There is not much to laugh about in the European solar industry at the moment. This was very evident at the Intersolar Europe trade fair, which just closed on June 14. The number of exhibitors shrunk by 16 percent compared to last year, and the number of exhibitors from China was down by as much as 25 percent.
Carsten Körnig, Managing Director of the German Solar Industry Association, remained optimistic, seeing 2012 as a continued year of market growth. There are indications of this, primarily in China but also in the U.S., as well as in a number of emerging countries. Growth in China is set to stand at four gigawatts in 2012; the U.S. is predicted to add three gigawatts.
The storage of solar power and the development of high-performance batteries and solutions for energy management was one of the central themes of Intersolar this year. Energy storage solutions were on display from 140 companies, including ADS-tec, Akasol, AS Solar, Centrosolar, IBC and Kyocera. One particular highlight was the improved performance of lithium-ion batteries. Most vendors are focusing on the battery management system, as well as the batteries themselves.
Kyocera combines photovoltaics, an energy storage system, and cogeneration to cover heat requirements, as well as electricity needs. Voltwerk electronics is displaying a storage system that can cover approximately 70 percent of the total electricity consumption of a single-family dwelling. SolarWorld’s SunPac K 10.9 has charging and discharging functions in one three-phase accumulator-inverter module, meaning that additional charge controllers are no longer required. Another hot topic is the combination of heat and power production, be it in PVT modules or in systems where the solar panels are combined with heat pumps.
The debate over the future of solar subsidies was another primary topic at the show. Cuts of 15 percent at the beginning of the year are set to be followed by further drastic reductions. Agreement is expected to be reached in summer 2012. This could even enter into effect retroactive to April 2012.