I N · T H I S · I S S U E
We're behind, lagging behind Europe
in taking responsibility for environmental impacts. For past
three weeks I was traveling in the United Kingdom, Greece,
and Germany getting a strong sense of embedded personal and
corporate responsibility. The will of the public has caused
transformational policies - such as the German "Feed-In Tariff"
that was the focus of EcoMotion's German tour -- followed
by investments and programs.
Back to LAX for car shock: A new, sleek, black Land Rover;
a proud Hummer driver with a smug look. There's an explosion
of Smart cars in Europe that get 100 miles per gallon. Trains,
trams, and bicycles are preferred means of transportation.
Since being in Athens five years ago, it has built an impressive,
24-hour tram system, cleverly laced into the infrastructure,
taking automotive lanes and garnering preference switching
to move people efficiently.
This special issue of EcoMotion Network News is a travelogue
of EcoMotion's German Solar Research Tour 2007. Germany is
fulfilling its European Union commitment to carbon dioxide
reductions and energy sustainability. Wind predominates its
renewable proliferation, but policies have created the leading
solar industry. The tour delved into policy, research and
development, manufacturing, training, installation, and metering
dimensions of German photovoltaics.
California has a lot to learn. Far from complex set of solar
restrictions and limitations, Germany provides a clearly attractive
business deal for home owners, business owners, even farmers
that can more profitably harvest solar energy than traditional
crops. Keys to the Feed-In Tariff are simplicity and commitment.
Germans realize that they need to invest in catalyzing an
industry. It has to be attractive for the people. Through
incentives plus low-interest financing, and aggressive research
and development, Germany is bringing down photovoltaic system
costs to increase penetration. It's a remarkable success!
|"Your newsletter is compelling reading."
Keith Mesecher, San Diego
"Thank you, Ted, for a great leadership day!" Courtney Brittingham,
and the Policy Dimension
We began in Berlin, actually in the former East Berlin. A long
cab ride from the airport took us into an unsightly part of
Berlin, with graffiti on walls and many decrepit buildings along
the way. Our hotel was old and funky, a reminder of years past.
Nothing pretentious at all. No elevator. A section of town still
catching up to the west after 17 years of reunification. Later,
we were sorry to leave our new friends at the Hotel Adele that
had taken such good care of us.
Berlin Partner is the city's economic development arm. Housed
in a modem building designed to emulate an armadillo, Berlin
Partner attracts new businesses to Berlin and the surrounding
federal state of Brandenburg. Berlin still has excess real estate
and cheap labor. It's an attractive location for growing businesses,
and Berlin Partner offers impressive business incubator services
including salary subsidies, temporary housing, and mass transit
passes. The director of clean technologies, Roald Koch, welcomed
Our tour's opening seminar delved into the political climate
that enabled high levels of support for solar and other renewable
energy technologies. There's a clear link to economic development.
European Union funds support solar industries, especially for
businesses that locate in the former Eastern Germany. The Conergy
plant we'd visit the next day received a 40 million Euro subsidy.
Jan Knaack of the German Solar Industries Association spearheaded
an intereactive session on Germany's solar rise. The world leader,
having eclipsed Japan, is installing systems at a rate ten times
that of California.
We then headed to the historic Lehrter Station, rebuilt and
now known as the Hauptbanoff, main train station. It has six
levels of tracks. Sections of its roof are coated with thin
film photovoltaics, "building integrated" PV. This was our first
glimpse at German solar; we knew the vast majority has been
installed in the south, in the federal states of Bavaria and
Baden-Wurttemberg. We'd be there in a few days.
After fish and chips, we visited one of the City's most unusual
buildings, the Philological Library at Berlin's Freie University.
The Norman Foster designed structure - that looks like a brain
-- uses passive and active ventilation, daylighting bathes futuristic
work environments for students and faculty. Our group was struck
by the statement Germans are making about creating eco-conscious
- and net zero - buildings and even factories.
The Brandenburg Gate is surrounded by a bustling downtown, the
gate itself serving as a poignant backdrop for rock concerts.
How quickly the West has swept through Berlin and its divided
past. The historic Parliament has been modernized with a huge
dome that has a spiraling upward walkway for visitors to reach
its zenith. Throughout the City, cranes abound, signs of progress,
washing away a sordid past with creativity, vibrant commerce,
The group had had a big opening day, thirteen hours of meetings,
tours, discussions, a boat tour, and wonderful Spanish dinner.
