Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Photons, Germany and the EEG/FiT - Plus Thoughts on Germany

Photon Consulting is the smartest kid in the Solar Analysis class. They are the only consulting house that deserves any respect - by respect I mean, when you think they're wrong you need to take a moment and think again. They will smoke you.

Perhaps there's something about using the term Photon in your moniker because the folks at Photon Magazine also deserve props. Their managing director Anne Kreutzmann is the only one I know of within the PV community who has openly spoken out against the current FiT structure in Germany. She has said the obvious. Hey guys look... The FiT is set higher than it needs to be. This high FiT is going to result in a lot more installed capacity than what has been planned for. There are two options. Option 1. Let the FiT stay where it is and apologize in the aftermath Option 2. Recognize that the FiT is too high, control it and suffer a slightly lower growth rate. Option 2 is much better because it gives the PV industry more control over its destiny.

Option 2 points towards sustainability. Sustainability jargon gets thrown around in a lot of smelly ways but the core idea behind "sustainability" is balance. Balance is something the PV industry needs in a big way. There is much too much snake oil and slick-shit advertising these days.

Thoughts on Installation costs in Germany

Many companies have claimed they have some sort of quick snap or stick on technology that lowers installation costs. That's great press but it needs to be examined. We should ask two basic questions.

Question 1: What is the underlying installation cost assumptions of these companies? Question 2: What trajectory are installation costs actually on?

Answer 1: The general assumptions are $1/Watt in installation costs. This is currently a reasonable assumption for the US.
Answer 2: No one knows for sure what installation cost will be in three years but it's a fair assumption to expect the trajectory of installation costs to follow Germany's example. That means installation should fall from $1/Watt to around 40 cents/watt.

The upshot here is all these fancy technologies that claim to lower installation costs are assuming much higher installation costs than we can reasonably expect in the future. To put it another way, a 25 cent/Watt mounting structure that saves you 50% on installation labor will not be competitive for much longer.

I'm not saying all these technologies that claim to lower installation costs are bunk. Just pointing out the obvious trend in installation costs that we're seeing in Germany and how this will project into future markets.

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