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  Nr. 109 - November 2007
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Solar Energy: No Bill From the Sun

by Beate Beyer, November 2007
Times are changing. Renewable power has become a reality all over the world, and especially in Greece, since the pioneering law 3468/2006 which provides subsidies to renewable energy producers, mainly from photovoltaic and wind sources.

What does the Greek word photovoltaic (“fotovoltaika”) mean? Photo means light and volt (V) is a unit of electrical tension (voltage), named after the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta (1745–1827). Solar energy concentrated by photovoltaic panels on the roof is loaded into batteries that store the energy. A small inverter box then converts this electricity from 12V to 220V. This is the only equipment you need; you can install panels from 200 Watts up to 1kW or 1.5kW or even higher, depending on the requirements of your household, and even feed the power into the local grid.

So how much does this installation cost? I asked electrician Janis Vintzilaios from Technofos in Marpissa (see advertisement below). Janis has many years of experience working with solar energy companies in Greece and is familiar with the whole process of applications and subsidies for renewable energy producers. He has performed many photovoltaic panel installations on the island including at his own home, built in 2000. Depending on the conditions at the house (rooftop, distances to the batteries etc.), the average cost per kilowatt is approximately 6,000 euro (1.5 kW = 9,000 euro).

Solar energy is a lucrative way of investing in renewable energy, both for individual investors and companies. It is also a means of protecting nature and contributing towards avoiding the catastrophe of climate change.

You will have seen throughout this summer that the Paros Municipality put up 100 Greenpeace posters all over the island to remind us of climate change and the consequences to our atmosphere (see www.greenpeace.gr).

Greenpeace is one of the alternative energy producers in Germany, a country which already provides a lot of technology in solar systems but can not rely on the sunny days as we can in Greece – summer and winter.

Research scientists and engineers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Freiburg Germany have been working for twenty-six years with solar energy. They believe that by 2050 half of the worldwide energy requirements will come from renewable sources. Solar energy will certainly claim the biggest part of it.

In the photographs above and on the first page we see some examples of homes on Paros that operate exclusively on solar energy.

In 2001 the German family Pannenbaecker (see full interview in the German Corner – Deutsche Ecke – opposite), who already had experience in houses built with renewable energy systems in Germany, started building their summer residence with total autonomy in electrical power, providing 1 kW for their entire household requirements. This system is based on 8 roof panels needing only 8 m2 of the roof space. Four batteries (double the size of car batteries) and one small inverter box are placed in their storage room (apothiki). There is a windmill for use on cloudy days or in winter, completing the necessary energy sources.

So what electrical appliances do they use in the household? A water pump, two fridges, a washing machine, a mixer, a vacuum cleaner, a hair dryer, a stereo system, an electric screwdriver, a concrete mixing machine, a laptop computer and lamps in every room – all supplied by solar energy.

Mr Uwe Wandrey has a 200 Watt installation supplying his needs, including his internet connection. He also has a solar cooker which has a special parabolic mirror. The cost of his installation was about 1,000 euro.

Sculptor Gyp Mills, who has his house run by two 110 Volt solar systems plus a windmill, told me that the solar panels have a guarantee of 25 years!

At the Philoxenia Hotel in New Golden Beach the 10 kW solar energy system (see http://www.parosphiloxenia.com/html/photovoltaiks.html) has been producing 35% of the hotel’s summer energy needs since 1999. During the winter the surplus energy is fed back into the grid, though as yet this is not paid for, as the director of the Paros DEH (electrical company) Georgios Kaparos told me. The European project for investors and personal households offers for every kilowatt of “green” energy (wind and sun), which is fed back to the grid a payment up to 0.50 euro/kW. Unfortunately applications are not yet accepted on our island because, as Mr Kaparos told me: “We have to wait for the undersea cable from Lavrio via Syros. Paros currently provides electricity to nine other islands including Naxos, Ios and the small Cyclades. The electricity on the island is low cost energy, supported by the government. For sure we would like to integrate alternative energy producers, but technical reasons force us to be connected to the central Greek grid first, otherwise we risk blackouts all over the island if the promised energy cannot be supplied – for example when it is unexpectedly cloudy or during a storm when even wind energy can not be reliably produced.”

Mr Anastathopoulos, the General Manager of DEH Greece, promised during his recent visit to Paros that the island will be “cabled” to the mainland (Lavrio) in the year 2011. It is also possible that private investors could take over this cable investment, in order to “control” the energy market of the Greek Islands. This would certainly mean a big increase in electricity prices. We should think about investing in autonomous solar energy systems on our rooftops – not only for the hot water system which already provides many of us with hot water free of charge – but also for general household needs. We will never receive any bill from the sun!
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