We were off to a good start.
and Leipzig: Solar Scale
Early Tuesday morning and our train was heading east to the
Polish border to visit the new Conergy "Solar Module" plant.
After that, our plan was to back-track to Berlin, switch trains,
and head south to Leipzig for an afternoon tour of the world's
largest photovoltaic installation. From the train station in
Frankfurt/Oder we took a tram through town. The locals certainly
gave us a look.
A new tram stop had been specially built for the Conergy plant.
The factory will ultimately employ hundreds of locals; it will
also bring dozens of management positions to the region. Quickly
we suited up with shoes and hardhats. "Cameras off," we were
told. And from that point forward, each member of the group's
expression showed true awe. One member was admittedly giddy.
Conergy's 250 million Euro PV plant made a profound impression
Stefan Heyn guided us through its huge and brightly lit expanses
of clean white floors. Processes are largely automated through
advanced robotics, conveyor belts move products this way and
that, and there are lines and lines of ingot cutting, cleansing,
doping, sealing, and mounting, all spelling big-time production.
The plant had operated for only 30 days. When fully operational,
it will produce 200 MW of modules each year, about double the
capacity of annual installations in California. Thorough tour,
quick lunch, back to the train station, and off to the next
The fog was hanging low on the German forest. Thomas, our van
driver, guided his way through the countryside and forest, passing
old troop barracks, their roofs now rotting, but their form
in the dusk reminiscent of the last world war. We passed a lonely
guard gate; thankfully the EcoMotion tour was expected. Five
o'clock on a dark, misty evening hardly seemed right to visit
the world's largest solar installation.
The taxi turned towards a construction trailer off what had
once been a busy tarmac. Grasses grew between sections of aging
pavement. It wasn't cold, but the deserted former air base for
the Red Army had an uncanny feeling. Images of another era came
to mind. I could imagine clandestine flight activities. The
base reeked of history behind the iron curtain. Then we saw
a man in the distance.
Waldpolenz is a solar park of magnificent scale. Currently ten
megawatts are installed, made up of rows and rows of frameless
PV panels for as far as the eye can see in either direction.
Megawatt-sized inverter stations were spaced well over 200 meters
apart. When complete, Waldpolenz will generate 40 MW of power
at full capacity thanks to 550,000 panels covering an area the
size of 400 football fields.
Our impression was one of pure magnitude. Endless PV laid out
in rows of 5 kilowatt "tables." Our host, Ingor Rodner, had
left his job in residential construction to become a renewable
energy project manager for the "juwi group." He stunned us recounting
juwi's existing and rapidly expanding renewable portfolio. His
eyes sparked telling about managing the installation of six
megawatts of photovoltaics in four months. Thanks to the German
Feed-In Tariff, the juwi group has turned obsolete air bases
into PV farms. Twenty-year leases match 20-year incentives.
Dinner at Leipzig's "prettiest beer garden," a great little
pub despite the heavy cigarette smoke. Traditional fare plus
a few steins were followed by a facilitated reflection. We'd
seen remarkable scale that day. Far from the days of solar with
lone installers ahead of their time, solar is in the mainstream.
Big and traded companies are in the market, a sophisticated
industry. This is what we've dreamed about, but to some on the
tour it felt alien and somewhat out of control.
Wednesday, Germans celebrated the 17th Day of German Unity,
when the two countries were reunited and the wall was torn down.
The holiday gave us a respite. We'd hit is hard for two days.
Now a long train ride south to Bavaria on an Inter City Express
(ICE) train provided time to rest, reflect, and chat. We got
to Munich by early afternoon, in time to visit Bavaria's biggest
Oktoberfest, just a fifteen-minute walk away.
|Russell and Susan
near an ICE Train
|Stuttgart and Advanced
ZSW is one of Germany's leading laboratories for solar system
research, notably thin films. We were met by Maike Schmidt who
is heading up the national evaluation of the German Feed-In
Tariff. The bottom line is straightforward: Attractive subsidies
combined with major R&D efforts are getting results and are
driving down costs. Germany has created a new and thriving industry
- dozens of new factories, over 5,000 installation companies,
and some 40,000 jobs -- and there's lots of potential for expansion
as solar still only provides 0.3% of national electricity production.
