The growth rates are impressive: last year, new photovoltaic systems with a capacity of 16.7 gigawatts (GW) were installed across Europe. This is roughly equivalent to the output of 20 large-scale conventional power plants and represents a doubling of the previous year’s figure with an addition of 8.2 GW. The front runner in 2019 was Spain with an increase in capacity of 4.7 GW, while Germany was in second place with 4 GW. “I think we are currently facing a new boom phase in the photovoltaic market,” says André Kremer, Managing Director of SENS, confirming the assessment of the industry association Solarpower Europe. “This growth is due to lower system costs combined with increased confidence in this form of power generation. This is also increasingly being recognized in other countries: Spain, Italy and Portugal will see above-average growth, and solar power generation will also grow in Eastern European countries such as Poland, Ukraine and Hungary.”
"I think we are currently facing a new boom phase in the photovoltaic market."
André Kremer, Managing Director, SENS
SENS has just launched a new project in Italy. The STEAG subsidiary will plan photovoltaic plants with a peak capacity of 440 megawatts (MWp) in Sicily. The work on the total of six solar farms has already commenced. Construction of the first section is scheduled to start at the end of 2020. The solar farms planned within a radius of around 40 kilometers in the provinces of Palermo and Trapani can supply a calculated 350,000 households on the Italian Mediterranean island with electricity. All the farms are to be directly connected to the grid of the Italian system operator Terna by the end of 2021 with the construction of a new transformer substation.
“For many years we have been relying on the quality of SENS”
SENS will perform this project with the largest volume in the company’s history for the investment company KGAL Investment Management GmbH & Co. KG. For SENS and the investment company from Grünwald near Munich, this project development is a further milestone in a successful partnership: For more than ten years now, the Italian service team from SENS has been looking after various facilities on behalf of KGAL as the service provider with overall responsibility. “For many years we have been relying on the quality of SENS – in the construction, operation and maintenance of our photovoltaic plants.” says Matej Lednicky, Head of Transaction Management for Infrastructure at the investment company. “I am certain that we will work together again efficiently and with mutual confidence and trust.”
The global photovoltaics market is booming The International Energy Agency (IEA) has identified an increase of around 115 gigawatts of capacity in 2019, a rise of more than 17 percent compared to 2018, while China, the largest photovoltaics market in the world, saw a slight decline. However, this weakness was more than compensated for by stronger growth in the EU countries, above all Spain. The IEA also highlights Vietnam, India, the USA and Japan as important markets for photovoltaics.
André Kremer (39) initially studied International Business Affairs at the universities of Malaga and Paderborn. This was followed by a Master of Business Administration at Purdue University/Gisma in West Lafayette (USA) and Hanover. In 2007 he joined the central purchasing department at Gildemeister AG. In 2010 André Kremer took over as head of the Purchasing and Procurement department of the former GILDEMEISTER energy solutions (the present SENS) in Würzburg. In 2013, the management of the service division and the management of the sites in Italy and Spain were added. Since 2014, he has been Managing Director of STEAG Solar Energy Solutions.
As a full-service provider in the industry, SENS has specialized in the development, planning, turnkey construction and operation of photovoltaic systems. The approximately 200 employees at the locations in Würzburg, Stuttgart, Lecce (Italy), Madrid and Seville (Spain) and Huntingdon (England) also design both rooftop systems and complete solutions for industry. “Basically, our service portfolio ranges from the initial planning steps on greenfield sites to 24/7 monitoring of the photovoltaic system,” André Kremer explains. In addition to plants and storage systems, SENS also offers solutions for e-mobility and, in the form of the Energy Monitor, even specially developed energy management software. 8,000 installations in around 40 countries now bear witness to the experience of the resourceful SENS engineers.
Excellent reputation acquired in the market
In addition to this expertise, however, it is above all flexibility and speed with which SENS has acquired an excellent reputation in the market. The most recent example: On behalf of RheinEnergie AG, the experts constructed a solar farm with a capacity of 6.5 MWp in Münchberg , Bavaria. The particular challenge in this project was the integration of the new system into RheinEnergie’s existing plant, which is directly adjacent and already ten years old. The project, the first cooperation with the energy supplier from Cologne, was started in September 2019. As early as November, the last of the total of 23,184 solar modules were installed on an area of around nine hectares (equivalent to around 13 football pitches). This was followed by the cabling and installation of the 87 inverters. After a construction period of only ten weeks, this contract was completed.
“The preparation and implementation times for photovoltaic projects are comparatively short in the energy sector,” says the SENS Managing Director. “In the case of smaller projects of up to around 10 MWp, it often takes only a few weeks from the first enquiry to installation. We are fast and work to a high standard of quality – that puts us in a good market position.”
This expertise could be in much greater demand in Germany in the future. After all, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, as planned by the Federal Government, Germany will also have to push ahead with the expansion of solar energy systems. 65 percent of the electricity mix is to come from renewable energy sources in the same period – last year it was around 46 percent, 9.1 percentage points of which came from solar energy. Experts at the Fraunhofer Institute have calculated that it will be necessary to expand the capacity of photovoltaic systems by between 5 and 15 gigawatts (GW) annually. According to these calculations, there is sufficient space in Germany – without any significant encroachment on arable land. According to the Fraunhofer Institute, the existing areas provide potential for the addition of 226 GW.
"The extensive know-how and international networks of SENS mean a great step forward for us in the growth market of photovoltaics."
Joachim Rumstadt, Chairman of the Board of Management, STEAG GmbH
"Great step forward for STEAG in the growth market of photovoltaics"
A potential that institutional investors such as KGAL recognized years ago. “For more than ten years now, the capital market has valued solar projects as a safe and lucrative investment in equal measure, which is also reflected in the steadily increasing inflow of equity capital. Thanks to our network, we at SENS are able to bring developers and investors together. Particularly in the field of large-scale plants, we are frequently able to arrange suitable projects for investors and, conversely, arrange the necessary financing for project developers,” André Kremer explains.
The solar energy company has already proven to be a promising investment for the STEAG Group, which only took over SENS from the machine tool manufacturer DMG MORI AG in July 2019 through its subsidiary STEAG Energy Services. “The extensive know-how and international networks of SENS mean a great step forward for us in the growth market of photovoltaics,” says Joachim Rumstadt, Chairman of the Board of Management of STEAG GmbH. “And we can still see a lot of potential for the future.”