As published on The Malta Independent on Sunday 9th February 2014
Readers may expect another article extolling the benefits of clean air generating Green energy and a few may shed some tears for our lack of success in reducing our carbon footprint which is undoubtedly is contributing to causing climate change. There have been many conferences and press releases by the EU particularly on Renewable Energy Systems and various attempts to propose ambitious goals for Members States to step up their investment in promoting Green energy. The latest target was that by 2020¸ the EU would seek to obtain 20% of its total energy consumption requirements with renewable energy sources. Malta has so far been a laggard in this regard although some small steps have been taken. As a definition renewable energy includes wind¸ solar¸ hydro-electric and tidal power as well as geothermal energy and biomass and from studies published by the EU one notes that Germany leads the pack as a country which has invested the highest amount in this sector claiming to be the world’s first major renewable energy economy(in 2010¸ investments total 26 billion euros).
According to official figures¸ some 370¸000 people in Germany were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2010¸ and it is no surprise to discover that most companies benefiting from this sector are small and medium sized companies. One may question why other EU countries with better exposure to rays of the sun have not responded to this call to increase production of electricity from use of photovoltaic panels considering that prices for the equipment have been dropping such that in the four years prices for solar modules in Germany dropped from €3 to €1 per peak watt. During that same times production capacity surged with an annual growth of more than 50% while China increased its market share from 8% in 2008 to over 55% in the last quarter of 2010. It is encouraging to note that in 2012 the price of Chinese solar panels had dropped considerably for the supply of panels made of crystalline modules.
One may observe that awareness in Malta of the benefits of using such technology has been modest but a recent tender is being issued by Malta Resource Authority to improve the level of appreciation among households who may wish to invest in domestic roof-top systems. It is generally it is not well known by the public in general that photovoltaics are an efficient and modern technology for generating electric power using solar cells to convert energy from the sun into a flow of electrons. The solar cell is the elementary building block of the photovoltaic technology and so far research in new technology has been making giant steps by testing new materials.
Solar cells are made of semiconductor materials¸ such as silicon which due to their properties of makes them highly conductive and in turn use ingenious ways how to capture the energy of the sun and convert it in electricity in a grid-compatible alternating current. Recently the photovoltaic market has flourished especially in Germany¸ followe