Germany plans to sell next-gen PVs to India

Germany, which hopes to make a comeback in the solar energy sector with a new-generation semi-conductors that replace silicon and increase the conversion efficiency of solar photovoltaic panels, is offering a €1 billion package for solar projects in India.

The new generation of semi-conductors with increased conversion efficiency (from solar irradiation to electrical energy) of solar photovoltaic panels, reduces the land requirement in countries such as India.

With China having emerged as the largest manufacturer of solar PVs, Germany hopes to sell integrated assembly lines for the manufacture of PVs. This could include thin-film solar technologies, being worked upon as an alternative to the silicon-based solar PVs.

''China's large scale and low-cost manufacture of solar PVs has driven almost all German PV makers out of business,'' said Craig Morris, a journalist and writer on energy issues. ''Solar PVs are low-technology stuff, like making radios, so it was not surprising that this would happen,'' he said.

The Stuttgart-based Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW), which gets its funds from industry, and the state and federal governments, is working on increasing the conversion efficiency of thin-film solar cells. ZSW claims to have created a record in conversion efficiency – of 21.7 per cent in the case of cells made out of copper indium gallium diselenide. It is trying to increase this rate.

Researchers at ZSW said that this would further reduce the cost of solar PVs, but expressed worries over the intellectual property rights regime in China. A technology switch from silicon to other semi-conductors may prove costly and time consuming for China, some researchers said.

German business is also keen on exploring India as a market for LNG.

Peter Hohaus, policy advisor, political affairs and corporate communications, E.ON, a gas supplier in Europe which has a tie-up with Gazprom, has expressed interest in this regard. Hohaus also said that despite the tensions over Ukraine, gas supply to Europe had not been affected.

The Berlin-based energy expert said talks were still on for supply of Russian gas through Greece, besides active efforts to stream gas through the 'South Steam' and 'Nord Stream' routes.

A good return on investment can only be achieved if the PV system is working for 20 years with only minor degradation, say experts. Much would also depend on feed in tariff conditions and the terms of investment and finance, they add.