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    Solar

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Germany

What is Solar Energy in Germany?

Germany, despite being a sun-drenched country has been considered as one of the highest solar power outputs around the world and still possesses the most advanced and latest research about solar energy and has many new industry actors. Moreover, they’re expecting for the second wave of solar power expansion, which will soon bring success and progress for the solar technology’s full systemic integration.

For several years, Germany has been considered as the world’s top PV installer among other countries. At the end of the year 2016, Germany managed to build a total installed solar power capacity of 41.3 gigawatts (GW) which was behind China’s solar capacity.

Most solar power in Germany exclusively consists of photovoltaics (PV) systems only. Germany has only a little interest in concentrated solar power (CSP) for it does not use photovoltaics and this solar technology requires much higher solar insolation as compared to the PV system. However, there is still an experimental CSP-plant with 1.5 MW capacity which is being used solely for on-site engineering purposes only rather than for commercial electricity/power generation. This concentrated solar power is called the “Jülich Solar Tower” that is owned by the German Aerospace Center.

Moreover, in 2014, Germany managed to install about 1.5 million photovoltaic systems across the country which are ranging from small rooftop solar power systems to medium commercial and large utility-scale solar plants and farms. The largest solar farms of Germany are located in Neuhardenberg, Templin and Meuro with solar capacities of over 100 MW. Moreover, these PV technologies were accounted for an estimated 6.2 to 6.9 percent of Germany’s net electricity generation in the year 2016.

However, new installations of photovoltaic systems have slowed down steadily since the beginning of the year 2011. Also, it was estimated in the year 2017 that over 70 percent of the employment in the solar industry of the country have been lost in recent years. Solar power in Germany has gone through rough times since it has been started in the wake of Germany’s Renewable Energy Act in the year 2000. However, German companies quickly loomed to global leadership in solar power technology before a collapse in the solar industry happen and some of the companies were forced to hold their businesses.

Proponents from the Photovoltaic industry blamed the government for its lack of commitment in the said industry, while others point out that the loss of jobs in the solar sector is due to financial burden that was associated with the fast-paced launching and manufacturing of photovoltaics, which in their perspective was very unsustainable to the transition of renewable energies.

With all of these, still, the official governmental goal of Germany is to continuously improve and increase the contribution of renewable energy to the country’s overall electricity generation and consumption. By 2020, Germany is aiming for a long-term minimum target of 35 percent capacity, 50 percent by 2030 and around 80 percent power capacity by the end of 2050.

Currently, the country is significantly producing more electricity at specific times with high solar irradiation than the country’s needs, slowing down spot-market prices and exporting the country’s electricity surplus to nearby countries. In 2014, the record of exported electricity surplus reached almost 34 TWh. The decline of spot-prices in the market may raise the electricity prices for retail customers, as the expansion of the guaranteed feed-in tariff and spot-price increases as well.

As the combined share of fluctuating wind and solar energy is nearly achieving 17 percent of the national electricity mix, energy issues and problems are also being prevented and others becoming more manageable. This is because of the electrical grid adaptation, new grid-storage capacity construction, reduction of fossil fuels, altering of nuclear power plants and constructing a new generation of combined heat and power plants. Today, nuclear power and brown coal are the cheapest suppliers of electricity in Germany.

Electric Breaker

Electric Breakers

When installing a solar panel system, you have to be familiar with the electric breakers and how it works with a solar PV system to avoid future electric problems. The electric breaker is one of the main components of a solar power system that provides safety mechanisms. If ever the electrical wiring of your system has too much current flowing through it, these breakers can easily cut the power until your solar installer can fix the system’s problem. 

For today’s article, we will discuss electric breakers and their function in solar photovoltaic systems.

What is an Electric Breaker?

An electric or circuit breaker is an electrical switch designed to protect electrical circuits from damage caused by overloading of current or a short circuit. The basic function of an electric breaker is to prevent the current flow once protective relays detect a fault in the system. 

Although it is frequently interchanged with a fuse, which is the simplest Over Current Protection device (OCPD) in electrical circuits, a circuit breaker, is a much-evolved type of device that interrupts the current flow. The main difference between the two is electric breaker is resettable and the fuse is not. The fuse sacrifices itself while protecting the system to overheat, while the circuit breaker can withstand hundreds and thousands of operations. Another difference is that electric breakers are used with relatively higher currents. 

Components of Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker system is composed of three parts. These three components are the sensing system, relay, and the combination of contacts and the contact actuator. A sensing system is responsible for detecting an overload situation, while a relay is responsible for transferring the information to the switching arrangement, and the combination of contacts and the contact actuator. This electric arrangement is usually observed in power transmission and distribution networks dealing with very high currents, voltages, and powers. 

Circuit Breakers Calculation in Solar Panel Systems

When connecting circuit breakers to the PV system, you have to follow the recommended calculations to avoid future problems and damage to the entire system. The recommendations for using overcurrent protection devices including circuit breakers in solar modules against overloading conditions are given in IEC 60269-6 (volume 6 of IEC 60269-6) and also UL 248-19. 

For circuit breakers, IEC recommends a 20% and 25% margin in voltage and overload current. Most of the time, the ratings are specified by the solar manufacturers at given ambient conditions. If the temperatures exceed this given value, derating must be applied according to the manufacturer’s specifications. 

When it comes to breaker sizes for solar panels, NEC requires the breakers to be sized at 125% of the inverter’s rated output. So a 7680W inverter that outputs 240V, outputs 32A (7680W ÷ 240V = 32A). That requires a 40A breaker (32A x 125% = 40A).

Final Thoughts

If you owned a solar panel system at home,  you have to understand how circuit breakers work to prevent catching fires at home. These devices are one of the major components of the PV solar system as they protect the system wiring from getting too hot and accidentally catch fire if short circuits occurred. Thus, understanding the breaker itself and its proper calculations in the PV system should be done.