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Storage of solar power: The next big step towards an independent energy supply

For the conversion of his single family home, the Swiss energy and peace researcher Dr Daniele Ganser is relying on TRITEC solutions – on-site visual inspection and the visionary's convincing thoughts and considerations.

The sun provides energy in abundance. As do photovoltaic systems. The example of a PV system on a single family home shows: Especially in peak periods around noon time, more energy is generated than home owners will need. The excess power then flows into the grid of the local energy provider. Would it go into battery storage instead, the inhabitants of the house could use the solar power even when the sun does not shine much or not at all, namely at night.

During the conversion of his single family home in Dornach (SO), that had exactly been the consideration by Dr Daniele Ganser, head of the Swiss Institute for Peace and Energy Research. He accordingly called in company Allsol, which specializes in photovoltaics and solar thermal energy. Allsol installed, inter alia, a complete TRITEC system solution for the generation and storage of solar power.

The roof-integrated, aesthetically pleasing PV system with black solar modules was combined with an innovative photovoltaic storage device by KOSTAL. The system is designed individually to the family's consumption conditions. As of the year 2014, the Ganser family will largely have its own energy supply and directly use it optimally on location – and not only when the sun is shining.

TRITEC in an interview with Daniele Ganser, 25 November 2013

Dr Ganser, you are an energy and peace researcher; is the PV system on your roof sort of a field trial?

«Well, field trial sounds like it has never been done before. That's not so. Much rather, we have PV systems today which are tried and tested, which we know will work. Actually, it's like the hair drier we buy and just plug in at home. And it works. So my answer to your question: No, it's a proven technology today.»

What's your motivation to operate your own PV system?

«My objective is to make a contribution to the turnaround in energy policy and to produce renewable energy myself. The sun is the central source of energy in our system. Without the sun, there would be nothing going on down here on Earth. What's new is that human beings have learned to convert the sun's energy directly into power. That's a relatively new technology which has been in existence for only about 50 years. And now, it's affordable for normal home owners, and I'm very pleased to have a 60 square meter sized photovoltaic system on the roof of my house.»

In that respect, what exactly is the role played by the financial incentive of a cost-covering feed-in tariff?

«That had not been a decisive factor for me. Much rather, it was clear to me that I wanted to use renewable energies one way or another. I also have a 10 square meter solar thermal energy system installed on the roof to produce hot water. Additionally, I have a heat pump with a geothermal probe. That means I am also using renewable energy from the ground. And with a wood stove, I am using renewable heat energy from wood. But I do think that the cost-covering feed-in tariff is a good thing, it's important because it helps people. It's like a sort of bridge to the other side of a river. Because right now, we are on one side of the river; let's say, between exploding oil platforms and nuclear energy plants, and we don't quite know how to get to the other side. And that's where the Federal government will help and say: There now, you have the potential of taking another route – thus a concrete support for the installation of your PV system. And people gladly accept this assistance. But for me, that was not the crucial point.»

How did TRITEC support you in planning your PV system?

«I have known TRITEC already since my time as an energy researcher. I had observed what happened in the region here around and I had accompanied the company's CEO, Giorgio Hefti, in my research work to some extent. I had him show me where he is active and which systems he is building. And when I bought this house, it was clear to me that I will contact him first. He then provided very uncomplicated and direct consultations and also immediately suggested a good overall system which I have been able to realize now.»

You decided on a solar power storage unit. What do you expect from it?

«I think it's important that we find solutions to also store our generated energy. You know how it had been in the old days: When we felled trees in the woods, we stored the logs outside. Or when we mowed grass, it was stored as hay so that cows would have something to eat when they could no longer be out on the pasture in winter.

That's a really old concept, that thing about storage. And we also have to get it done now for the turnaround in energy use. Because that's really a challenge. We can produce solar energy while the sun is shining – and we are able to do so in large amounts. But at night, the photovoltaic system cannot produce any power. Since we also need electric energy at night, I can simply tap my storage battery. And in combination with my storage unit, I'd like to try to cover 24 hours of my energy demand and become as self-sufficient as possible, i.e. autonomous. A good thing about the storage unit selected by TRITEC: This KOSTAL storage unit is designed even for public grid power failures. We will be measuring now for one year: When do I need what type of power, and when is it ideal to have washer or tumbler running, when will the heat pump be running. Because I can flexibly plug in these major energy consumers. Finally, optimum load distribution would be ideal where I can fully use on my own my independently generated power. I believe I will even have an excess of energy at the end with my PV system.»

In your opinion, who should invest in solar systems?

«In my opinion, all Swiss citizens should invest in solar systems. Because we are now 8 million people here in Switzerland and if, let's say, 4 million of them were to become active, thus 50%, then something will simply happen. What we need to realize is that now, in the 21st century, it has become possible for the first time ever to generate, on our own, renewable energies on a really large scale. When I talk to people left and right – you know that I give many talks and I'm also working as an academic lecturer – so when I talk to my students, for example, they are 20 years old, they don't want any nuclear waste! They don't want any exploding nuclear power plants, and they also don't want to see TV coverage of oil spills or oil-soaked birds when yet another crude oil carrier accident caused maritime oil pollutions. Those students also don't want Gazprom riddling the North pole in their search for oil and all that. The war in Iraq and the war in Libya and climate change and the melting of glaciers – nobody wants that! That's a fact. But once you thought about it in-depth and thoroughly, you'll get to the point where you realize that you have to do something about it. There is this saying: Once you understand and do not act, you did not understand at all. And that somehow egged me on too: For a very long time, I had been working analytically, I collected huge amounts of data, I wrote books, I published trade journals; for a very long time, I had merely dealt with the topic just on scientific terms. And now, it's also a source of great satisfaction for me to implement all of that on my house in practical applications.»

Thank you very much, Dr Ganser, for talking with us.


Storage of solar power: The next big step