In Germany, solar panels thrive on balconies

Brandenburg (Germany), report

On Ingeborg Attar’s south-facing balcony, the flower boxes have a new partner: We fixed a solar panel outside the railing », describes the retired. Plugged into the balcony socket, the module converts sunlight into electricity and feeds directly into the apartment’s network. With a power of 300 watts, it should cover a large part of its basic consumption, from the refrigerator to the internet box, including all devices on standby. To take advantage of this, Ingeborg changed her habits: Now I run the washing machine and dishwasher best during the day when the sun is shining. »he said.

At 77, Ingeborg lives with her dog in a 46m apartment2 in a new building in Neuenhagen, a small town in the Land of Brandenburg, in the east. He pays 37 euros a month for electricity, but fears his bill will rise ; in Germany, the price of electricity increased by 70 % on average for a year. Thanks to her photovoltaic panel bought for 600 euros, Ingeborg hopes to save a fifth of its consumption, while participating in the fight against global warming. On his smartphone, he will soon be able to follow the production of his module live. For me, these little signs are the future »he is passionate.

At least 500,000 people have small solar panels. © Sebastian Mueller

Ingeborg was not the only one across the Rhine to think so. There is no need to call an electrician, there are no long administrative procedures: the simplicity of these solar self-consumption kits, which can be assembled by yourself, appeals beyond environmentalists. By the end of 2021, 190,000 households will be self-sufficient, according to a study by the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the energy crisis accelerated the movement: there are now 500,000, according to the platform that aggregates data from sellers. Even more so if companies are able to keep up with demand.confirms Christian Ofenheusle, the director of the site. But amid a shortage of semiconductors and the disruption of supply chains, stocks are quickly depleted. » Most of the modules are made in China.

Important household savings »

In his office at the consumer association Verbraucherzentrale in Brandenburg, Joshua Jahn recommends buying to all those who cannot install higher power photovoltaics on their roof »for financial reasons or because they are tenants — like 58 % German. If the balcony is well oriented, there is no shadow, and if the panel has the right inclination, it allows important savings for the householdassured the expert. Even more value if you are at home during the day, for example teleworking. »

According to him, the purchase will pay for itself in five to eight years. With two modules, at current electricity prices, you can save 240 euros per year », he calculated. The current that is not used immediately – or stored in the battery – goes to the local network: however it is not paid for, unlike larger installations.

This module will soon equip the balcony of a medical practice in Potsdam (Brandenburg).

According to a study by the Verbraucherzentrale published in 2020, 1 million mini-solar panels in operation could replace the production equivalent of a coal-fired power plant. Although it is small, the contribution of the solar balcony to the transfer of energy is worth takingJudge Joshua Jahn. In addition, it has a positive effect in terms of the acceptance of photovoltaics in general: people talk about it with neighbors. This is especially important in a traditional coal mining region like Brandenburg. »

In the first half of 2022, renewable energy accounted for 48.5 % of the German electric mix, compared to 45.5 % for fossil fuels, according to the Federal Statistical Office. Photovoltaics is at the heart of the country’s strategy, with a goal of 200 GW installed in 2030, compared to 100 GW in France in 2050.

Everyone has the power to generate energy »

In the hall of a business incubator in Berlin, the capital, Lisa Wendzich and Bryce Felmingham are unpacking some modules with their inverters and electrical cables. They entered the market last spring, offering, in addition to sales, information workshops and the composition of kits made to measure. I believe that the success of the solar balcony is mainly due to the fact that it is democratic: everyone has the power to produce energysaid Lisa Wendzich, director of the SunCrafter company. The Germans know a lot about this, they are even more convinced. »

Eckart and his son Kilian bought two modules to put in the garden of their house, here in discussion with Lisa Wendzich of the company SunCrafter.

On this September afternoon, ten people traveled ; half are left with one or even two solar panels. Everyone said it: the click, they got it with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We’ve been taking advantage of cheap energy for years, not realizing we’re dependentexplained Alexander, who planned to offer a module to his father for his birthday. This is Putin’s gift, but not only: for other fossil fuels, coal, oil, it’s the same thing. We trust countries that do not share our values. »

Nicole and Andreas, a couple of owners, saw the solar balcony as a first step ». If it’s good for us, we’ll invest in a bigger roof installation », Nicole assured. Is it a passing fad or a fundamental trend ? More and more cities are paying to buy modules in any case. In Heidelberg, in the southwest, average households receive up to 1,450 euros. In northern Germany, the Land of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will release 10 million euros from mid-October to help individuals equip themselves.

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