Hansjorg Gabler directs ZSW's solar research and has an obvious
passion for his work. "What do you want to know?" he asked me
at lunch. He'd joined the alternative energy movement after
nuclear activism in the seventies, determined to find solutions
to craft a more rational energy future, particularly for the
developing world. He noted that 730 Chinese villages are powered
by solar systems; his institute has helped bring 200,000 solar
modules to Kenya. His work at ZSW is about advancing sustainable
technologies, notably through research and development in photovoltaics
and hydrogen production. We saw clean rooms where depositions
on substrates hold promise for increasing the conversion efficiency
of thin films. Gabler noted that thin films may reduce the silicon
raw material from 10 kg per kilowatt of capacity, to as little
as 0.2 kg/kW. ZSW and other German research institutes spin
off solar technologies to industry. Bernhard Dimmler was a former
ZSW employee, now working for Wurth Solar to commercialize new
thin films. He covered the spectrum of thin film options and
their status on the path to commercialization, from cadmium
telluride, copper indium diselinide (CIS), and amorphous silicon
modules. While the CIS average production efficiency is 11-12%,
the world record is 19.5%, well above the average 12-16% efficiency
of mono-and poly-crystalline cells.
We then visited DLR, the German Aerospace Center, to explore
parallel developments with solar thermal technologies. Our presenters
reviewed options for high temperature conversion systems, like
trough collectors (SEGS), solar towers, and huge concentrating
dishes powering Stirling engines. At the nearby Institute of
Stuttgart, we clamored about the roof examining sophisticated
testing of solar thermal panels. We were exposed to an interesting
solar technology based on storing massive amounts of hot water
in underground tanks. Unlike common solar thermal system, these
are for seasonal storage!
Leading Sustainable City
|Group dinners each night, always in local
haunts alive with local colors, sounds, and tastes, provided
time to wind down and share impressions. We constituted a diverse
group of perspectives, including city and utility officials,
contractors, trainers, and investors. Each of us was going through
an eye-opening experience, reflecting on Germany's policies
that spawned a new industry. We left Stuttgart early, barely
sidestepping an unusual German rail operators' strike by jumping
on a French TGV headed towards Paris. Just before the French
border we switched trains and headed south to Freiburg.
Flowers on the train platform there were among my first impressions
of Europe's leading sustainable city. Thank God for luggage
wheels! We walked a few hundred meters past an 18-story building
with an entire fašade of PVs, to the Hotel Victoria, Freiburg's
greenest hotel featuring 100% renewable energy. Real-time meters
in the lobby tracked daily energy production from 60 kW rooftop
solar systems. The hotel staff welcomed us and provided tram
passes for us all. We were quickly off to the Fraunhofer Institute.
We were honored that its director, Dr. Eicke Weber, hosted our
group. His remarks on the value of Germany's solar and wind
emphasis, gave the group yet a deeper understanding of how a
nation can become a leader in the renewable space. His 600-person,
40 million Euro/year institute is largely project funded, causing
leading scientists to compete for precious few positions, forcing
creative solutions that are "close to market." He described
the Institute's research with clustering imperfections in semiconductors
to increase cell efficiencies.
Weber underscored the threat to the climate stability that has
marked the Holocene era for the past 10,000 years. "Will we
destroy the stability of the Holocene?" he questioned. His focus
is solutions: PVs have come a long way since their initial development
at the Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey in 1954. Solar is
integral to a "regenerative energy mix," with the sun delivering
the total annual use of energy by humans every hour.
Weber's deputy, Volker Wittwer, gave us a tour of the institute,
covering the history of PVs and cells that have been developed,
researched, and considered. We saw phase-change windows, solar
air conditioning, and hydrogen research. After lunch, we took
the tram to a seminar at the European Secretariat of the International
Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). There,
Director Gino Van Begin welcomed us, explained ICLEI's growing
stature given aggressive EU goals for climate protection, prior
to exchanges and presentations on Solar Santa Monica and Solar
Energy International's training activities.
Jurgen Hartwig guided us for the rest of the afternoon. An architect
and sustainability advocate, he led us directly to Freiburg's
"solar village" where all homes have solar systems, natural
ventilation, heat recovery systems, bicycle "garages," and community
gardens. We discussed the concept of Energy Plus homes that
generate more power than they require. A nearby tram station
makes car ownership unnecessary. Only 30% of Freiburg's residents
use cars for commuting.
