Solar parks without subsidies – a bright spot in the energy transition

In Germany, more and more electricity is being generated using renewable energies. Because the price of electricity on the exchange is currently relatively low, the costs of promoting green energies are increasing. Because the difference between the exchange price and the guaranteed revenues for the producers must be raised by the consumers through the EEG surcharge. Almost 21.5 billion euros flowed this year to the end of August to the operators of EEG-subsidized systems, 40 percent more than in the same period last year.

Systems with an output of more than 10 megawatts do not receive EEG funding. For a long time they weren’t built because it was too expensive. But at least for solar power there are now the first systems that, according to the operator, are profitable even without subsidies – also because the solar modules have become significantly cheaper in recent years. According to estimates by the Berlin consultancy Energy Brainpool, supply contracts for around 560 megawatts of electricity from subsidy-free solar parks have now been concluded in Germany. “In mathematical terms, these are solar parks with a total area of ​​around 1,100 football fields,” says Energy Brainpool expert Fabian Huneke. By way of comparison: the Datteln 4 hard coal-fired power plant, which went online at the end of May against protests by climate protectors, has an output of 1,100 megawatts.

Market watcher Huneke expects systems with a total output of 250 megawatts to start producing electricity this year. The Baden-Württemberg energy supplier EnBW is currently building one of these solar parks in Brandenburg. With an output of 187 megawatts the Weesow-Willmersdorf project as currently the largest solar park in Germany. The first kilowatt hour is to be fed into the power grid this month, after which the system will gradually go into full operation.

In order to be able to economically implement a photovoltaic project without EEG subsidies, a certain size of the system is necessary in addition to a lot of solar radiation, according to EnBW. From today’s perspective, “an economic realization from 50 megawatts is possible”. Because in addition to the solar modules, the grid connection with its own substation is a significant cost factor. EnBW is investing around 100 million euros in the new solar park just outside Berlin.

So that solar parks without guaranteed remuneration are not exposed to fluctuating stock exchange prices, their operators need the security that the electricity will be purchased from them at affordable prices, for example through long-term supply contracts, also known as PPAs. In Germany, the PPA market is “due to the EEG system still in the starting blocks,” said a spokeswoman for the energy company Statkraft. The topic is “gaining momentum”.

Statkraft also acts as a kind of middleman in Germany, offering long-term supply contracts for subsidy-free electricity. One of its customers is the Düsseldorf green electricity provider Naturstrom. From October onwards, he will receive electricity from a solar park in Upper Bavaria via Statkraft and sell it to his customers. Naturstrom and Statkraft had already signed a smaller contract at the beginning of the year.

“The market for solar power supply contracts is just getting started,” says Naturstrom CEO Thomas Banning with conviction. This eliminates “the detour via the EEG remuneration” and “the energy transition is widely accepted”.

The energy giant RWE now also sees opportunities in the sale of subsidy-free green electricity. As part of a PPA, the Essen-based company will supply Bosch with green electricity from several smaller solar systems in southern Germany. Statkraft also supplies the technology group with solar energy. The industry’s climate targets in particular are an important driver for the need for subsidy-free green electricity, said market expert Huneke.

Subsidy-free solar power is still a niche product. The projects can currently be implemented “only under ideal conditions”, admits Carsten Körnig, General Manager of the German Solar Industry Association. “In the second half of the 2020s, however, the investment conditions for subsidy-free photovoltaic power plants should improve.” This would mean further falling investment costs and the expected increase in CO2– Provide prices for coal and gas.

Market researchers expect around 9,000 megawatts of subsidy-free solar power by the end of the 2020s, according to Körnig. But even then, subsidy-free solar parks will only cover a very small proportion of the generation of solar power. According to figures from the Federal Network Agency, solar systems with a total output of 52,000 megawatts are already installed in Germany.


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