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No rooftop? No problem: Inside Germany’s ‘balcony solar’ boom

A balcony solar system on the exterior of an apartment block.
A balcony solar system in Germany. Photo: Dreamstime

Apartment dwellers, who don’t have their own private rooftops, have been largely left behind in the global solar boom. That’s starting to change — at least in Germany.

In numbers: More than 400,000 households across the country have installed mini solar systems on their balconies, with over 50,000 added in the first quarter of 2024 alone, according to local media reports, citing grid agency BNetzA.

How it works: Landlords or tenants who live in apartment blocks typically mount one or two solar panels onto their balconies, using their balustrades, walls or terrace areas. The electricity generated is fed via cables and an inverter into regular household plug points. Installations are quick and easy and don’t require the oversight of an electrician.

Behind the trend: Policymakers have put their weight behind the movement in an effort to expand access to solar, reduce household energy bills, and speed up the shift to clean electricity.

Since January 2023, balcony solar systems have been exempt from value-added tax, and some municipalities have introduced generous subsidy schemes to further incentivise their adoption. Berlin, for example, offers a €500 rebate to households that purchase plug-in solar devices.

More recently, Germany’s Federal Network Agency has moved to simplify the registration process.

“People should be able to participate in the energy transition as easily as possible,” Klaus Müller, the agency’s president, said in a statement regarding the revised rules.

“Balcony power plants can now be registered quickly and unbureaucratically… Operators will only have to enter five pieces of information about their balcony power plant in addition to their personal information, whereas previously there were around 20 pieces of information.”

Additional support measures were introduced by the government in late April, including a further easing of rules governing installations. 

“Whether for tenants, property owners, farmers or entrepreneurs – access to inexpensive solar power will be much easier,” Carsten Körnig, general manager of the Federal Association of the Solar Industry (BSW-Solar), said of the new state programme. “From small plug-in solar devices on balconies, to solar power plants on industrial halls, to megawatt solar parks – the solar power harvest can now continue to increase.”

Germany got 56% of its electricity from solar and other renewables in the first quarter of 2024, and aims to get to the 80% mark by the end of the decade. While small balcony solar systems won’t move the needle much, they nevertheless help to reduce demand on the national grid and make self-generation more widely accessible.

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Comments

3 Responses

  1. Since the late 70’s I’ve been interested in renewable energy forms and against nuclear.

  2. Dear MR Carsten Körnig,

    I recently bought an apartment and are facing rejection against my balcony solar panels, can you assist me with this issue

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