Hartwig took us to the famous "heliotrope" house, a stick-built
barrel home that tracks the sun for passive gain, adorned with
a 6 kW PV system. We visited a solar car park and then Vaubon,
a Freiburg neighborhood where walking and biking paths are wider
than roads, and where trams glide over grassy areas. Solar systems
abound and schools offer their rooftops to anyone who wants
to install a solar system.
We jumped another tram to the main train station to check out
the City's iconic bicycle center, a distinctive round bicycle
parking structure, its modern-day copula made up of transparent
photovoltaics. The facility features a bike repair center -
just drop off your wheels for the day for any required service
- plus short and long-term parking and rentals. A former tram
bridge now is for bicycles only, providing a clear shot for
bicyclists "jamming" to catch a train to other cities, many
heading to their jobs in nearly Basel, Switzerland.
Late in the day, we visited one of the City's two solar training
institutes, where plumbers and electricians learn the nuts and
bolts of PVs and solar thermal systems. It had been another
long but fulfilling day; our group met in a local brew pub to
toast our exploration.
The next morning, only a few of us rallied for yet another site
visit. This time a Media Market, like a Circuit City, to examine
the Gisinger Solar Park. Robert Vogt - a racking provider -
explained that the owner of the building needed a new roof,
and coordinated the construction of a new roof with a 181 kW
The panels were produced by SolarFabrik in Freiburg's "net zero"
PV manufacturing facility. We saw vestiges of installation party,
and then hit the roof to examine an ingenious new slip-in racking
system, sophisticated monitoring equipment, and rows and rows
of glistening panels. The building owner was using the PV installation
to pay for his new roof, and then some.
| EcoMotion's German Solar Research Tour
was informative and stimulating. It was also exhausting. A closing
slide show revealed how much we'd seen. We'd traveled from the
Polish border to the Black Forest region bordering France and
Switzerland, slept in five different cities. The group had made
12 solar site visits, heard 9 lectures, participated in two
seminars, ridden on 11 trains, taken 53 taxis, plus traveled
by bus, boat, and often on foot, all while tasting the best
of the local culture!
Foremost, the tour participants saw how a nation has taken a
leadership position. In Germany, solar is not measured based
on narrow views of cost effectiveness, but instead is part of
a deep cultural and values-based perspective. Solar not only
generates power that feeds into a grid once dominated by coal,
but is a driver for economic development and a sustainable energy
Germany is making solar profitable for homeowners, developers,
property management companies, and investment groups. As a result,
Germany now leads the world in solar production. And other countries
are following suit. The Feed-In Tariff is being emulated in
Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Spain, South Korea,
and Ontario, Canada. Clearly the model is working, worthy of
careful examination. Our participants saw and felt this leadership
first hand, a glimpse into an enviable and sustainable energy
EcoMotion is cognizant that the success of the German Solar
Research Tour was a function of extensive networking and cooperation.
In particular, Tiffany, Russell, Virginia, and I thank the following
people for their conviction to international exchanges and for
their participation and generosity: Reiner Aringhoff, Mario
Arreola, Reiner Buck, Terry Chan, Bernhard Dimmler, Lars Falck,
Stephan Fischer, Skye Flanigan, Sierra Flanigan, Hansjorg Gabler,
Brandi Gunn, Jurgen Hartwig, Stefan Heyn, Phil Jessup, Sophia
Johns, Cully Judd, Jan Michael Knaack, Roald Koch, Wolfram Krewitt,
Joe Krueger, Ole Langnis, Gaelle Laurian, Marcus Maedl, Janette
Monroy Moreno, Susan Munves, Elmar Neiworth, Katja Newe, Clark
Nicholson, Astrid Odenbach, Maren Overkamp, Danyel Reiche, Wilson
Rickerson, Ingor Rodner, Maike Schmidt, Kristin Seyboth, Mark
Shiralau, Glenda Singer, Gerhard Styri-Hipp, Beate Suppinger,
Gino Van Begin, Maryke Van Staden, Robert Vogt, Nicholas Wagner,
David Wallerstein, Eicke Weber, Johnny Weiss, Volker Wittwer,
Kirsten Wolfrath, and Carola Zulch.
The Results Center Case Study #127
Due to be released November 1, 2007.
EcoMotion's 2008 Spanish Renewable Energy Research Tour.
Contact Tiffany Tay at EcoMotion:
(949) 450-7106 or TTay@EcoMotion.us