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Post feed-in tariff futures for pioneer renewable plants: Small solar PV

The purpose of the Eilendorf project was to prove to the community that solar could work. The local group that set it up, Solarenergie-Förderverein Germany (SFV), was founded in 1986. They started out by showing a group of neighbours how a solar panel could power various household appliances, all the while serving up a constant flow of banana milkshakes from a solar-powered kitchen blender.

Early adopters say new prices aren’t enough to sustain their installation

The next step was to demonstrate that the solar electricity could be fed into the grid, and so the rooftop project was born. The SFV members financed it themselves with support of the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia and a permit from the city of Aachen. From 2000, their feed-in tariff was fixed at about 50 cents per kilowatt-hour (ct/kWh) for 20 years. This sounds high, but after paying off all their costs, including installation and dismantling, they were left with a total sum of 1,100 euros.

On 31 December 2020, the school solar project came to the end of its 20-year feed-in tariff allocation. The panels were still in good working order and could have continued in operation, but the market price for electricity is too low to make it affordable. The annual market price minus the marketing fee would leave them with just over 2 ct/kwh. The group decided this wasn’t enough to sustain the project.

Amendments to the latest Renewable Energy Act (EEG), which governs support for renewable energy installations in Germany, have made it easier for solar producers who have lost the feed-in tariff this year. The new legislation has relieved solar plants under 7 kilowatt-peak (kWp) capacity of the obligation to install an expensive smart metering system. It has also expanded the number of solar plants entitled to produce and self-consume (“prosume”) without paying the EEG surcharge; this now applies to all installations under 30 kWp.

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