Czech Republic facing new “rooftop PV” boom
Since February 2010, the Czech photovoltaic market had been closed, during the installation of a solar interconnection to the grid. After almost two years of solar misery, the Czech photovoltaic market was reopened as of 1 January 2012. It is incredible to see that, as of end of June 2012, over 12,000 new solar installations had been approved for grid connection and construction. It seems that the Czechs are “solar-hungry” and longing to have their own rooftop installations.
By Jaroslav Dorda, SolarniNovinky
Lengthy Solar Misery
From 2009-2010, the Czech Republic was flooded with hundreds of utility-sized ground-mounted PV parks spread all over the country. This has resulted in a huge solar boom in 2010 when the Czech Republic had the third highest PV installed capacity in the world, at 1200 kWp annually.
However, in February 2010, the CEPS (Czech Transmission Grid Operators) banned the interconnection of all new PV plants to the grid in the Czech Republic. The solar boom was thus constrained and ended. Since then, it has not been possible to interconnect even a 1-kilowatt PV installation, which is indeed ridiculous.
This "solar misery" has resulted in bankruptcy of many Czech solar installation companies. More than 4000 solar jobs were lost and the entire industry was further punished by a series of legal measures implemented.
2012: The Solar Boom is Back
This situation totally turned around as of January 2012. At that point, all three Czech power distribution companies (CEZ, PRE and E.On) decided to enable the interconnection of small new PV systems (up to 30 kWp) into the grid. The new rooftop solar boom kicked off in the Czech Republic.
Neither the regulator nor the power distribution companies expected that there would be such vast interest from people for new PV installations on the rooftops. The distribution companies have been flooded with requests of thousands of applications for new solar installations.
It is hard to believe that well over 2000 applications for new rooftop installations were filed to all Czech power distribution companies in January 2012 alone! As of end of June 2012, there were over 12,000 new solar installations approved for grid connection and construction. And the trend is continuing.
Strange attitude of E.On
The boom could in fact be much larger but it has been partly constrained by a somewhat strange attitude from the biggest distributors (CEZ and E.On) in the Czech Republic. These two distribution companies have denied many applications for grid connection due to bizarre reasons such as danger of collapse of local distribution grids.
It is rather fishy that E.On has no problems with the grid connection of thousands of PV plants in neighbouring Bavaria, whereas in the southern part of Bohemia, E.On has been rejecting many grid connection requests. On top of that, E.On started a new business in the Czech Republic in 2012, with a daughter solar company installing rooftop PV plants.
Lack of small inverters
Another peculiarity of the current Czech solar boom is a legal request from the largest distributor, CEZ, which insists that all new power plants with installed capacity of over 4,5 kWp must be equipped with 3-phase inverters. Most of the inverter producers (SMA, Fronius) were not advised of this and are still not producing the appropriate inverters.
Only Kostal, with its 3-phase Piko range, seems to have been able to meet the needs of today's Czech solar market. Its small inverters are extremely sought-after in the country, with the result that there is actually a lack of 3-phase Kostal Piko inverters on the EU market. Installers are often desperate since they must wait over two months for new deliveries from Kostal Piko to the Czech Republic.
Based on market research conducted with local installers and on the figures from the distribution companies, the total new PV capacity in the Czech Republic will grow by 100-120 MW in 2012. That figure is indeed surprising taking into account that the increment of new installed capacity was only six MW in 2011.
Next year, the FIT tariffs will be reduced by approximately 30% depending on the decision of the Energy Regulation Office, which will be officially published in November 2012. In spite of tariff cuts, the solar boom in the Czech Republic is very likely to continue in 2013. The reason is the fact that many people are building “island PV" or "hybrid PV" systems without any subsidies at all.
Jaroslav Dorda started his career as a power trader with CzechpolEnergy s.r.o./Cinergy Corp. in 1999. After spending six years trading power on German/Czech markets, he founded a private company that focuses on consultancy in the field of cost optimisation/reduction of electricity purchases for major end users of power in the Czech Republic. Since 2008, the author has been involved in photovoltaics - he is the owner of a small rooftop PV plant. In February 2010, he founded a specialized website - www.SolarniNovinky.cz dedicated to the development of photovoltaics both in the Czech & Slovak Republics.