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Solar power growing

Global solar power generation is expected to increase by 25% this year, a European conference on solar energy was told at its opening session on Monday.

In 2005, worldwide turnover in the sector was €5.8bn ($7.4bn), according to Heinz Ossenbrink, head of the Renewable Energy Department of the Institute for Environment and Sustainability at the EU Research Centre in Ispra, near Milan.

"The drastic increase in oil prices and the growing awareness of business, politics and consumers with regard to the limited availability of fossil fuels has given the photovoltaics sector enormous momentum," Osenbrink told the 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition in Dresden.

Only a fraction of 1% of the world's energy demand is satisfied by solar power.

Germany is the world leader in the field, generating enough power from the sun's rays to meet the needs of households in a city of 590 000, according to the Solar Energy Association BSW.

Last week, a solar electric power plant, billed by its operators as the world's biggest, went into service in the southern German state of Bavaria.

More than 1 400 movable solar modules will collect the sun's rays and harness them into energy for around 3 500 homes.

Germany accounts for 60% of the world market in solar energy, with some 5 000 firms exporting one-quarter of their products in a sector that employs 45 000.

BSW managing director Carten Koernig said countries like Greece, Italy and Spain were following the example of Germany's Renewable Energy Act that offers financial incentives for solar energy fed into the national grid.

Germans last year invested €3.7bn in solar energy, one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy along with wind power and biomass.

Solar energy accounts for less than 1% of the country's energy needs, but the figure is expected to grow to more than 5% by 2020, according to the BSW.

The solar power conference in Dresden runs through to September 8.

Source: German News