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fight to overcome sceptical investors, policymakers and consumers around the world who lack the convincing data showing the vast potential of photovoltaics. Subsidies for other energy sources, such as diesel fuel, also make it hard for PV to compete. ‘’The absence or early stage of policy support schemes still represent a significant barrier,’’ the study says.

In the Sunbelt, PV ‘’is still perceived as an expensive energy source mostly suitable for off- grid installations of small and medium size,’’ mentions the report. ‘’As a matter of fact, PV can already compete with other commonly used power generation technologies such as diesel generators.’’

Policy changes

One recent development may strengthen the argument for more PV. In the United States the Republicans’ election victory that put them back in power in Congress caused President Obama to abandon efforts at so-called ‘’cap and trade’’ schemes to control CO2 and ensuing global warming. ‘’There is more than one way to skin a cat,’’ Obama said after the election. One way would be to build more PV instead of more coal plants. But the U.S., Europe and others are looking again at nuclear power at least as a bridge technology, as many plants are nearing the end of

Mini Grids

In countries where a significant part of the population lives in rural areas without link up to a national power grid, mini-grids can provide a solution for supplying electricity at a reasonable cost. Mini-grids can connect a mix of stand-alone electricity sources to private consumers and small business of a community, thus enabling economic activity, education, improved medical care, and increased safety levels. They can be interconnected between communities, forming the nucleus for a more systematic electrification, particularly in more densely populated rural areas.

The figure shows an exemplary configuration of a hybrid mini-grid using PV, small wind, small hydro and a backup diesel generator to generate electricity. Batteries can be used as an additional buffer to enhance the dispatchability of the system. Mini- grids have lower and more localized maintenance needs and significantly lower transmission losses compared to long-distance grid extension. Two main indicators determine the size of a countries’ mini grid potential: 1) The lower the electrification rate in a country, the larger the potential for mini-grids, 2) The higher the investment attractiveness of a country, the higher the potential for mini-grids.

their life spans. France is launching a whole new generation of nuclear plants.

The EPIA study, using varied scenarios, aims to show the unlocked potential that could outshine conventional technologies. The most ambitious one, a ‘’paradigm shift,’’ would make China ‘’the dominant PV market in the next 20 years,’’ generating 12 percent of its power with PV. In combination with India, both countries could account for 69 percent of the overall Sunbelt potential.

Figure 3: PV system price digression

21 Issue IX 2010

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