Academics are working tirelessly to facilitate the development of renewable energy technologies and to advance knowlege on issues of policy. This week we interview Ralph Gottschalg, who is heading up the PV2025 project. An initiative based in the University of Loughborough, which aims to answer a number of questions relating to the development of PV, and how geography, legislation and social factors might impact on the costs and benefits to the country.
1. The project has received big interest from the UK PV industry, do you think this is symptomatic of a desire for a more considered analysis of what is required for successful growth in the UK PV sector?
We have been very lucky with the industrial as well as governmental interest we have received. This is very symptomatic as the overall interest in an analysis of the impact of photovoltaic is growing very quickly. The market is maturing and this involves more involved analysis of PV performance related issues.
2. One of the stated purposes of the project is to overcome current simplicities in the understanding of the UK’s grid infrastructure, in what ways do you believe our current understanding of this infrastructure to be insufficient?
The enhanced understanding will be in the space and time resolution of photovoltaics on the grid. Currently there is limited knowledge of the impact of a weather front moving over the UK and when people speak about a ‘sunny’ day, they assume the entire UK being sunny and the overall impact is always estimated in all systems being on and off at the same time. This is not the case and thus the risks of photovoltaics may be somewhat overestimated. There also is a lack of understanding of the ramp time involved in a weather front moving over the UK, i.e. how quickly is PV power reduced or increased on a national level. This is important for managing the mix of generation being operational at any given time.
3. At this stage what do you see as some possible outcomes of your research? In what ways and for which agencies could the data be of practical use?
The outcomes will come relatively quickly. Starting with a mapping of actual PV generation to locations in the early parts of the projects to regional generation profiles and impact on national transmission in the middle of the project. The data will be useful for agencies government organisation and organisations managing the grid. In certain scenarios, e.g. if the time of generation becomes important or external agencies may impose maximum generation, the models will allow a financial optimisation taking into account the state of the grid.
4. More broadly, as someone who has been involved extensively in the technical aspect of PV where do you believe the next big leaps in PV technologies and efficiencies to come from? And in what form do you expect these to be?
Commercially relevant changes will be largely cost reduction and here the dominant factor is learning by doing and increased market size. There will be some increases in efficiencies, maybe from an increased number of manufacturers offering high efficiency silicon solar cells. I don’t think we will a step change in the industry but a steady increase in commercially achieved efficiencies and reduced costs. There could be some coupling with storage to increase self-consumption in domestic properties but first such a combined systems will need to reach grid parity (i.e. cost of energy equal or cheaper than that purchased from the grid).
We would like to thanks Mr Gottschalg for is participation in the Milk the Sun blog.