“We are always looking for new ideas”
Benedikt Ortmann (BayWa r.e.) in conversation with Startup|Energy

Dr. Benedikt Ortmann is Global Director Solar Projects BayWa r.e. and juror of the Startup|Energy Awards at Energy Camp Freiburg.

Mr Ortmann, you have been active in the German energy market for 20 years and now run a solar company that is active worldwide. What exactly does Baywa r.e. Solar do?
In order to implement the energy transition, we need large solar power plants in addition to small-scale solar plants. This is where we at Baywa r.e. Solar operate: we search for and secure space, develop large-scale solar projects and also finance the solar power plants. And this is now worldwide, because the switch to renewable energies is an important issue on all continents.

Large solar systems on open spaces have been common in Germany for almost 20 years. Has the concept of these plants changed here since the beginning?
In recent years, in addition to simple installation on open landscape areas, new applications have been added that promise double use. For example, Agri-PV: Solar modules are installed over the cultivated plants, which at the same time protects the plants and requires up to 30% less water for irrigation.
“Floating PV” is another multiple use, i.e. large solar systems on water surfaces. In addition to electricity production, water evaporation is also reduced and the algae is eased. By the way, both solar applications – Agri-PV and Floating-PV – are currently a major issue in both Europe and Africa.

Are there multiple uses that are still in their infancy today and that you hope for in the future?
Yes, clearly the hybridisation of wind turbines. This means placing large solar plants in wind farms. Because wind and sun complement each other optimally in terms of performance curves. Existing areas could easily be used twice, existing grid connections could be better utilised and thus the generation costs for renewable electricity could be further reduced.

This, too, is probably applicable in Europe as well as in Africa. So if the technology in both continents differs little, what is the most striking difference from the point of view of customers or electricity consumers?
This should clearly be the importance of energy security. This is the case in Europe, and a solar project will be interesting when it pays off economically. In most African countries, however, the main argument is reliable energy supplies. For example, if you have a production company, you need a reliable power supply and simply can’t afford disruptions for hours or even days. The solar system can guarantee this energy security more reliably than the national grid and at the same time more cost-effective than the conventional diesel generator.

You are equally active in Europe and Africa, was that also a reason to support the Startup|Energy initiative?
That was one reason, of course, but another is our curiosity about startups with innovations in the field of renewable energies. Not only for us as solar project developers, but also for the Energy Solution team of BayWa r.e., which offers tailor-made energy solutions for companies. And last but not least, a venture capital company belongs to the BayWa r.e. Group. We are constantly looking for new ideas to test their suitability for our own products and strategies. That’s why I’m looking forward to working as a juror at the Startup|Energy Award!

Thank you very much, Mr Ortmann, for the interview!