“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!