Solar capacity reached 10,000 MW. What challenges for the future?


By reaching the threshold of 10 GW, solar production will cover 3% of electricity consumption this year. A share that will reach 5.5% in 2012. An important result, though achieved with too much incentive. The challenges for the next few years: the grid, storage, and the management of module prices. Editorial by Gianni Silvestrini.


Italy has reached the threshold of 10 GW of solar PV, with over 270 thousand grid-connected plants. As a matter of fact, this figure has already been exceeded since the GSE website is reporting 9,950 MW of power and there is at least a one-month mismatch between the operator’s publications and the actual connection of plants. In 2011 Italy could be the first country for grid-connected power, while Germany continues to be a leader for cumulative PV capacity. This year Italian solar production will cover 3% of electricity consumption, while the German solar percentage was 3.5% in the first half of the year.

Here are a few considerations to see what percentage of national electricity demand will be met by solar power in 2012. At the end of this year about 13 GW will be connected to the grid, considering that 3 GW were connected in the first half of the year – excluding 3,700 MW of Salva Alcoa plants completed in 2010 and connected this year – and that a similar amount of power could be connected by December.

In 2012, the power installed is likely to reach 4,000 MW, considering 1,500 MW of large-scale plants that fall within the Registry. For the calculation of electricity generated, we are only counting half of the power installed next year. In 2012, thegrid should have about 17 TWh of solar PV, that is 5.5% of national electricity consumption and half the output of coal power plants.

Such a result was certainly achieved with too much incentive, only partially offset by the reduction in prices due to the role of photovoltaics in price formation at the Power Exchange. Now the real challenge concerns the grid. Photovoltaics grew rapidly against all odds. In Germany, in the middle hours of the last weekends in June, solar power (12 GW) equalled one third of total power. This is why one the main issues discussed at the 26thEuropean Photovoltaic Conference in Hamburg is storage and batteries. As well as the uncertainty among manufacturers due to the rapid decline in module prices that is forcing many western companies to stand on the defensive and that led to sensational cases, such as the failure of promising U.S. Solyndra

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