What is the future of solar energy in Bulgaria?

The topic of photovoltaic energy is among the most attractive and discussed in the field of modern energy, and the development of RES (renewable energy sources) is yet to achieve significant worldwide success. Photovoltaics, also called solar panels, photovoltaic cells or light cells, are designed to produce electricity by transforming light. This is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to generate electricity, as it saves huge amounts of carbon emissions and the device itself is widely applicable in every aspect.

The advantages of the process of producing electricity are impressive facts. Photovoltaic panels use the Sun, which is undoubtedly a free energy source and keeps their efficiency all-day and all-season. They are easy to install, do not require any maintenance, and their warranty is long-lasting since they provenly work from 25 to 40 years. Besides being completely harmless from an environmental point of view, photovoltaics stimulate the country's economy and support employment, providing new jobs in the sphere of construction and architecture. They contribute to the energy efficiency of industrial and business buildings, homes, schools and many other entities as well as they represent a different and innovative appearance of the whole infrastructure. Also, they provide a clean and healthy lifestyle and reduce the consumption of constantly increasing electricity.

If you think that photovoltaics are network-dependent, it is time to inform yourself that they are suitable for the creation of autonomous installations in places such as high-mountain and roadside settlements or remote rural areas where putting a central power supply is not recommended or possible action. In addition, solar panels can also be installed on the roofs of any vehicles - cars, trains, buses, thus providing the energy needed for the vehicles to be powered during the day.

Here come the questions: "Whether this device, which is capable of solving multiple problems with global electricity production, is not unbearably expensive?" The answer is no. And "Can most of the Bulgarians afford it?". The answer is yes. It is observed that solar panel prices have been halved over the past three years: "The cost of photovoltaic systems equipment and, in particular, photovoltaic modules for this period has fallen by 35-40%, and this reduction is still ongoing." Consumers' interest in photovoltaic energy is progressively growing, and more and more people are innovative-oriented and think about environmental development and protection through a range of new technologies. More and more people realize that investing a small amount of money now saves money in the long run. If mass customers decide to switch to solar energy, this energy will eventually become quite cheaper than the polluting electricity into the grid.

In most cases, however, the choice of investment in a photovoltaic installation is driven by the desire for an environmentally friendly and healthy lifestyle, as there are no quick profits and the average return of investment is about 7-8 years. Despite this period, the investment is undoubtedly profitable not only for the households that have installed solar panels on the roofs of their homes but also for the others, because the consumption of free solar power follows a reduction in capacity during the day.

What is the situation regarding photovoltaic energy in foreign countries? According to "Greenpeace" data,  there are over 1 million households in Germany and the UK that meet their needs through the energy of the Sun. In the Netherlands, they are over 400,000, and in Bulgaria - just over 2,000. Germany is a great example because it is a leader in the solar energy market despite the not so significant sunshine. In Southern Germany during the summer, nearly 10% of household electricity is powered by solar panels. In the UK, a program to address energy poverty has been launched by installing small solar installations on the roofs of 800,000 socially-weak households. It is claimed that half of the electricity in the European Union could be produced by small, photovoltaic roofs, in case of a good diplomacy of the Member States.

On the other side of the ocean by 2020, California will require solar panels on the roofs of all new homes as an attempt to reduce emissions. The leading state in green energy is pushing for more electric vehicles. In New York City in the Brooklyn neighbourhood, Martha Cameron's electrometer moves back on sunny days. The reason for this is 18 photovoltaic panels designed on her house. In bright sunshine, Martha is unable to use all the electricity and from a consumer, she turns into a producer (the power is transferred to the neighbours through the electricity grid). In this case, the process of buying and selling solar energy to dozens of neighbours is achieved through smart metering and control devices as well as the smart grid in the area.

In our country, the Energy Technology Expert Prof. Hristo Vassilev, together with his team, has developed a technical solution for the "Energy of the Bulgarian Household with Horizon 2030". According to the data, each household is expected to produce electricity from a 10 kW local solar power plant, which could produce 13 MW per year, i.e. more than household consumption. The bulk of the generated electricity will be consumed directly, and the excess will be stored in a 10kW home electric battery. Prof. Vassilev believes that with the electricity received, it is possible to ensure the annual charge of two electric cars, heating, cooling and hot water for a 120 sq.m. dwelling, as well as energy for the complete set of household appliances - cooker, washing machine, dishwasher, televisions, lighting, refrigerator, freezer, computers, and so on. In addition, experts are clear that the use of small solar capacities in Bulgaria would help the survival of people from vulnerable groups and would effectively improve their quality of life.

The document, presented by Professor Hristo Vassilev, set as a base the idea of the European Commission for the creation of an energy union and its main tasks in the field of energy and climate. According to them, by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from the entire EU economy should be reduced by 40% compared to 1990 levels, energy efficiency should improve by 30% and the share of renewable energy in consumption to reach 27%.