Solar energy remains profitable for Belgians

Despite the devaluation of green certificates and the abolishing of tax reductions, investments in solar panels remain very profitable for consumers and small companies in Belgium. Due to decreasing module prices, meters running backwards and the remaining value of green certificates, solar energy is cheaper than ever. Therefore the market will continue to grow, although it’s uncertain the record set in 2011 will be beaten.

That’s the expectation of market watcher Peter J. Segaar of Polder PV. For the upcoming Solar Future Belgium ’12 conference, held on March 28th in Brussels, he wrote a thorough analysis of the Belgium solar market and tried to predict developments in 2012.

In contrast to fears of a relapse, the Belgium solar market increased considerably in 2011. Prior to the July 1 digression of green certificates, the VREG (Flanders Regulation office for the Electricity and Gas market) received 6410 applications for small installations up till 10 kW, with a total capacity of approximately 45 MW of solar energy. The residential market saw high growth rates in the second half of 2011. Each month an average off 7700 new photovoltaic systems up to 10 kW were installed.

While exact figures about the Belgium solar market are yet to be published, already an annual growth of 737 MW solar capacity is reported, of which 642 MW in Flanders. He doubts a previously published increase of 880 MW, but states that backlog volume updates are made still. In 2010 170 MW was added to the first published figures. According to the latest statistics, Belgium now has an cumulated 1669 MW of solar capacity, of which 88 percent in Flanders.

The biggest new projects recorded were the solar tunnel above the high-speed train track northeast of Antwerp, the Benelux’s biggest solar parking in Tongeren and the Benelux’s largest solar park in Overpelt. At the Terra Nova project near Gent an energy park with solar panels is being built on an old plaster dump. The portfolio of investors like ING Equipment Lease grew rapidly in 2011, now accumulating up to 66 MW.

Segaar expects ongoing falling prices of solar panels in 2012. ,,The payback period is seven years at the moment. In combination with the green certificates and meters running back until zero, solar panels are a sure investment and solar energy remains profitable,” he says. Green certificates for large solar projects are now worth 9 cents per kilowatthour. Segaar: ,,The question is if in that sector a lot of systems will be installed. On the other hand, the hangars in Rotterdam and Antwerp are filled with modules which will find their way to the market at lower prices. So who knows. Maybe 2012 will set a new record?”