Berlin aims to become solar powerhouse
Oct 10, 2008 - iNS/news/net - Reuters
Berlin wants to become a world leader in the solar
energy field, both as a user of the sun's rays for
energy and as a pioneer in solar technology despite
its northern, cloud-covered location, its economy
minister said. "You don't necessarily have to have
the best natural geographic conditions to be a solar
power capital," Harald Wolf told Reuters in an interview,
referring to the German capital's 52-degree north
latitude and its cloud cover for about two-thirds
of daylight hours.
"What's important is having the best possible network
made up of a scientific community and private companies,"
he said. "We've got a lot of important firms, six
top universities and a lot of research institutes.
It all comes together nicely.
"We want to be the solar capital of Germany," he
Wolf said Berlin which lost much of its industrial
base during its Cold War division, has wholeheartedly
embraced the solar industry.
It has put more focus into the sector and research
into photovoltaics -- the process of converting sunlight
into energy -- than any German region.
"We've been focusing on it for quite some time and
with worldwide concerns about climate change there's
huge growth potential, both in Germany and abroad.
We want to be a heavyweight in the field."
With the German solar market showing annual growth
rates of more than 25 percent the sector has a special
appeal to the city where many industries are stagnating.
He predicted ten-fold growth over the next decade,
due in part to its program of enticements for investors
Such enthusiasm could reassure investors in a country
which in May accelerated a reduction in statutory
Germany's renewables energy act (EEG) nevertheless
remains the motor driving the sector. It has been
copied in dozens of countries and guarantees investors
fixed feed-in tariffs for solar power which utilities
are obligated to buy at high prices.
The EEG has helped make Germany the world's largest
producer of solar power -- about half of the entire
world's solar power is produced here -- and photovoltaic
technology. Berlin now has 10,000 jobs in the sector,
up from barely anything a decade ago and Wolf believes
that will grow ten-fold again by 2018.
"Berlin lost its traditional industries due to its
division and they didn't simply return after the Berlin
Wall fell," Wolf said. "We're only going to get ahead
with new industries such as photovoltaic and in areas
where we're highly innovative.
Germany installed 2,700 megawatts of solar power
in 2007, enough for about 1 million homes, nearly
double the 2006 amount. Some 14 percent of the country's
electricity came from renewable sources. By 2020 Germany
wants that figure to be 30 percent.
Researchers at Berlin's Hahn-Meitner Institute, joined
by local firms Solon AG and Sulfercell, are developing
thin film technologies to cut costs and make it possible
to put lightweight panels on more structures like
city hall, Wolf said.
"As technology improves and efficiency increases,
it'll be increasingly cost-effective even if there
is a limited number of hours of sunshine and we're
so far north," he said, noting high- tech breakthroughs
to lower costs could offset reductions in state support
in countries such as Spain.
Wolf said Berlin wants to put solar panels on more
"We've created a bourse to allow private investors
to rent school roofs and public buildings for photovoltaic
use," he said. "We've turned 24 schools into mini
He said the city parliament is expected to pass legislation
by next year that would require anyone building or
renovating a building to incorporate a certain percentage
of CO2-free technology for energy -- a step to further