Interview: Speaking off-grid with Phaesun

first_imgInterview: Speaking off-grid with PhaesunTobias Zwirner, MD of Phaesun GmbH, talks to pv magazine about last month’s Off-Grid Experts Workshop, held in Memmingen, Germany, between September 25-26. October 2, 2015 Ian Clover Markets Markets & Policy Share The World Speaks Off-Grid: the slogan that accompanied this year’s Off-Grid Experts Workshop – co-organized between Phaesun and Steca Electronik with Studer Innotec, SolarWorld and Morningstar as event partners – encapsulated the high-level discussions had by the 450 experts drawn from all over the world. There were 35 expert lectures held across the two days, covering everything from system sizing and monitoring technology to business model innovation and learning to work with the challenges posed by the solar market’s own travails. In between these lectures were a number of interactive workshops, 40 exhibitors and an endless stream of impromptu gatherings that highlighted just how complex and compassionate the sector is. Tobias Zwirner, managing director of event organizer Phaesun, shared his thoughts on this year’s event with pv magazine. pv magazine: What were the chief headlines to emerge from the Off-Grid Experts Workshop this year?Tobias: The main feedback from 2013 from the manufacturers, exhibitors and some of the guests was the suggestion to hold the workshop every two years. We have a relatively high proportion of African guests and it is quite an effort for many, in terms of visas, logistics and costs, to attend every year. Their suggestion then was to run the event every two years, and this has allowed us more time to develop different formats and generate new ideas. It has ensured a more relaxed show for everybody involved. For every workshop we develop a specific motto – this year’s slogan was “The World Speaks Off-Grid”. In that regard, this year we created a speech bubble platform where everybody was able to give their opinion about their experiences or advice in the off-grid business. So I suppose the main headlines to emerge from the workshop were concerned with solar PV, wind and hydropower for rural electrification, and solar water supply in the industrial and leisure sectors. What have been the key motivations behind this year’s Workshop?For the off-grid market, there is really no event that fits well specifically to this sector. EU PVSEC or Intersolar, the major events, are really big, so for the off-grid niche suppliers they are often scattered in the halls at these events and can be difficult to locate and engage with. Since a lot of on-grid solar players disappeared from the market, Solar Promotion has tried to group all of the off-grid players together, but even then we find that guests at these events are always in a rush. Off-Grid is too complex a topic to inform visitors to the booth in just 15 minutes. This is why we decided in 2010 to start our own event where the guests are filtered experts, and they have two days in a relaxed atmosphere to exchange all their knowledge and opinions. This is, and has always been, our motivation. How have technological advances over the past year played a part in moving the show forward?We have seen that off-grid solar technology fits much more closely to off-grid water and wind power than it does to grid-connected solar technology. There is also a trend in the development of complete or ready-made kits for the independent power supply, supported by more developments in the LED technology, which fits well in terms of the complete kits. There was also a trend to identify for kits with larger solar generators (above the Pico PV range) as well as we can see additionally a development towards much larger hybrid systems and more sophisticated system monitoring, which is ever more important in the off-grid sector. Based on feedback and responses from the Workshop, how important and complementary will improvements in storage and energy management software prove in the near future?Storage has always been the core of most off-grid systems, water pumping aside. But since solar module prices have fallen a lot, storage is now the most expensive portion of the off-grid solution, and this is where we are seeing development. There is now a wider variety in storage development, particularly with different lithium technologies. Price-wise, the older technologies are still dependent upon the price of lead, but lithium is the newer option for off-grid, and we are seeing already a price drop in lithium technology. And of course, monitoring technologies are becoming increasingly important, and there has been a definite improvement in these platforms. What were the key takeaways from Session 1b on day one: off-grid and grid-connected energy existing side-by-side?The major topics have been applications in the leisure market, including infrastructural topics such as street lighting and other illuminations outside, in the public space. Traffic was also a major topic, and for us the off-grid connect was very important. This is our only connection to the grid – it is grid parallel, it uses solar technology, and is more or less back up of the grid, supported by solar energy. It is most useful in regions with a weak grid, guaranteeing a continuous power supply, and you see it in cities in Africa and South America. The issue of system sizing was addressed in a training session on the first day. Could you talk a little about that session, and explain why it is so important to size systems correctly?This proved a highly interesting topic that attracted a number of different presentations. System sizing was one of the main presentation sessions, but it was also a popular topic at the speakers’ corner where guests were able to spontaneously give a presentation. Once these off-grid systems have become complex and customized, they must fit individual needs on energy, which can be as individual as