Spotting solar systems

PV in Bavaria

I visited Genersys’ German colleagues last week and in the course of travelling through parts of Bavaria, I was struck by the amount of solar systems that I saw on German roofs. Generally farmhouses had large arrays of photovoltaic panels and homes had smaller arrays of solar thermal panels.

The picture shows a typical installation of a PV system. It is on the roof of a farm building and feeds electricity into the German grid at a higher tariff than the consumer pays.  South German farmers can afford the large capital investment, they have the large buildings to create the economies of scale and get a very useful return on their investment.

Homes tend to favour thermal installations, and they are financed by a two tier subsidy. The first tier is if the panels are used for water heating. The second tier is an additional subsidy if the panels are used for space heating as well as water heating.

The subsidy is paid on a per square metre of panel basis.

I do not know if Germany has got the levels of subsidy right or not. I suppose that there are flaws in their subsidy arrangements, but what is clear is that their subsidies are sufficiently strong enough to enable the casual visitor to spot solar panels on many German roofs, unlike a visitor to the United Kingdom, who will be lucky to see a single solar system in a drive or train journey across Southern England.