Austrian Standards held a roundtable on photovoltaics

On 1 February, Austrian Standards (ASI) organised a roundtable on the topic of photovoltaics. The event saw the participation of more than 50 people, from organizations such as OVE (Austrian Association for Electrical Engineering), the City of Vienna, Flughafen Wien AG and Wiener Stadthalle. During the discussion, participants shared their visions for the future, together with best practices from the still young operation of large-scale photovoltaic plants.

Current surveys, such as the latest from Deloitte, predict a literally bright future for photovoltaic technology in Austria. No longer just on roofs, but also with great acceptance on open spaces. While in 2017 and 2021, according to Deloitte's mood barometer, between 10% and 13% of those surveyed said they intended to tackle the installation of a PV system within 12 months, this figure is already at 32% in 2022.


This massive demand for PV systems requires a globally uniform "language" to answer safety questions on the one hand and to enable industry successes "Made in Austria" on the other. "This common language is called standardization. Already today, almost 48% of PV systems produced in Austria go abroad. We are therefore at the beginning of a global race for know-how, skilled workers as well as products. Together with organizations, experts and decision-makers, we are working to ensure that domestic companies also benefit from this development in the long term," says Valerie Höllinger, CEO of Austrian Standards, emphasizing the importance and long-term nature of the topic.

Learning from pioneers

90% of Austrians would like to see greater use of photovoltaic technology in their communities. Especially in urban areas, where a lot of energy is needed, roof areas are mostly private and open spaces are rare. On this aspect, the city of Vienna is setting a good example by installing photovoltaic systems on public buildings and areas close to the city. At the same time, partnerships with businesses and property developers play a major role, as does the steadily growing number of private solar power systems. "Vienna wants to become climate-neutral by 2040. An important lever for this is the solar power offensive. Our target curve is steep: as early as 2025, the solar power output should amount to 250 MWp, and by 2030 it should already be 800 MWp. That is almost ten times today's production, with the goal of supplying around 350,000 households with solar power in 2030. This is not only good for Vienna, but holds a lot of economic potential also for the entire domestic PV industry," knows expert Beatrix Rauscher, group leader of the competence centre 'Railway Infrastructure, Regulatory Construction, Engineering Services, Standards' in the City Construction Directorate.


When asked whether Vienna is not relying too heavily on just one renewable energy source with this step, Rauscher answers: "Basically, we want to think about ways out of the climate crisis as openly as possible in terms of technology. For Vienna, photovoltaics is practicable and - also thanks to standards - safe, efficient and powerful. We see our focus on solar power as an important lever. Especially because we are very well prepared for the specific technical PV requirements here thanks to standards. So we have already arrived at successful implementation."  

Technology for people

The growing acceptance of photovoltaic technology goes hand in hand with the desire to become an energy producer. The sun, in combination with innovative technologies, makes it possible. Electrotechnical standards serve to ensure the safety and reliability of products and systems that use electrical energy. They form the basis for safe use. The safe handling of technology in the construction of these systems is, among other things, part of OVE E 8101, which sets regulations for low-voltage electrical systems. In Austria, the OVE, the Austrian Association for Electrical Engineering, is responsible for electrotechnical standardization. In addition, there are several OVE guidelines, for example on the topics of fire protection, lightning and surge protection, network requirements or glare. They all have one goal: to ensure the safety and functionality of photovoltaic systems.


A particular challenge to standardization is currently posed by so-called 'balcony power plants', which are plug-in mini-PV systems with a maximum output of 800 watts. The task here is to find a suitable way to simplify the installation of these systems and at the same time guarantee their safety. Christian Gabriel, Managing Director of OVE Standardization, emphasizes the strong importance of standardization in this area: "As an electrotechnical standardization organization, it is our task to ensure the safety and functionality of electrical products, plants and systems. The energy transition is one of the great challenges of our time. We are therefore working hard to help innovative technologies succeed by contributing to their safety, reliability and system compatibility through appropriate standards."

Benefits for companies: High energy self-sufficiency and maximum price stability

In recent weeks, private households and businesses have been feeling the effects of persistently high energy prices. Especially if the merit order principle remains in place, the drive to become a producer of your own energy yourself by means of photovoltaics is high. Beyond seasonal fluctuations and storage problems, there are already clear commitments for further PV projects from prominent 'heavy users' such as Vienna Airport. The reasons for this are described by Hermann Ponweiser, Head of Electrical Energy Supply at Flughafen Wien AG: "Since 2011, Vienna Airport has been pursuing a consistent climate protection and energy saving offensive and has already implemented many measures to this end. Photovoltaics play a major role in this: Vienna Airport currently operates eight photovoltaic systems, including the largest in Austria at 26 hectares. In 2023, the PV capacities will be expanded to 45 hectares, which means that the airport will produce 40% of its electricity requirements from solar energy in the future. Since January 2023, Vienna Airport has been conducting its operations in a CO2-neutral manner."


But things are also moving in the city center: the Wiener Stadthalle is a part of the Wien Holding group. The PV system covers an area of around 5,500 m² or the equivalent of 21 tennis courts at a height of 25 meters. "This project is a milestone for the most important event location in the country and an essential step for the sustainability strategy of Wiener Stadthalle. The Wiener Stadthalle team has succeeded in completing this significant project within the planned timeframe during this challenging period. Our goal is to generate 100% of the electricity consumed at the site green on site in the next five years through the interplay of energy-saving measures as well as the expansion of additional roof areas," explained Matthäus Zelenka, Managing Director of Wiener Stadthalle.


At the end of the event, there was unanimous agreement: on the way out of the climate and energy self-sufficiency crisis, photovoltaics will probably be the strongest and most sustainable lever for Austria and at the same time an essential economic and industrial factor for the coming decades.


Giovanni COLLOT


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