The rise of solar energy – VPRO documentary – 2008

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The rise of solar energy – VPRO documentary – 2008

10,000 years ago a major revolution occurred suddenly there was an abundance of food man went from hunter-gatherer to Farmer but in one area we are still hunter-gatherers in the area of energy we still gather wood oil coal and gas our hunting grounds now cover vast areas the whole world has been combed in our quest for energy even our feeding grounds are no longer safe but the hunt causes problems huge problems climate change health issues shortages the price is high in all respects we are happy when the oil price drops although we know that it’s bound to increase in the end to ever higher levels fossil fuels have become a source of speculation and speculators want to earn money that’s the bottom line fossil fuels mean power and supplies may be forthcoming or cut off at will which could lead to wall fortunately the search for gas in oil seems to be losing ground to a new revolution the large-scale harvesting of sunshine I don’t think anybody’s understanding how big this is or how big this could be I think it’s going to become one of the largest growing fastest growing and industry sectors in India one of the real things challenge about the industry is we have to quit thinking small we have to think big and I see this billing to our neighboring countries like Pakistan Bangladesh Nepal Sri Lanka all of them the solution for solar is not to think about you know a few panels here a few panels here it’s it’s a field full of panels of a rave we’ve taken our revenues from about 10 million dollars in 2004 to projections of about 1.4 billion dollars this year so extremely rapid growth tripling for the last two years the world has changed and so has solar Solar is cost-effective today I don’t think the average person on the street really could fathom how big this industry could be I mean it’s a gigawatt industry in the next five years my advice to all governments to all companies including to convention power companies don’t make a new large investments for convention energies it will become stranded investments in the next decade one country has started harvesting sunshine with a vengeance the air is now cleaner renewable energies cheaper and fossil fuel dependence has decreased people driving through southern Germany will see farm houses with solar panels everywhere they look even hills are completely covered in solar panels quietly and cleanly the solar power plants generate electricity Klaus Gallagher builds these solar power plants he’s been involved in installing solar panels ever since the 1990s but in recent years his company has experienced explosive growth the 90s were really hard and we did a lot in Spain in certain countries a lot of off-grid systems for small well small houses somewhere in the desert or things like that nowadays we are mainly focused on big free fuel systems on

great systems like what you see here and the company grows now we are 120 persons and every year we are looking for 100 new persons at the moment so we grow a lot solar energy is a booming business it’s Germany’s fastest growing industrial sector in recent years the German governments subsidize the production of solar electricity supplied to the grid suppliers are paid twice as much for solar electricity than they are for conventional electricity this helps to finance the construction of solar power plants the fund is set up and shares an issue that means the harvesting of both sunshine and money that’s one of the main reasons in former times fifteen years ago the the main reason for doing PV systems was well idealism the wish to change the energy sector nowadays we are talking about only money so the fund makes roughly 6% this is what we promised in prospectus and in the end the result is roughly 7 8% for 1,000 euros you make a profit of 6% and you buy a machine that makes you for the next 20 years the current you need so you make your green current for the next 20 years just by investing in the right machine they don’t have to give away the 1,000 euro it’s just an investment so the question is do you bring it to the bank or do you pay it in into such a solar fund Germany’s huge lead in the area of solar energy is due to the introduction of a so called feed-in tariff law this law obliges electricity companies to buy energy from all kinds of renewable energy sources the price of the renewable energy is guaranteed for the next 20 years and is paid for by a monthly tax of approximately 1 euro on ordinary electricity making Germany a solar economy was the fantasy of just one man at the end of the 1980s socialist politician Hermann Scheer decided to focus his efforts on solar energy and wrote two books on the subject he steered the tariff law and the subsidy measures through the German parliament but had to fight all sorts of energy scenarios along the way we have three kinds of energy scenarios one to play down the role of solar energy by scientists who on the payroll of the power companies or who think in their categories in their paradigm second more ambitious scenarios who show let’s say 50% renewable energies contributions up to let’s say 2050 and many scientists have not enough courage they don’t want to leave then too far the mainstream of the debate because immediately when they go beyond this limits they will become denounced as being of serious and that means they don’t have the courage to do that and they are others this is a third category and some scenarios exist since in 30 years who shower a hundred percent renewable energy solution hundred percent for all energy needs and these are the only adequate scenarios because it is very easy to show that all energy needs can be met by renewable energies all energy needs it’s very simple to show it to speak about limited potential is ridiculous has nothing to do be science only with mythology a frequently heard myth about the use of solar energy is that it takes up space a lot of space but that’s actually not true an area the size of France would be big enough calculations show that with the help of current technology an area covering 300 thousand square kilometres in the Sahara is enough to meet man’s total annual energy consumption from a global perspective this is quite a modest sized area we need technologies to harvest it and

