Published on October 28th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan1
Interview With COO Of Activ Solar, 3rd-Largest Utility-Scale Solar Developer In World (CT Exclusive)
Following up on two articles about my tour of Activ Solar’s Perovo Solar Power Station in Crimea, Ukraine, below is a lengthy interview with the COO of Activ Solar* that I found particularly interesting and fun to conduct. Activ Solar is currently the 3rd-largest utility-scale solar developer in the world (in terms of installed power capacity of solar power plants), but it is actually just 1 MW behind the #2 utility-scale solar developer, Juwi Solar — so, really, we may as well say they’re tied. First Solar has a clear lead at #1.
In 3 parts (because YouTube didn’t want to let me publish a video that was longer than 15 minutes), here’s the interview with Activ Solar COO Dr. Johann Harter, followed by some of the key points from the interview in bullet-point format:
- Activ Solar first got into the Ukraine market when it invested in a polysilicon manufacturing plant there.
- Ukraine’s subsequent green tariff (feed-in tariff) for renewable energy gave a strong advantage to solar power plants that used locally produced components. At that point, Activ Solar decided to start building utility-scale solar power plants in Ukraine that utilized solar panels containing its polysilicon solar cells.
- The founding director and CEO of Activ Solar, Kaveh Ertefai, jumped into the solar industry, from the banking industry, because he saw solar as “the next hot market.” While there’s a lot of misinformation out there aimed at attacking solar power and downplaying its potential, I think that anyone familiar with the energy industry (and not in complete denial) should know that solar is the future.
- Ukraine’s green tariff for utility-scale solar power plants has been a big reason why so much solar has been developed in Ukraine, but as the cost of solar has come down, the green tariff rate has also logically been reduced. (Details are included below this bullet-point list.)
- Ukraine’s green tariff is a very unique type of feed-in tariff (FiT). The period of the tariff is through 2029, and anyone who develops solar projects gets paid the guaranteed rate for electricity they produce up through that year. This defers from the common 15- or 20-year payment period system that is used in other countries with FiTs. Clearly, this has encouraged people to develop solar power plants asap.
- Also, the Ukraine FiT doesn’t have quotas (many other countries with FiTs do). In countries where there are quotas for FiTs, development is limited by the legislation/government, whereas the system in Ukraine allows as many solar power plants to take advantage of the FiT as developers are inspired to build.
- Ukraine’s FiT has historically benefited utility-scale solar projects to a great degree but not residential or commercial solar projects. The policy was updated in May to better incentivize smaller projects, and there’s expected to be a lot more residential and commercial solar developed in the country as a result. As Dr. Harter notes, Activ Solar is working on several commercial-scale solar projects (up to 500 kW in size) in order to take advantage of that.
- Activ Solar is now looking to expand into other regions. As part of that, it has a 3-digit MW pipeline of proposed projects in the US. However, Dr. Harter notes that the PPA market in California is very competitive right now.
- Dr. Harter sees energy storage, including home energy storage, as being a big future component of the energy market. He notes that low-cost home energy storage could be especially disruptive, perhaps dramatically changing the whole electricity market. He also noted the potential for electric car batteries to act as short-term storage for the electric grid or home solar panel stories, but that option does come with some complications.
- Dr. Harter also noted a potentially huge solar cell manufacturing development that I had never run across before. He noted the potential development of tool sets for manufacturing higher-efficiency solar cells. “This could take the efficiency of solar cells way beyond the 25%,” Dr. Harter noted.
- It was also exciting to hear Dr. Harter say that he thinks multi-junction solar cells are the way to go.
- He is also a strong believer in “thin film on silicon” as a potentially strong solar technology option in the future.
- Activ Solar power plants in Crimea have been very helpful in creating more energy reliability, energy security, and energy independence for the Crimea region and for Ukraine as a whole.
Julia Scherba of Activ Solar sent along some useful electricity and FiT stats for those of you who lose numbers. First of all, you can see official retail electricity prices in Ukraine here (in UA Hrivnya). But here’s a short summary in Euro cents from Julia:
a) For private households, in EURO cents for kilowatt*hour: 1.99 – 8.83 with VAT, depending on the monthly consumption and location/territory
b) For legal entities, in EURO cents for kilowatt*hour: 3.37 with VAT
c) For industrial consumers, in EURO cents for kilowatt*hour: 7.48 – 9.52 without VAT, depending on the voltage class (1st or 2nd correspondingly)
And here are the green tariff (FiT) rates:
*Activ Solar supported my trip to and around Ukraine, but the trip came with no stipulations as far as content on CleanTechnica. I simply asked the questions that interested me and am sharing the content that I think is valuable to a broad, global audience. Aside from Activ Solar, greencubator and Alternativa also supported my trip to and around Ukraine.