Toshiba to become German PV utility

Japan’s Toshiba has announced a landmark PV initiative in Germany, which will see it become a solar-fuelled, subsidy-free power utility for a growing group of homeowners.

Toshiba – whose PV-related activities range from module production to EPC work to smart-grids – will from next March begin installing PV systems on a number of apartments owned by GAGFAH, Germany’s largest real-estate company.

The PV systems themselves will be owned by a group of pension funds, but operated by Toshiba.

During daytime, Toshiba will buy the PV-generated electricity from the pension funds and sell it to the residents of the apartments for a slightly lower price than they would pay from a normal electric utility – a fact made possible by Germany’s soaring power prices.

At night and during cloudy periods, Toshiba will buy power on the wholesale market and sell it to the residents for the same price they pay during the day.

The on-site consumption scheme will operate independent of Germany’s feed-in tariff, reducing the burden on the country’s overstretched grid.

The model will allow the homeowners to save money on their power bills, and Toshiba and the pension funds to turn a profit, the company claims.

Working via its UK-based Toshiba International Europe subsidiary, Toshiba will initially install 3MW of PV capacity serving 750 apartments – with plans to install 100MW by 2016.

Over time Toshiba will incorporate rechargeable batteries, micro-energy management systems and other kit, turning Germany into a test lab for its global PV and smart-grids ambitions.

Like Japan’s other major PV manufacturers, Toshiba has benefited hugely from the country’s increased focus on renewables and in particular solar energy.