to convert it into modern energy needs the only question is how fast can we introduce a new industrial sector producing technologies for harvesting renewable energy solar energy provides new jobs and new ideas Christophe cooler has found a new profession he’s now a solar roof investor he took out a 10 million euro loan and now drives around the country all day long research of roof space to rent on which he can install solar cells we are always searching about roofs like this and it’s interesting for us the type of the roof and the pitch alignment and of course the owner of them we rent this roof from the owner for 20 years and get near 50 cent per kilowatt hour for 20 years for 20 years it’s guaranteed by the government by the government yes so that’s good business this is a really good business because it’s the return of in West is near after 15 years the introduction of the feed-in tariff laws are the key to Germany’s success they’re by law grid managers must adapt their systems to allow investors to make money from the production of solar electricity innovation and the ultra fast development of Germany’s solar energy industry has been the result Germany is now one of the largest solar cell manufacturers in the world but that didn’t happen on its own it was an intellectual debate it was a debate in the first years to contradict to on the underestimations to all the practically to contradict to all the energy experts and the energy experts are a part of the problem that’s my experience and it was necessary to contradict them to show that they are wrong to show that they create myths to show that they give intentionally death informations in order to block any consideration to consideration about an alternative this was the first period and then to create a fantasy what could happen and what would be the benefits to shift to a new with a shift to renewable energies and this mobilised many people this is a really good building look over there as a lot of space it’s a farm building and a lot of farmers I want to rent out this kind of Bruce we asked them at the fence we stopped at a car and say hello you want ran out your roof and this kind of roofs are not so good this is optimal but it’s my own cooler is able to invest partly because shear also introduced a separate subsidy program for 100,000 solar panel roofs it was an idea that even went too far the green piece a Greenpeace organization proposed a 50,000 tooth program then they were asked why they don’t support my hundred thousand roof program proposal they said it is not realistic and but I succeeded in getting a decision a majority for the and without a loop program nevertheless although some in the party part of the expertise at home why we should be more radical than trim piece my argument was we should think about the industrialization of that this is not the concern of green trees of green peas but we be sure to look about clean energy and new traps new industry we must have a broader view

and therefore we must have a broader program nunik more than 700 companies from all corners of the world have gathered for the biggest solar trade fair ever last year the trade fair was held in Freiburg but it’s since doubled in size sir only munich is big enough to hold it now halls full of the latest solar technology gadgets solar energy is hot sizzling hot and companies are seeing explosive growth like some power for instance which produces high-performance black solar cells our company has been growing extremely rapidly much faster than the market as a whole over the past few years our this technology was commercialized first in 2004 and during that time we’ve taken our revenues from about 10 million dollars in 2004 to projections of about 1.4 billion dollars this year so extremely rapid growth tripling for the last two years it’s been a lot of work sole focus is a similarly growing company and it has a new technology it started producing large scale systems using cheap mirrors made of glass and aluminium to concentrate sunshine on to more expensive very high performance solar cells this drastically reduces the cost of solar energy they envisage a huge market it is a big big big economy I mean even if you look at what’s already been done I mean I think today Germany has more jobs in the renewable energy world than they have in automotive and engineering together so it’s item II it’s already proven it’s a viable world the number of things you need to think about and we found that you can reduce installation time by as much as a half and get on and do more systems and make more profit as solar energy approaches the cost parity with fossil fuels you’re not looking at a solar industry you’re looking at an energy market which is huge so what you’re seeing is a lot it for a while now the technology has been moving at a pace where the efficiencies been crawling up and the costs have been crawling down with what I really really call disruptive technologies things like our concentrated photovoltaics or some other technologies out there you’re looking at a technology where you’re changing that trajectory you’re now looking at a efficiencies that can ramp at a very steep ramp and cost it can come down at a very steep ramp and you know realistically that can put this type of technology providing energy at cost parity with fossil fuels by 2011 2012 the solution for solar is not to think about you know a few panels here a few panels here it’s it’s a field full of panels of arrays where you’re producing clean energy instead of energy created by carbon emitting processes so I don’t think the average person on the street really could fathom how big this industry could be I mean it’s a gigawatt industry in the next five years the cost for renewal energies can only go down because all costs for renewal energies are the exemption of biomass only costs for technologies not anymore costs for fuels no costs for energy transportation for infrastructures primary energy transportation that means no externalities at the same time that means they can only go down because technology costs go down by mass protection and running technological improvements and the playroom for technological improvements are is much larger with new technology than with old technologies just one single oil company has also been trying to grab a piece of the pie but at the trade fair they don’t want to comment not surprising considering the solar energy market seems to be slipping through their fingers it’s been taken over by the electronics industry that’s learned that up sizing and mass production works Applied Materials is one of the companies that supplies machines for the production of chips and solar cells mass production and technological innovation are the buzzwords here think what we’re saying is a quantum leap of consciousness happening here about energy where energy comes from and

