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Belgian solar boom over, but small installations still promising

Accumulated solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in Belgium is estimated at 740 MW at the end of 2010, but growth rates have deteriorated since the 2009 boom.

By Renewable Energy Focus staff

Solar Plaza says 88% of Belgian solar PV installations are to be found in Flanders. However, the boom as slowed here as well. There was a big rush at the end of 2009 (11,000 solar PV installation requests in December), but it is not yet clear to which ‘realisation’ year these installations will be allocated.

According to official VREG publications, there are some striking differences in the data published by branch organisation BelPV, as shown in Figure 1.

With 245.1 MW growth in 2009 and the accumulation of 334.3 in2009 and 654.4 MW in 2010, preliminary VREG-registered growth in 2010 would be 320.1 MW. However, BelPV claims 412.7 MW accumulation of solar PV in 2009 and 165.0 MW in 2010, Solar Plaza points out.

The differences are most probably resulting from diverging interpretations of what should be considered a ‘grid-connected solar PV system’.

Registration of the larger solar PV installations such as the 40 MW Katoen Natie project could take a long time. However, 64% of applications in this category would be handled within two months by VREG, Solar Plaza says.

Smaller systems of up to 10 kW are registered on a more regular basis, see Figure 3. In Flanders, large-scale solar PV power plants >1 MW accounted for 77 MW of accumulated capacity (Figure 2) – almost 29% of the volume of the >10 kW category, and 9% of the total capacity.

Figure 3 shows newly VREG-registered solar PV capacities on an average daily basis per period, with trend lines. >10 kW installations (green columns) are unevenly distributed, with high capacities in May and July 2010. Growth collapsed in January 2011, and it is expected that with new tariff cuts for solar electricity this market segment might face further troubles.

However, new registrations for the small category (blue columns) remain at a healthy, relatively constant level (roughly 300-600 kW/day), apart from the small ‘end-of-year 2010 rush’ (816 kW/day).

In December 2010, just prior to a €0.02/kWh cut in feed-in tariffs, 6000 new requests would have been filed with VREG. This used to be 2500 per month earlier in the year. In Flanders, approximately 60% of the accumulated capacity of 670 MW reached end of January 2011 falls within the <=10 kW category.

Approximately 106 W/inhabitant of solar PV has been realised (in nominal DC power that could be 118 Wp/inhabitant, as compared to 192 Wp/inhabitant in Germany at the end of November).

Flanders

Flanders is now confronted with a legislation proposal, which was very slightly changed following a storm of protest by the solar industry in November 2010, that will further bring down the value of green certificates for solar PV from today’s € 0.33/kWh in three-month steps each of €0.02-0.04/kWh.

>1 MW installations with less than 50% self-consumption will be hit hardest, reaching €0.09/kWh in 2012. BelPV claims, however, that 200 MW of new solar PV capacity could be added in 2011.

Wallonia

Wallonia has performed less well than previously, and on a much smaller scale. CWaPE reported 3.,3 MW capacity in new solar PV installations in 2009, and the Brussels magazine Hernieuws estimated 80 MW end-of-year capacity for 2010, which gives a growth of 33 MW for that year.

In view of the abolishment of regional incentives apart from a complicated green certificate regime, it is a fair but relatively minor market. 95% of solar PV installations are residential, 2010 resulting in an accumulation of 24 W/inhabitant.

Brussels

Regulator Brugel reported in June 2010 that the capital, Brussels, had added 3.4 MW of solar PV capacity in 2009 (accumulation: 4.1 MW). Hernieuws suggested accumulations of 4.2 MW (2009) and 5.1 MW for 2010. Hence, a meagre growth of only 0.9 MW in 2010, possibly due to the abolishment of a regional incentive without compensation in the green certificate legislation (as in the case of Wallonia).

Mostly small installations have been realised, with a few 50-100 kW solar PV projects reported (2009-2010). Only 5.1 W/inhabitant would have accumulated at the end of 2010.

Belgium

As shown in Figure 4, the end of 2010 saw an accumulated volume of approximately 740 MW in Belgium, enabling the country to establish its 5th position in the EU ranks, before France. 88% of capacity is in Flanders. While Hernieuws and VREG data totalled up to 385 MW for Belgium in 2009, EurObserv’ER recently counted 363 MWp of DC solar PV capacity.

Based on the original AC data, 2010 could have seen growth of 354 MW. With a population of 10.8 million, the country as a whole would have reached a level of 68 W of installed solar capacity per inhabitant (75 Wp DC).

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