The German online TAZ here reports on Spain’s solar energy industry debacle in an article with the headline:
Botched Spanish Solar Roofs
Yet another example of the havoc governments can cause by excessively interfering in the free market (with the best intentions of course).
The boom was great – while it lasted. Solar panels flew onto the roofs of buildings faster than you could make them, and companies couldn’t keep up with the demand.
The very leftist TAZ writes that in 2008, 2600 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity were installed in 9 months alone. Why so much? Because buyers wanted to take advantage of the generous feed-in subsidies paid to solar panel operators, guaranteed for 25 years, before they expired. Unfortunately, quality and reliability took a back seat in the mad rush for gold. Today, everywhere there are signs of shoddy quality and poor function with the installed solar systems.
The boom turns into a fiasco
And now two years later, the warranty period for the installation work has expired and panel owners are no longer under guarantee. TAZ writes:
50,000 installation with a total rated output of 3500 megawatts are now up and running in Spain. 80% of the systems were installed in 2008. There was a gold rush feeling. Everybody wanted to lock into the feed-in tariffs guaranteed for 25 years. In addition to the known brand-names, some used new brands of solar panels – most of them from China – the opportunity was seized in an overheated market. Installation companies bought whatever they could get their hands on.
All the haste was propelled by generous government subsidies, and everybody wanted to get on the gravy train. Now, just 2 years later, many installations are showing up to be defective, shoddy, and running far below the expected efficiency rates. TAZ writes:
The synthetic resin coating in which the cells are embedded is now turning yellow, electrical contacts are oxidizing, various layers are peeling apart and blistering. In addition “hot-spots” are appearing, which in extreme cases leads to a total breakdown of the entire module. Also the overall design of the system is showing to be considerably shoddy.”
30,000 jobs lost in the last 2 years
And because the exorbitant feed-in subsidies were abruptly canceled, many solar installation companies have since gone bust and have disappeared. TAZ writes that industry associations and unions calculate 30,000 jobs in the photovoltaic sector have disappeared since 2008. Meanwhile the Spanish government has turned a blind eye, claiming there are no reliable figures out there to base conclusions on.
30% is expected to be scrapped in the next three years
TAZ writes that solar panel recycling companies are now poised to take on the big business of recycling all the installed scrap. According to some estimates, 30% of the panels are expected to be scrapped in the next three years alone.
Not so, says a state research center, which insists the figure is too high and is closer to “5 to 10%, which is still a figure that is too high”.