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    October 12, 2007 Volume 11, Issue 8       
I N · T H I S · I S S U E

FLANIGAN'S ECO-LOGIC

Euro-Perspective

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, EcoMedia
Berlin 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 group.

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, and culture.

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.
Frankfurt/Oder 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 us all.

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 adventure.

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.
Munich: Reunification and Oktoberfest!
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 Solar Systems
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!
Freiburg: Europe's 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 solar installation.
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.
Epilogue
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 platform.

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 future.

Special Thanks

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.
FOR
MORE
INFORMATION »
Germany's Feed-In Tariff:
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