable storage media, photovoltaic systems are also, he claims further, an excellent means of direct provision for one’s old age. “Those who provide for their old age by producing their own energy will have the benefit of obtaining it a lot cheaper than if they bought it from the public grid.” A further “huge advantage” is the flexibility which comes with owning your own solar system, he says. “Owners of rented-out accommodation may be able to compensate for inflation by raising the rent, but this is very problematic and only works as long as the tenant pays. What’s more, if they need cash quickly, they may not be able to sell the housing at the price they would like.”
Tracking – a particularly interesting facility
In contrast to this, a tracking solar system offers you, for example, the possibility of “either selling the complete tracker or the electricity you produce with it. Here it is easier to find a buyer because electricity is always required.”
In brief: solar systems are, in the investment expert´s opinion, “a very convenient solution. You are not dependent on stock and bond markets, you have an inflation-proof product which you can make liquid relatively easily if required – and you can avoid potential problems with tenants.” Added to this, solar systems can be insured at a relatively low cost. “Insurance for electronic systems is one of the most simple and fairest insurance lines.” inzuHih
In the opinion of Günter Pitzer, tracking systems are particularly interesting for investors not only because they produce a greater output but they also feed power into the grid at times different to fixed systems. “Let’s take a look into the future and insinuate that in ten years time you will be able to sell your electricity to free agents at a better price than your current subsidized price. The price could be dependent on the time of day that your power is fed into the grid. For example, around midday when all static systems are feeding into the grid, the price may be lower than in the earlier or later hours, when your tracking system is already – or still – feeding in.”
He reckons that fixed systems function best for people who have a suitable rooftop which is built at the right angle, or are able to rent one, which of course narrows the return.
Tracking systems on the other hand offer the possibility of dividing a solar park among several investors. In this way people can buy their own tracker and fund their own private pension scheme. “Communities can install tracking systems on noise barriers alongside motorways – and organize this in the form of a `citizen involvement´ scheme. I believe that in future people will look back and laugh at the way in which we are handling this matter at the moment.”
Image benefit: shopping center lets its customers “fill up” with solar energy
The owners of a new shopping centre in Iserlohn, near Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia have taken a completely new approach. They have decided not to wait for the politicians to make up their minds, but are making the energy turnaroundwork themselves by combining a long-term financial benefit with image advertising: photovoltaic modules on the roof and in the car park of the shopping center have recently started producing solar energy; a DEGERtracker in the car park feeds power into an electric car charging point of the Iserlohn municipal utility works. Here customers will soon be able to fill up with CO2-free solar power while they shop.
Rüdiger Hiltawsky is convinced: “The tracking system is pointing the way to the future of solar energy, because in contrast to fixed installations it produces electricity consistently from sunrise till sunset, all year round.” He installed the photovoltaic systems in the shopping center. Among other things he fitted the tracking system from DEGERenergie with a joystick so that the tracker can be moved by hand for demonstration purposes. For example it can be demonstrated how the system, after it has been brought into a different position with the joystick, automatically aligns itself towards the brightest part of the sky again afterwards.
For the property owners it is important to show that they do something for the environment and the energy turnaround, explains Rüdiger Hiltawsky. “This is the best way to encourage interested parties to look into this subject themselves – and it also brings public prestige.” Not least for this reason does the shopping center want to offer its customers the possibility of charging the batteries of their electric cars while they shop.
Artur Deger, founder and CEO of DEGERenergie, sees considerable potential here for utilizing several positive effects all at the same time, in particular for shopping centers: “You free yourself from dependency on rising electricity prices by producing cheaper solar energy yourself. You create a positive image for yourself. And you make it attractive for customers to shop at your store by offering them the opportunity of charging their electric automobiles with solar power. I can well imagine that in a few years time the car parks of many such shopping centers will be equipped with trackers and solar filling stations.“
Readiness of citizens, banks and communities very high
A pioneer of the first hour is Jürgen Bortloff. The qualified music pedagogue began as early as 1992 to look into the subject of clean energies, at first mainly wind energy. At the end of the 90’s he discovered photovoltaics and shortly afterwards the solar tracking principle, which had recently been launched on the market by DEGERenergie. In 2000 he built the then largest photovoltaic system in the northern Black Forest area in collaboration with DEGERenergie. “Since then I have installed several megawatts within a radius of 50 kilometers from my home town.”
Jürgen Bortloff’s initiative has long since matured to a business model. He looks for suitable locations, plans the systems or solar plants and gets investors together who participate in projects which have been set up in the form of citizen involvement schemes. When the systems are up and running he takes care of everything else, settles up with the energy providers and investors and caters for smooth operation.
“In the meantime we have reached a broad civil consensus which makes the search for investors very easy. The willingness of local residents to invest a part of their savings in clean energy is very high. We also meet with open doors with the municipalities, and even banks are today willing to get on board. In brief: the willingness of all concerned is so great that we could even realize more projects than we have currently planned.”
EU commissioner Oettinger: electricity price in Germany is already “dangerously high”
The list of examples is long – and it is getting longer by the day. The continually increasing electricity prices and never ending announcements by the energy providers, federal network agency and politicians are not helping the situation.
In the results of a study commissioned by the Baden-Würtemmberg Chamber of Trade and Commerce (IHK) and conducted in May 2012 by the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) the alarm bell was sounded: according to their estimations electricity prices in Germany will rise by 70 per cent by the year 2025. Bernd Bechtold, president of the Karlsruhe IHK comments that German companies will find it difficult to remain competitive.
