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PV CITY GUIDE - SOME QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Koen Steemers clarifies a few points on the PV City Guide:

Will this initiative lead to a surge of 'solar panel siting consultants'?

KS: In some sense, yes, but this skill already exists within energy consultancies (such as Cambridge Architectural Research) and some environmental engineering consultancies (such as Max Fordham).

You suggest that local authorities need to have the technology demystified. How 'mystifying' is the technology?

KS: Many local authorities are not totally aware of the issues around PV and some consider it either as a fringe or expensive issue.There isn't much simple and upto-date information around which is accessible to the relatively uninitiated (which is ultimately the key target audience for the PV City Guide).We want to show who does what in a PV installation, what it could look like, the infrastructural benefits, how it fits into the Agenda 21 regulatory framework, the financial implications, means of quality control, promotional opportunities, the refurbishment potential and the legal measures.

How have projects been paid for?

KS: Different projects were funded in different ways, but basically, most received either EU or state 'encouragement' (market incentives) or partial subsidy, in the form of grants, low-interest loans, green pricing, solar stock exchange, etc (typically 40 per cent subsidised and 60 per cent paid by the owner/developer).More often than not, a project exploited a combination of these possibilities.

These incentives are rapidly stimulating the PV market, increasing production and thus reducing costs of PV modules (since 1991 production has increased five-fold and costs have halved).The PV City Guide demonstrates some of the strategies and draws on case studies with respect to financing; a key issue to be clear about.Note also that the UK government has just started its initiative for PV domestic field trials.

Is it so difficult to identify and assess the specific conditions of a given city?

KS: No, it is relatively easy - we have a straightforward calculation, which gives an overall PV potential as a function of climate and population density.We then have a number of design guidelines that relate more specifically to the urban 'texture'or morphology.For example, at a simple level, a rough urban context (ie, buildings of differing heights such as in the City of London) reduces PV potential for roofs but increases it for key facades, compared with a more even textured city (such as Berlin), where roofs have the greatest potential.

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