that there are solutions that have been studied in the lab now for more than 25 or 30 years that are ready for commercial large-scale use we have a history 40 years of making equipment for making integrated circuits and about three years ago we began to provide the equipment to use in building up factories for large scale solar manufacturing as factories get larger and the scale of production gets larger the speed of cost reduction accelerates and what’s happening today all around the world is the cost of a solar panel is coming down very rapidly and the price of electricity is going up so our ability what we’re seeing with the equipment is the opportunity to serve many of the new growing areas in the world that need electricity that’s cost-effective and we are we are only in the beginning what happens is a revolution new technological revolution this app for the layman it’s not immediately apparent but a revolution is going on in the industry a revolution that’s even bigger than the IT revolution in recent decades and it’s already being dubbed the et revolution the energy technology revolution this industry is maturing rapidly and it’s moving from the laboratory to commercial business it’s an industry many of the people who have come to visit us at this conference have come from the integrated circuit business and they say this is just like 30 years ago with the transistor coming in to replace vacuum tubes and suddenly a whole new market Vista opened up the panorama of all of those possibilities is being seen and tried here at over a thousand exhibits it’s a incredibly exciting time for all of us and it’s part of growing up and there’s an excitement about growing up as well large companies as well as small finding a way to participate in this need that we have all technology revolutions have had an initiator and we are the initiators of that and this will lead to a development which will initiate a break of the conventional energy system the next page and the business changes from an energy business to a technology business that means iam losers are the conventional power companies the winners of this development companies in the economic field are the companies who produce the technologies for harvesting of their energies and converting it and store it Shia’s message is clear new industries are taking over energy production his words seem to be confirmed by emerging economies like India the Indians have huge plans plenty of Sun vast energy requirements and a strong innovative force the local interests in the country is basically it’s it’s a it’s a huge interest and we see India taking off into a mega market probably 2009 like when I said I would say more in the region of 2010 it’s going to explore it moseub Air Industries is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of optical media it’s investing heavily in the latest solar technology we’re not a module manufacturer we’re a solar energy provider so that means we want to grow the solar industry and we have made investments in crystalline silicon in thin film large investments we have also made investments equity investments in making poly silicon material we have made investments in future technologies like concentrated technologies like soul focus for instance is a partner and we have made other investments too we are looking at it from a much wider scope how do we become the best help for promoting solar energy as such an entire new industry is emerging not only in solar manufacturing it’s going to be a captive consumption of solar panels which means our solar integration industry is going to increase the solar energy services industry is gonna increase this whole industry is going to grow I think it’s going to become

probably one of the largest growing fastest growing and industry sectors in India and I see the spilling to our neighboring countries like Pakistan Bangladesh Nepal Sri Lanka all of them people are remembering from the last time we had an oil embargo 1978 solar was too expensive it was about 30 dollars a watt for a solar panel today it’s well below $3 a why there’s been a factor of more than 10 in cost reduction part of what’s important here is to get the message out that the world has changed and so has solar solar is cost effective today Seville Spain there’s enough Sun and as things now stand Spain will be the first country in which electricity generated by sunshine will cost the same as electricity from fossil fuels the Spanish of following Germany’s example and also introducing legislation that will make it possible to supply clean electricity to the grid and electricity utility companies have also realized that the Sun is their new fuel abengoa is experimenting with large mirror power plants the power plants currently under construction should provide 300 megawatts which is enough for a town the size of Seville this is solar plant ps10 is the first commercial tall plant to come into operation in the world so there were several research and development projects in the past making use of this technology that proved that the technology was feasible but finally there were never companies that invest the money in order to make this technology commercial in this case having Goa made the fort to finance this project and to put this plant into operation and now it’s a reality mirrors measuring a hundred and twenty square meters each reflect Sun onto just one point on a massive tower this results in high temperatures which are used to drive steam turbines to generate electricity well at this moment these technologies are being developed in some countries that are supporting the revolution in Spain for example we had what we call a feed-in tariff that is paid for every kilowatt hour of electricity that we generate and that makes possible the economics of this projects matter of fact at this moment in Spain there is a coming into development a competition between different companies and that makes costs go down very quickly and you have to work to develop it and to put it into real operation and to the monster that is feasible and that is real and we think that it will arrive much sooner that many of the of the other actors in the energy sector I think matter of fact the rising prices of the oil every day helps help us a lot in this work the Spanish are looking beyond their own borders for instance Spain is involved in the construction of large solar power plants in Morocco and Algeria power plants that concentrate sunshine better known as concentrated solar power plants or seep SPS for short are certainly on the increase even so they’re not new in the mo Java desert in the United States there are two big CSP plants where parabolic mirrors are used to produce steam that drives turbines the plant at Kramer junction went into operation more than 20 years ago an experience has shown that this is an extremely efficient concept this plant has been in operation since construction between 1986 and 1988 so we’ve had commercial operation here self-sustaining in the commercial environment for years it’s all private investment there were some tax incentive incentives that attracted the investment but it is privately held and there’s a long term contract with the utility that makes it a self-sustaining business this plant is a demonstration that it’s reliable dependable and absolutely ready for further expansion you build this kind of solar field you know what kind of performance and energy you’re going to get out of it the German company shot supplies the tubing used to collect sunshine the company’s been involved in solar energy for five decades but recently they’ve barely been able to keep up with demand