Particularly more so because the mentioned price increases apply to large customers. For private consumers the prices could rise even more because they cannot negotiate high discounts, the study reveals. “We already have the highest electricity prices in the EU”, Bechtold claims. In France, for example, electricity costs about 40 percent less. The industrial location of Germany simply cannot afford such a wide margin in the long term.
Günther Oettinger, EU commissioner for energy, warns of the social and economical consequences of high electricity prices. The price of electricity in Germany is “dangerously high” and can “lead to social upheavals as well as a de-industrialization”, the commissioner for energy explained in a radio interview at the beginning of March 2012.
Companies take things into their own hands
No wonder, in the view of such scenarios, that the in-house production of solar power is becoming more and more popular – not only for private consumers but also for medium-sized companies. Recent examples of such are the Southern German companies DIgSILENT, Pfeffer Metalltechnik and the car dealer Hugo Kleinmann.
DIgSILENT, located near Tübingen, is a leading worldwide supplier of simulation software used for the planning and operation of energy supply systems. “Our product portfolio and our range of services cover all themes concerning the integration of regenerative energies “, states Martin Schmieg, founder and CEO of DIgSILENT. The company recently has realized a new solar power project comprising twelve DEGERtrackers.
The company Ernst Pfeffer Metalltechnik in Eutingen im Gäu also produces energy from the sun on their business premises. For this purpose five systems from DEGERenergie, mounted on the production hall, are in operation. CEO Raimund Pfeffer: “We estimate, somewhat generously, that the systems will have paid off in 12 to 14 years.” An important factor for him is that the MLD tracking system (Maximum Light Detection) achieves a substantially higher yield than stationary photovoltaic modules. “This means we utilize the raw material resources a lot more efficiently than with fixed systems.”
The Hechingen car dealer Hugo Kleinmann also covers a large part of his energy requirement with environment-friendly solar power which is produced using four photovoltaic tracking systems. Any surplus electricity is automatically fed into the public grid. With this investment the car dealer is well equipped for the mobile future with electrically powered cars, because such vehicles can be charged in future with home-produced electricity.
Complete solution makes consumers self-sufficient and no longer reliant on the grid
DEGERenergie’s next logical step: At the Intersolar Europe 2012 in Munich the world market leader for tracking systems introduced the first complete solar energy supply system to the public for the first time. This solution combines high-performance solar modules, MLD tracking technology and a battery system including battery management.
The first system has been in operation since autumn 2011. Yield and consumption measurements show that on an area of only 22 square meters of solar modules, the complete solution produces 115 percent of the requirement of house, office and two electric cars. The battery management system ensures that the battery storage levels are always charged to at least 50 per cent. The energy supply is then guaranteed even at times when the solar modules do not produce any energy, for example at night or during longer bad weather periods and – at the same time – the public power supply fails.
Surplus energy which is neither consumed nor stored because the batteries are fully charged, is also fed to the household by the surplus energy manager – for example to the warm water or heating system.
The fully functional and complete solution which in the initial stage will be marketed only in Germany, costs around 25,000 Euro including installation. On this basis users can fix their electricity costs for the next 25 years at the current level, free themselves from the clutches of energy suppliers and save more money with each increase of the electricity prices.
“Sun tree” sends positive signal
Just how far the idea of natural power production has in the meantime penetrated many areas of social life is shown in the example of the Nimwegen “sun tree”.
On behalf of the Dutch town of Nimwegen, the artist Andreas Hetfeld has designed an icon which symbolizes an organic link between nature and technology. The twelve meter high kinetic sculpture has been standing since 8th June 2012 in front of the new technology centre called “Technovium“ in Nimwegen.
The important aspect of this work of art is that it not only looks like an oversized sunflower, but it actually behaves like one: the “flower” always faces towards the lightest part of the sky and thus collects energy from the sun in a natural way. The secret behind it: an MLD tracking system from DEGERenergie.
About DEGERenergie (www.DEGER.biz):
DEGERenergie is the leading manufacturer with the world’s largest product range of single and dual-axis solar tracking systems. The company’s market position is based on the unique patented Maximum Light Detection (MLD) technology developed by Artur Deger, which makes it possible to maximize the yield of solar power plants with an “intelligent” control. With the DEGERconecter, the solar modules are always aligned according to the brightest position in the sky with the highest energy yield. This way, the overall energy yield of solar power plants with MLD tracking is on average 45 percent higher than that of fixed systems and this difference is even more pronounced for peaks. With more than 49,000 systems installed in 49 countries, DEGERenergie is the global technological market leader. The company offers its customers all product related solutions – from the development and planning, production and sales to maintenance and service.
In its headquarters in Horb (Germany), its subsidiaries and supplier companies, DEGERenergie currently employs a staff of nearly 400. The company was established in 1999 and in 2001 won the Inventor Award of the German state of Baden-Württemberg for the MLD control module DEGERconecter. In 2005, DEGERenergie opened its first subsidiary in Spain, followed by subsidiaries in the USA and Greece in 2009. Since summer 2011, production is also up and running in Australia. The company’s production sites are located in Germany, Australia, Canada and the USA. CEO is Artur Deger.
You can’t always rely on the weather. But you can rely on an intelligent control system from DEGERenergie
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