humans themselves. There is a huge need for accurate system sizing, so we saw the development of really good system sizing tools. These tools are mainly a software platform; you have a checklist, list all your loads, calculate the kWh in total, enter all of the necessary parameters and the software can calculate just how large or small you need to make the system. This topic is always popular, and this year was no exception. Off-grid experts are always interested in improved software and easier handling of system performance. Can you describe what business model innovations were discussed during Sessions 4b on day two?We have seen that the typical rural electrification developments funded by donors have failed over the last few years because donations based on gifts are counter-productive. All you achieve is that people get addicted to these ‘gifts’, and donations become like drugs – you are just addicting the recipients to the next set of gifts. It takes away initiative from the local people. There is now a new trend, which we call BOSS – Business Opportunities with Solar Systems, where donations can be used as initial finance. This way you support entrepreneurs who can then pay back in installments initial investments that they receive, either from donors or micro-finance institutes. There we developed a lot of ideas, but the target is also there to give an initial idea as data for local entrepreneurs to develop their own business models. There have been big initiatives from GIZ, and even in the Alliance for Rural Electrification we have that as a main topic – the need to give local entrepreneurs opportunities. With all these refugees coming to Europe, it makes it the message of why we need to give local people opportunities by supporting entrepreneurs who are responsible for local development in rural areas ever more important. Without them, these regions see no business development. Do your guests from Africa bring ideas with them to the workshop, and if so, are these ideas taken on board?Yes. The conversation now is more of a dialogue and process of cooperation than it ever was. GIZ has long been working in Africa with great success, so the focus is more a new cooperative way to support the local initiatives, and focus more on getting local initiatives started, and the European guys can support this rather than going there like missionaries – this approach always fails. It was great to see at the workshop how well these exchanges are working – between different cultures and practices etc. With all these subsidies in the on-grid market there was a big hype, but the subsidies had that same drug-like effect – visitors to the major shows would be completely addicted, and once people are addicted, the reaction is that there is no creativity any longer. That is missing in the on-grid sector because many companies became paralyzed once this happened. So how has the off-grid sector been more proactive in this space?It was never subsidized, simply. All the drivers have been there from the beginning; it forces us to do our best to work in an unsubsidized, natural market. Our enemy is the donation culture, which damages the natural order and the efforts of entrepreneurs. Slowly we see that the small investments from the past are now growing. How are innovations in solar PV technology going to support the off-grid sector’s development?There are specific developments that are only for the off-grid sector. One of the winners of the Off Grid Experts Awards was the Universal Electricity Dispenser, which is a specific off-grid invention. We also see development in the plug and play solutions in the off-grid sector. We have some packages that are above Pico PV, so it is more or less the next step towards systems with a higher energy supply. In the past, these systems have been called solar home systems based on plug and play solutions, and are similar to Pico PV in that respect. We also see these monitoring systems that can work with different components from a whole range of suppliers, putting all system information into one IP software that shows the user a better overview of how their system is performing. Now you have had time to reflect on the workshop, what developments are you most looking forward to seeing in the off-grid sector next year?Beside Pico PV on one side and mini or micro grids on the other side a lot of developments will go into the productive use sector. One major topic will thus be BOSS, definitely, and also the monitoring sector will continue to evolve. We will also see a comeback of the classical solar home systems as plug and play products, with a bigger solar generator and more energy for the user.Popular content Enabling aluminum in batteries Mark Hutchins 27 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Scientists in South Korea and the UK demonstrated a new cathode material for an aluminum-ion battery, which achieved impressive results in both speci… ITRPV: Large formats are here to stay Mark Hutchins 29 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The 2021 edition of the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics (ITRPV) was published today by German engineering association VDMA. The re… Solar park built on rough wooden structures comes online in France Gwénaëlle Deboutte 26 April 2021 pv-magazine.com French company Céléwatt energized its 250 kW ground-mounted array, built with mounting structures made of raw oak wood.April 26, 2021 Gwénaëlle Debo… Spanish developer plans 1 GW solar plant coupled to 80 MW of storage, 100 MW electrolyzer Pilar Sánchez Molina 22 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Soto Solar has submitted the project proposal to the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (Miteco). The solar plant could start produc… We all trust the PV performance ratio test Dario Brivio, Partner 20 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The