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Sat December 07 2019

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Research highlights potential of rooftop solar

31 Oct Research published this month claims that a quarter of Europe’s electricity needs could be met by rooftop solar energy installations.

The researchers looked at how technically feasible and cost-competitive it would be to install rooftop solar across the EU.
The researchers looked at how technically feasible and cost-competitive it would be to install rooftop solar across the EU.

The paper’s authors are from the European Commission Joint Research Centre and the European Institute of Innovation & Technology. They looked at how technically feasible and cost-competitive it would be to install rooftop solar across the EU. They have developed a method using up-to-date information about EU buildings quantify the available rooftop area for PV systems. Different datasets and sources are integrated to estimate the available rooftop area.

The paper, A high-resolution geospatial assessment of the rooftop solar photovoltaic potential in the European Union, was published this month on Science Direct. It claims that many EU countries can produce solar electricity at a lower cost than retail electricity prices by tapping into rooftops, making it a possible solution to achieve climate neutrality in coal-heavy regions such as Silesia. EU rooftop solar panel systems could produce approximately 680TWh of electricity annually, which is equivalent to 24.4% of the current consumption, it says.

The figures vary greatly from country to country. The paper estimates that the UK has a potential rooftop solar area of 771km2, an economic potential of 6,517GWh/year and that its economic potential share of consumption is 2.1%. The technical potential share is 14.4%. Cyprus, Portugal and Malta top the list with figures of 115.6%, 51.8% and 37%, respectively, for economic potential share.

Rooftop solar could help Poland – the EU’s largest consumer of coal - achieve its recently announced plan to triple its solar power capacities. As of 2019, only 10.9% of Poland’s energy is produced using renewables while 80% comes from coal. Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki has recently announced that the country is going to triple its photovoltaic capacities to 1.5 gigawatts.

Rafał Rzeszotarski, general manager of Poland-based Sun Investment Group (SIG), believes rooftop solar energy can help ease the transition to clean energy. “We are certain that implementing an otherwise virtually unused resource, the roof space of their real estate, to produce electricity can help companies to contribute to the reduction of environmental impact and save money in the long run,’’ he said.

SIG, one of the largest Central and Eastern European investors in solar power, has recently entered the market for individual corporate power purchasing agreements (CPPAs). Corporate clients will be able to incorporate solar power into their everyday electricity consumption without needing to install the panels themselves.

SIG covers the installation and maintenance of the solar power system while the client provides the real estate and agrees to purchase all of the generated energy for 25 years at a discounted rate that is below market value.

SIG said that ‘remote power plants’ are set to provide another viable solution for switching to clean electricity. Although not available for the public yet, this will allow any household to purchase a virtual solar power plant online, making renewable energy accessible for everyone.

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