the first plant was built in the 80s 1980s and then it took twenty years and not much was happening and obviously more than 20 projects at the same time so concentrated power solar power is widely accepted and we see more projects than ever before we are engaged in so many project that it is right now quite difficult to fulfill all customer needs CSP plants are extremely effective in high sunshine areas with little cloud will the deserts become our new energy grounds it seems so the Club of Rome the German Aerospace Laboratory and shot recently put forward a spectacular plan desert tech this huge plan involves the construction and installation of a network of solar plants in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the desert regions of northern Africa these mega plans could supply electricity to Europe for instance by building a direct current international grid Jordan Amman the harvesting of sunshine in the deserts is not only intended for use in Europe but is also for their own use of course as it happens the plants will not only produce electricity but will also turn saltwater into fresh water so this tackles both the energy shortage and also the water shortage which is a huge problem in the Middle East one of the plans spokesman is His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan built allow of Jordan former president of the Club of Rome well essentially it is coastal solar thermal power that means a series of coastal thermal power stations power and D salination in cogeneration and the concept is to take the solar power from the Gulf region across North Africa into Europe so it is clean power for Europe hydrogen for Europe and power and fresh water for what is called the named region the North Africa Near East region and the solar plan takes into consideration the proposition that desert tech which I presented to the European Union includes a consensus for the first time between the entrepreneurs the policymakers the technicians so there’s nobody out of the box everybody’s agreed on the principle the only difficulty that I see is the competition that this might create with the traditional monopoly of power oil and increasingly the emphasis on nuclear power turning from these two forms of fuel nuclear and oil to Sun means not only breaking the monopoly of the nuclear and the oil Club which is finite in its resources in the case of oil and still dangerous in its potential in case of the nuclear so my point is controversial and maybe anti-establishment Aryan because of you know the monopoly of OPEC which we had hoped would become a peck the Organization for petroleum and energy and what I am suggesting is a decentralization process whereby you would talk about a synergy of energy from through the Sun from this region all the way across North Africa to Europe if we look to the whole change then you can immediately recognize that is it totally new paradigm and then you can imagine how many conflicts happen happened and will happen because it leads to the dissolution of the conventional energy economy automatically the primary energy economy will disappear because it is impossible to change from being a seller of oil gas or rhenium and coal to the role of seller of solar radiation of wind that’s impossible wind and solar radiation is a common