performance ratio test is at the core of the handover from EPC to owner. Yet sometimes, even when best practice is applied – and without particul… The Hydrogen Stream: 20 MW green hydrogen plant in Finland, two Australian projects move forward Sergio Matalucci 20 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Storegga, Shell and Harbour Energy want to set up a 20 MW blue hydrogen production facility in the U.K. Australia’s Origin Energy wants to build a hy… iAbout these recommendations Share Ian Clover Ian joined the pv magazine team in 2013 and specializes in power electronics (inverters) and battery storage. Ian also reports on the UK solar market, having worked as a print and web journalist in Britain for various multimedia companies, covering topics ranging from renewable energy and sustainability to real estate, sport and film.More articles from Ian Clover [email protected] Related content Optimization algorithm for vertical agrivoltaics Emiliano Bellini 30 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Developed by Swedish scientists, the proposed algorithm is said to calculate a project’s ideal design by combining clima… Graphene aluminum ion batteries with ultra-fast charging Blake Matich 29 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The “graphene revolution” is almost here. Australian scientists specializing in aluminum-ion batteries are now working w… The weekend read: China’s push for decarbonization Andreas Walstad 24 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The carbon market is finally a reality in China. After 10 years of delays, regional pilot schemes and general uncertaint… EU to offer expertise to drive renewables-friendly policy across Africa Cosmas Mwirigi 26 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The oft-heard industry call for more supportive policy for renewables, this time in Africa, has prompted the European Co… Submarine cable to connect 10.5 GW wind-solar complex in Morocco to the UK grid Emiliano Bellini 22 April 2021 pv-magazine.com UK-based Xlinks is planning to build 10.5 GW of wind and solar in Morocco and sell the power generated by the huge plant in the UK. Higher performance with bigger modules a ‘no brainer’ Sandra Enkhardt 26 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Jan Bicker, who replaced Steve O’Neil as the CEO of REC on March 1, says that one of his top priorities is the ongoing d… Optimization algorithm for vertical agrivoltaics Emiliano Bellini 30 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Developed by Swedish scientists, the proposed algorithm is said to calculate a project’s ideal design by combining clima… Graphene aluminum ion batteries with ultra-fast charging Blake Matich 29 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The “graphene revolution” is almost here. Australian scientists specializing in aluminum-ion batteries are now working w… The weekend read: China’s push for decarbonization Andreas Walstad 24 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The carbon market is finally a reality in China. After 10 years of delays, regional pilot schemes and general uncertaint… EU to offer expertise to drive renewables-friendly policy across Africa Cosmas Mwirigi 26 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The oft-heard industry call for more supportive policy for renewables, this time in Africa, has prompted the European Co… Submarine cable to connect 10.5 GW wind-solar complex in Morocco to the UK grid Emiliano Bellini 22 April 2021 pv-magazine.com UK-based Xlinks is planning to build 10.5 GW of wind and solar in Morocco and sell the power generated by the huge plant in the UK. Higher performance with bigger modules a ‘no brainer’ Sandra Enkhardt 26 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Jan Bicker, who replaced Steve O’Neil as the CEO of REC on March 1, says that one of his top priorities is the ongoing d… Optimization algorithm for vertical agrivoltaics Emiliano Bellini 30 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Developed by Swedish scientists, the proposed algorithm is said to calculate a project’s ideal design by combining clima… 123456Elsewhere on pv magazine… Cracking the case for solid state batteries pv magazine 29 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com Scientists in the UK used the latest imaging techniques to visualize and understand the process of dendrite formation an… MIBEL alcanzó nuevamente los precios más bajos de Europa mientras subieron en el resto de mercados eléctricos pv magazine 23 March 2021 pv-magazine.es En la tercera semana de marzo los precios de la mayoría de mercados eléctricos europeos subieron, mientras que MIBEL mar… Tasmanian Labor installs solar at the top of its campaign promises Blake Matich 8 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com Tasmania (TAS) is going to the polls on May 1, and the opposition Labor Party has put forth a $20 million plan to fund l… India closing in on 7 GW of rooftop solar pv magazine 13 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com India’s cumulative installed capacity of rooftop solar stood at 6,792 MW as of December 31, 2020, with 1,352 MW having b… Spotlight on Australian solar Bella Peacock 21 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com Calculating the average sunlight hours data from the Bureau of Meteorology from January toDecember 2020, Darwin was cro… Q&A: EEW’s $500 million Gladstone solar to hydrogen project is just the start Blake Matich 18 March 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com pv magazine Australia: Australia is the testing ground for a lot of different aspects of the future green hydrogen market. Cracking the case for solid state batteries pv magazine 29 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com Scientists in the UK used the latest imaging techniques to visualize and understand the process