On June 20th, 1979, U.S. President Carter said, when announcing his solar energy Plan, the staggering quote: “No one can ever embargo the sun”. The latter is an inexhaustible source of energy that can be converted either directly or indirectly into electricity. Still, renewable sources of energy are part of the energy mix – are well into our lives, with solar energy at a prominent role.
This article will attempt to answer the following questions:
Is there a future for solar energy in the world of the energy transition?
It is a blessing that Greece is one of the sunniest countries on the European continent. The PV (Photovoltaic) park of Kythnos, created in 1983, was the first project of its kind to operate in Europe. According to the well-renowned site “OurWorldinData” based on the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Solar energy is the fourth form of energy that contributes to the country’s energy mix.
How do solar PVs work?
They are systems that convert solar radiation into electricity and people used them to electrify non-grid-connected consumption. Satellites, lighthouses and secluded houses traditionally use photovoltaics to power them. Photovoltaic power generation has a huge advantage in delivering its maximum power during the day when demand is highest. However, the keyword for the first and most critical disadvantage of PVs would be “during the day” and it has to do with a duck.
Have you heard of the “Duck Effect”? The duck curve—named after it resembles the animal—shows the difference in electricity demand and the amount of available solar energy throughout the day. Solar fills the market when the sun shines, then fades as power demand rises in the evening. As more solar PV is incorporated into the grid, the net load drastically reduces during the noon hours when the sun is shining. So, storage is the major issue! Clean and cheap electricity is abundant on a large scale, but production overlaps consumption.
Storage technologies could alleviate, and possibly eliminate, the hazard of over-generation. Batteries may be the solution to this kind of problem. The installation and production of solar panels may be cheap, but when it comes to batteries that aren’t the case. There are a couple of options such as lithium-ion batteries or flow batteries. But, are they feasible and long-term solutions? Pump hydro (already a project in Amphilochia looking for investors) and Hydrogen are some other (costly) options. However, further research and funding for new technologies have to keep going.
Concluding, it would be interesting to reflect on the latest updates from Greek reality. The country has developed 1 GW of solar in 2020 and has linked Crete (Greece’s biggest island) to the mainland grid. Furthermore, Help (Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies) announced that Greece has installed 792 MW of new PV capacity in 2021, but a respectable percentage of them would be linked to the grid in 2022 (!). Last but – certainly – not least, floating PV technology is making its first steps in the Balkan region and Terna Energy is going on with the realization of the first floating PV plant in the country, a 103 MW project on artificial lake Pournariou in the Arta Region. The environmental study is completed and according to statistics, a CO2 saving of 150,000 tonnes is expected. PPC Renewables shows also a keen interest in this technology.
Taking into account the energy transition and the war in Ukraine now is the time to shine for Solar Energy. Not only Greece but also the EU will enforce its energy security and gain energy independence.
Written by our Energy Analyst
Katerina has a Bachelor in Law from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and just completed her traineeship at a boutique law firm in Kolonaki, Athens. She is a postgraduate student of the MSc in Energy: Strategy, Law, and Economics at the University of Piraeus in the faculty of International and European Studies. Katerina would like to be a legal and policy advisor regarding energy transition and climate change. She speaks Greek, English, French, and Russian. She is keen on English literature and indie films.