Erich Merkle of Gridparity: "Made in Europe is becoming increasingly important"

Erich Merkle of Gridparity: "Made in Europe is becoming increasingly important"

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Erich Merkle of Gridparity: "Made in Europe is becoming increasingly important"

How is the demand for glass-glass modules developing?

It's tremendous, we feel a lot of interest. I think, the reason is that we are offering real applications for PV. Actually, I started with Almaden to promote double glass modules more than ten years ago.

They are frameless, right?

Frameless and sometimes framed, too. But most of them frameless. And at that time we had a hard time to promote it because nobody really wanted to use them. Now there are field installations and roof installations. And we tell the people, okay, why don't you have a wonderful terrace covered with the modules where the light comes through? You can sit underneath and produce your own electricity.

We see a big demand for solar carports for charging electric vehicles...

Yes, the next step was going into such carports with transparent modules. First of all, they are safe. So we have a special test that they cannot fall through. So you need this test. This is important for all public use of modules in carports. And now we have in Germany, but also in some other countries already, the rule that if you have a large carport system, more than 30 parking spaces or so, you have to put a PV roof on top of it. Now, the standard carports with the PV roof, they are dark because they don't have transparent modules. With our modules, you have light, you have sun coming through.

See also: Hotel in Saxony-Anhalt meets customer demand with solar carport

Are there special demands for the carports?

We have developed some systems, especially for architects, who are the gatekeepers of PV. They told us, they have to put PV over parking lots. For instance, for a new clinic, where we have to build carports there. Then they saw our system and said: Wow, that is not ugly!

Carports need special mounting systems. What do you offer or prefer?

We have special columns made of steel, wood or aluminium. For the steel version we take gas pipes, because they're very strong. And we add a magnetic foil. You can choose the colour or printed foils to use the columns for marketing. You can change it in a minute. You just get it off and put a new design on. For example, for stores which want to promote their Christmas market. They just put the foil on.

And you offer the whole solution?

Yes, we offer the whole marketing system. It's a set the customer can set up himself. But we also offer the solution that we set up everything for large projects like we have now offered for a clinic with 180 parking spaces. Of course, they cannot build it themselves. So we go there.

What else can we do with semi-transparent modules?

For agriculture, for example. The advantage of such modules is, first of all, that the plants are protected. We have now an offer for a huge apple farm with 400 hectares. The farmer says that every two or three years he has a big hailstorm. The hail stones destroy around 50 per cent or even more of his apples. If you mount glass-glass modules overhead, the plants are protected. And within a few years, actually, from the loss you don't have, you can refund the solar installation.

How much light do the plants still get?

It's enough light for most plants. Some of the plants even grow better because they don't have all the UV light coming from the sun. It's protected, and rain is coming through. By the way, you also need less water because of the shade. You can minimise your irrigation with such applications. We started ten years ago in Egypt, where we built one system in Cairo and a second one in the Sinai desert. At the time it was too expensive. And the electricity was cheap. Now electricity is getting more and more valuable. And so, of course, the solar system pays for itself. And yes, you can put it over salads. You can put it anywhere. (HS/mfo)

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