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Dag Kralj, BISOL Group: The sunny future for solar is already here

Dag Kralj, BISOL Group: The sunny future for solar is already here

Date: April 15th 2021

Author: Alenka Lena Klopčič

Category: En.vision

Topic: Electricity , Renewables , Economy , En.vision

“The impressive growth of the European solar PV market demonstrates the resilience and strength of solar in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, opening important prospects for European solar PV producers, and positioning solar PV technologies as strategic to the EU economy. European companies and research centres have demonstrated their global innovative edge, developing world-leading high-efficiency cell and module technologies as well as future-proof solar applications on buildings, water, and agricultural land,” says the European Solar Initiative on its website. Meanwhile, SolarPower Europe has set up the Solar Manufacturing Accelerator to continue promoting the growth and development of the industry. In a time when the growth of solar plays an increasing role in the new industrial revolution, Energetika.NET talked to Dag Kralj, a Member of the Board of the BISOL Group, a local solar company that can be a source of pride to Slovenia, and with good reason. To learn why, watch Energetika.NET’s latest video interview (in Slovenian only).

fotovoltaikaThe BISOL Group plans to install solar power plants at innovative locations such as brownfield sites, reservoirs, and motorway embankments, and aims to allocate no less than EUR 5 million of own investment funds per year until the end of this decade for projects in Slovenia and other countries across Europe, Energetika.NET reported earlier this month (MORE). With regard to this, Kralj highlighted that the company’s current portfolio includes some 20 MW of solar capacity both in Slovenia and Italy. A focus on “innovative sites” would increase the BISOL Group’s reach, and it is no secret that foreign markets are where it is aiming at.

In 2020, the BISOL Group garnered a revenue of some EUR 42 million, and earnings before tax of EUR 3.5 million (the results are not yet final).

Solar PV still has ample potential in Slovenia


A substantial fall in the costs of solar PV has made this technology a good investment even with no subsidies, explained Kralj, adding that this changes when costly land is involved, but this is hardly a concern with the aforementioned (innovative) sites. According to Kralj, such sites make an important niche for the EU at large – and therefore also for Slovenia. Unfortunately, however, installing solar plants on such sites is not allowed in Slovenia for the time being.

Having seen explosive growth in the last ten years thanks to the substantial decline in the costs of the technology, solar power plants are one of the renewable energy technologies with the greatest potential, said Darko Jojič of GEN-I at the conference titled ‘Increasing the use of renewable energy in companies’, which was organised earlier this month by Akademija Zelena Slovenija.

“For instance, Germany has six times the solar capacity per capita of Slovenia, although it gets 20% less sun. The Netherlands recorded 40% growth in renewables last year,” noted Jojič, adding that “the difference between the place that has the least sun and the one that has the most is about 15% in Slovenia, which means that any place in Slovenia is a good place for solar” (MORE, available in Slovenian only).

A recognised brand ‘in the heart of the EU’ and in the sunny Balkans


zeleni prehodThanks to its relatively low prices, solar PV is becoming increasingly interesting for less wealthy nations such as the countries of the Balkan region, explained Dag Kralj. When asked about the prospects of expanding the BISOL Group’s production to North Macedonia, Kralj said that although Balkan countries are more favourable to such investments, any decisions about possibly expanding south will have to wait until the market indicates renewed demand for production ramp-up. Meanwhile, the company doubled the output at its manufacturing facilities in Slovenia last month, boosting its annual production capacity to 700 MW (MORE).

As regards Austria, a country that plans to make a full transition to renewable energy by 2030, Kralj said that the company’s presence in this market went back twenty years. In this time, its market share has grown to some 5%. Considering that solar is a highly competitive market that hardly allows for 20% shares, the BISOL Group deems its position in Austria as solid – also thanks to new recent additions to the local Austrian office. The company has been named the brand of the year multiple times in Austria, as well as Italy and ‘in the political heart of the EU’ – Belgium.

When asked about his opinion of Slovenia’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), Kralj pointed to the fact that Slovenia is already off track to meet its (ambitious) targets. “A country’s ability to meet its targets is evaluated, and any failure is penalised. If Slovenia continues to be off track, the penalties will keep adding up,” noted Kralj. He finds it regrettable that a local solar PV manufacturer is given so little recognition given all the talk of the vital importance of supporting successful local projects.

Local power industry and mindset shifts


The energy industry and business sector in Slovenia are concerned about how the shutdown of the Šoštanj thermal power plant will affect the country’s energy system. Just to replace unit 6 of the Šoštanj plant, according to HSE’s calculations, Slovenia would have to invest at least EUR 1.5 billion in adding 2,885 MW of solar PV capacity, as well as between EUR 3.6 and 5 billion in battery storage to allow for more evenly distributed use of this power. Many also pin their hopes on a second unit of the Krško nuclear power plant.

In reply to Energetika.NET’s question about his view of this, Kralj said the solution would have multiple angles, and would combine nuclear and renewables to partly replace the output of the Šoštanj plant. In his view, gas-fired plants should also be used to replace coal, as they can offset the intermittency of renewables at the same time. Another part of the solution is storage, and Kralj is confident that we will see the costs of storage technologies decline considerably with mass production and significant investment. “After all, the battery storage technology is very similar to that from a century ago.”

Kralj also highlighted the need for a shift in the mindset, to boost self-supply and achieve higher energy self-sufficiency. “Sometimes it feels as if we are caught in the old ways and solutions are only sought within the scope of these patterns instead of outside them,” he said matter-of-factly.

Why the future will be solar-powered


apr 1 prvThe last decade has brought not only a globalisation of the solar PV industry and a steep fall in the costs of installing solar power plants, but also a transition from large to small installations, from ground-mounted projects to rooftop arrays, and from feeding the power into the grid to maximising its use on-site, Kralj told Energetika.NET in November 2020 (MORE, available in Slovenian only). Five months later, he looked into the future to explain his vision of the trends that will shape the solar PV industry in the coming years. According to Kralj, rather than larger panels (this has been a trend in the last year or two), the solution is to “integrate them into the living environment where reliability, warranties and, increasingly so, aesthetics are becoming more and more important”.

The second part of the answer lies with (large) consumers in industry, where investing in solar also yields a return. A few months ago, Energetika.NET reported on what motivates companies to invest in solar projects, whether companies strive for energy self-supply, how they finance solar projects, what the average rates of return are for such investments, and whether investors channel the returns into further energy improvements or into their core activities (MORE, available in Slovenian only). For the viewers of this video interview, Kralj did a quick calculation for a specific example, demonstrating that the investment reaches the break-even point in the first few years of solar power generation.

In conclusion, the Member of the Board of the BISOL Group highlighted the key factors in the support system that would guarantee a ‘sunny future’ for solar, referring to the interview which Peter Kumer of Enertec gave to Energetika.NET (MORE). “Most importantly, the regulatory environment should not change too quickly as this creates a climate of mistrust among investors,” said Kralj, reiterating that the returns are attractive even without subsidies.

Watch the video interview here (in Slovenian only).




This article is available also in Slovene.



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