of dendrite formation an… MIBEL alcanzó nuevamente los precios más bajos de Europa mientras subieron en el resto de mercados eléctricos pv magazine 23 March 2021 pv-magazine.es En la tercera semana de marzo los precios de la mayoría de mercados eléctricos europeos subieron, mientras que MIBEL mar… Tasmanian Labor installs solar at the top of its campaign promises Blake Matich 8 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com Tasmania (TAS) is going to the polls on May 1, and the opposition Labor Party has put forth a $20 million plan to fund l… India closing in on 7 GW of rooftop solar pv magazine 13 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com India’s cumulative installed capacity of rooftop solar stood at 6,792 MW as of December 31, 2020, with 1,352 MW having b… Spotlight on Australian solar Bella Peacock 21 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com Calculating the average sunlight hours data from the Bureau of Meteorology from January toDecember 2020, Darwin was cro… Q&A: EEW’s $500 million Gladstone solar to hydrogen project is just the start Blake Matich 18 March 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com pv magazine Australia: Australia is the testing ground for a lot of different aspects of the future green hydrogen market. Cracking the case for solid state batteries pv magazine 29 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com Scientists in the UK used the latest imaging techniques to visualize and understand the process of dendrite formation an… 123456 1 comment Pingback: » Africa celebrates continent’s exceptional solar achievers at inaugural AFSIA Solar Awards – pv magazine Internationalsolarequipmentinstaller.comLeave a Reply Cancel replyPlease be mindful of our community standards.Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *CommentName * Email * Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. By submitting this form you agree to pv magazine using your data for the purposes of publishing your comment.Your personal data will only be disclosed or otherwise transmitted to third parties for the purposes of spam filtering or if this is necessary for technical maintenance of the website. Any other transfer to third parties will not take place unless this is justified on the basis of applicable data protection regulations or if pv magazine is legally obliged to do so.You may revoke this consent at any time with effect for the future, in which case your personal data will be deleted immediately. Otherwise, your data will be deleted if pv magazine has processed your request or the purpose of data storage is fulfilled.Further information on data privacy can be found in our Data Protection Policy.iAbout these recommendationsiAbout these recommendationsKeep up to date pv magazine Global offers daily updates of the latest photovoltaics news. We also offer comprehensive global coverage of the most important solar markets worldwide. Select one or more editions for targeted, up to date information delivered straight to your inbox.Email* Select Edition(s)*Hold Ctrl or Cmd to select multiple editions.Tap to select multiple editions.Global (English, daily)Germany (German, daily)U.S. (English, daily)Australia (English, daily)China (Chinese, weekly)India (English, daily)Latin America (Spanish, daily)Brazil (Portuguese, weekly)Mexico (Spanish, daily)Spain (Spanish, daily)France (French, daily)We send newsletters with the approximate frequency outlined for each edition above, with occasional additional notifications about events and webinars. We measure how often our emails are opened, and which links our readers click. To provide a secure and reliable service, we send our email with MailChimp, which means we store email addresses and analytical data on their servers. You can opt out of our newsletters at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of every mail. For more information please see our Data Protection Policy. Subscribe to our global magazine SubscribeOur events and webinars Out with the old… A guide to successful inverter replacement , pv-magazine.com Discussion participantsRoberto Arana-Gonzalez, Service Sales Manager EMEA, SungrowFranco Marino, Regional Service Mana… Insight @ Energy Storage North America 2020 11 November 2020 pv-magazine.com Developed and moderated by pv magazine, the panel sessions address a hot topic within the industry, from multiple angles. Grid code compliance in megawatt projects 27 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Discussion participantsEhsan Nadeem Khan, Grid Code Compliance Engineer, meteocontrolModeratorsMarian Willuhn, Editor… iAbout these recommendations pv magazine print The feasibility of India’s auctions Uma Gupta 7 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The offtaker’s creditworthiness, the ease of land acquisition, infrastructure readiness, policy consistency and clarity,… Dynamics driving insurance costs pv magazine 7 April 2021 pv-magazine.com While utility-scale solar assets are surging in popularity with investors, there are a number of emerging challenges tha… The more you know Marian Willuhn 7 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Module-level power electronics, most often in the form of power optimizers and microinverters, offer a range of value pr… A deeper understanding of LeTID Jonathan Gifford 7 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW) has built a reputation for strong collaboration with the PV industry, f… Korea shifts into top gear pv magazine 7 April 2021 pv-magazine.com There is a fresh sense of urgency and common purpose in South Korea toward combating climate change. In 2021, government… PV feed in, certified pv magazine 7 April 2021 pv-magazine.com As more renewable energy capacity is built, commissioned, and connected, grid stability concerns are driving rapid regulatory changes. iAbout these recommendationslast_img read more