Austrian Solar Innovators Provide Photovoltaic Technology for Companies
Vienna, September 28, 2018 - “One thousand and one roofs” – this is the name of a project initiated in 2014 by solar consulting firm “Dachgold” and photovoltaic specialist “10hoch4”. But who are these companies and what do they wish to achieve?
“Dachgold” was founded in 2011 by Cornelia Daniel – dedicated solar pioneer from day one and woman with a mission: To have every company roof equipped with a photovoltaic system. A University of Economics graduate, Daniel became aware very early on of the huge potential for photovoltaic technology – about two years before it became a growing market trend in Austria. “Dachgold’s” concept aims at advising companies on using solar technology to produce energy for their own, immediate use. A good plan at a good time! Economically, it makes sense to produce energy on commercial roofs and, besides, the climate targets will accelerate the development towards using every available square meter for energy production. But what happens in winter when there is less sun? Where does the energy come from then? Well, the photovoltaic systems are of course connected to the mains grid to ensure electricity supply remains stable when there is no sun to generate electricity.
In 2014, “Dachgold” joined forces with photovoltaic specialist “10hoch4” – together they founded the initiative “Tausendundein Dach” – “One thousand and one roofs”. True to its name, the initiative has set the goal of having 1,001 commercial buildings equipped with photovoltaic technology by 2020. The expectation behind this initiative is that will kick-start a large-scale movement towards use of solar energy by companies.
What makes this technology especially attractive for the commercial sector? Daniel is convinced that photovoltaic systems should be built where the energy generated is used immediately. “This is the case to a great extent in the commercial sector.” Buildings with a roof size of 200 square meters and more and an annual power consumption of at least 10.000 kilowatt hours during daylight hours benefit the most from use of this renewable energy source. This makes the technology ideal for smaller to medium-size companies that use the solar energy immediately, for instance in the summer for their air-conditioning systems.
And what about costs and payback period? Well, the costs for the photovoltaic systems range from 15,000 to 200,000 euros, and the calculated payback period is around 10 years and potentially even less. The important thing is that the photovoltaic system must have the right dimensions, meaning that its size must be adapted to the electricity consumption of the respective company. The closer the correlation between energy production capacity and use, the shorter the payback period of the system. Costs for solar energy produced by the photovoltaic systems are on average less than half of the energy produced by the mains grid - even though energy prices are currently low. Also, costs for solar energy can be reduced by the establishment of purchasing pools or networks – here, smaller companies get together in purchasing photovoltaic systems, which brings down the costs for each member of the pool.
The building of consumer networks is at any rate encouraged by “Tausendundein Dach” – there is a group named “solar heroes” – with special awards and badges for their customers which make them part of the network of successful entrepreneurs that already have a solar system and are part of the sustainable, renewable energy movement.
“Companies do not have much time”
Time is precious – especially in business! With this in mind, “Dachgold” decided to offer a special economic efficiency calculation quick check (www.flachdachchecker.at and www.gestehungskostenrechner.at. This cost calculation tool allows companies to assess their solar potential and find out whether the purchase of a solar system makes sense for them and the renewable energy will be cost-effective as well as ecologically friendly. Daniel herself is aware of her own and her company’s competitive edge in this respect: “My specialty is that I have an economic background and am able to calculate the economic efficiency of a solar system on the roof of a company. Formerly, this was a long process, now this can be done directly at the customer’s location and very fast. Entrepreneurs have little time to spare…”
Off to A Successful Start
Daniel’s success has so far proved her right: following the first photovoltaic installation in Wiener Neustadt and the “greenstart” award in 2014 were requests from enterprises such as the branding communication and printing company “gugler” in Melk, Lower Austria, the winery “Scheiblhofer” in Burgenland, as well as large industry enterprises such as Berndorf or Trafomodern, and successful family businesses such as LDS Lederer Gebäudereinigungs GmbH or Schubbauer Industrieböden. Even McDonalds and some church institutions already commissioned the first solar panel roofs.
The initiative “Tausendundein Dach” has so far already installed more than 200 solar panel roofs – admittedly still a far cry from their benchmark of 1,001, but at any rate a good foundation to build on. In 2017 Cornelia Daniel was awarded the Liese-Prokopp-Prize for Women in the category “Economy and Entrepreneurship” for “Dachgold”. She still believes in her initial vision: “It has always been my vision to have a photovoltaic system on every company roof. And this will definitely happen. I can see a strong tendency in this direction.”
Yet, despite the successes, initiatives such as “Tausendundein Dach” also face huge challenges. In several interviews, Cornelia Daniel repeatedly deplored the obstacles that renewable energy initiatives and projects such as hers and her colleagues are confronted with in Austria: Lack of knowledge about this kind of technology and, resulting from this, widespread insecurity and distrust. The public sector has so far failed in unlocking the unused potential of renewable energy technology, and bureaucratic obstacles for initiatives such as “Tausendundein Dach” are still high. What is necessary is confidence-building regarding the technology as such, but also regarding the future economic prospects and the legal situation. Also, subsidies for photovoltaic systems are necessary, especially when prices for conventionally produced energy are low. “At the moment, whether you receive subsidies or not is still more or less a lottery game,” she summed up the current situation for entrepreneurs.
In an interview with passivhausmagazin, Daniel said, part of the reason why photovoltaic systems are still far from having realized their full potential was due to a lack of willingness on the part of the political actors in Austria to promote renewable energy initiatives as part of a comprehensive strategy towards the long-term goal of a more sustainable energy future. The government’s current energy strategy “mission2030”, while going in the right direction, is altogether too vague and “lacks concrete steps for implementation”, criticized Daniel. “Still, the hope that serious efforts will finally be undertaken dies last,” she concluded.
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Interview: Cornelia Daniel von Dachgold
Interview: Cornelia Daniel
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