good not owned by anyone and this is the largest the most into conventional primary energy energy sector is the most influential with the highest turnover the most influential part of the world economy and then you nut can image the dimension of the conflict which happens they will disappear they become superfluous automatically and therefore they have the interest to postpone it they know their own end but they want to postpone it for decades and we cannot accept that because societies the world cannot wait to the point when the last drop of oil is consumed of the last cubic meter of gas of the last ton of or rhenium or coal we cannot wait for that I think the paradigm shift comes from the fact that we are talking about 10 billion people on the planet within a very few years and therefore time is tight to prepare for this 10 billion either the 10 billion will be killed through attrition of wars and regional calamities or affordable and sufficient water food and energy as well as a stable economy and climate are used as indispensable precondition for civilized life on the planet and that’s where I go back to the complementarity between human warning and global warming but whether it is politically acceptable is a question of egocentrism versus compassion do we want to live in a caring world or do we want to live in a world of vested interests how do we save the planet but still provide mankind with enough energy the sun’s potential is huge the technology exists and even the oil-producing nations seem to be shifting towards the Sun the united arab emirates commissioned a swiss engineering firm to devise a plan for the construction of huge offshore solar islands the oceans have a much higher percentage of high sun areas than the deserts and there’s enough water salt water that plants can convert into fresh water water that can be used to store solar energy in hydrogen and water to make steam that drive turbines the islands have a cost-effective mirror system here flat mirrors are used to make sunshine fall onto tubes in which a fluid is heated to high temperatures this heat is used to produce steam or freshwater the islands float on a special construction so they can always face the Sun each Sun island is expected to produce many gigawatts the first prototypes are now under construction but not everything has to be that huge and awesome we should also be able to harvest solar energy closer to home otherwise we’ll create a new dependence on large monopolies concerns which is exactly what Hermann Scheer wants to prevent if we have a fantasy then we can see a future in which many many small and medium productions with solar energy converting solar energy replace very few big power plants and this is an advantage for the society a big advantage it is the wave from a monopolistic structure to a broad

ownership to an energy supplying system with many self producing self protection structures and decentralized creates individual autonomy local economy for energy regional autonomy Rech a national autonomy this is an advantage and not a disadvantage but how can we harvest sunshine on a large scale in areas with relatively low amounts of sunshine at the trade fair in Germany interesting new systems are being presented like solar panels that we rolled out along flat factory roofs thus turning them into mini electricity plants in no time and an unexpected development comes from the world of flat screens producing flat screens is a very similar technology to producing solar panels in fact it’s just glass covered with a very thin layer of semiconducting material until a few years ago large flat screens were still very expensive now everyone’s buying them and they’re a tenth of the price they were just five years ago if such large screens can be made then the step to making even bigger solar panels is quite easy and that’s exactly what’s happening right now Applied Materials is now building machines that can churn out some panels measuring some five and a half square metres its customers are the big electronic industries of Japan Taiwan China and India in the near future they’ll be providing cheap solar energy on a global scale yes a solar panel like the ones behind me made with thin film silicon can produce as much energy as was consumed to make the solar panel in about eight months well less than one year the energy payback as it’s called is a very short time and of course this is going to continue to make electricity well beyond 25 years it’s a great return on that energy investment so this is the first time in history where cost-effective energy could be manufactured before we always burn something up machines make it easy to assemble the huge solar panels and turn them into mega solar plants in just a short space of time and they are quite literally mega where solar panels once provided kilowatts they can now provide megawatts and they’ll soon provide gigawatts this new kind of technology has put an end to the myth that there’s not enough space for affordable solar energy in low sunshine countries if you would produce 500 billion kilowatt hour in Germany we would use 3,750 square kilometer that is less than 10% of the surface which is covered by buildings and it is possible to integrate this in constructed areas in buildings as roofs over streets and so forth and so forth and we can take vertical spaces because you can take the facade of buildings for the production of electric power and that means his argument is totally ridiculous mm-hmm forget it and finally one more myth is solar energy actually that efficient wouldn’t we be better off harvesting biofuels instead of solar electricity you don’t see it but this was a wasteland deposit and farming was not possible because the yield for the farmer was really poor so it was worth nothing more or less and that’s why I think here it really makes sense and what is interesting even if it would have been an excellent farmland the energy yield in kilowatt hours electrical kilowatt hours per hectare is roughly 50 times higher than via biomass so imagine if you have a farmer growing plants pressing out plant oil and firing them in a combined heat idle process you have one fiftieth of the amount of electrical energy this is incredible and I know but this is 50 times more effective the price of oil continues to rise whereas the price of solar energy is falling the technology exists the

electronics industry is all set worldwide all kinds of countries are introducing similar laws to those in Germany solar energy will come faster than most people think the JEM example is has a worldwide meaning no doubt it encouraged many many governments and politicians and initiatives free independent initiatives grassroot movements organizations companies it encouraged to start renewable energy policies everywhere because what is possible in Germany is possible everywhere the argument is over by this practical example that is not feasible too expensive but economically and so forth the argument is over and we will arrive with solar power production with PV we will arrive in the run of the next decade at costs including new storing opportunities it costs for a household which are lower than the conventional costs for buying electric power over the grid we will arrive at that and who will end up people to do that no man can do it only dictatorship can do that how did it feel to be a sort of initiator or a revolution hmm do you know we have seen know the sentence of the shop mama was a German philosopher of the 19th century and she wrote a new idea will firstly become denounced as being ridiculous secondly there are many fights against it and finally all people were in favor for that from the early beginning this will happen with solar energy