Fresh impetus for photovoltaics at BFH

12.01.2022 Christof Bucher is taking over as head of the Laboratory for Photovoltaic Systems at Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH. Since its founding by Heinrich Häberlin in 1988, the Laboratory for Photovoltaic Systems has conducted research on system-technology aspects of photovoltaics with an emphasis on the long-term behaviour of PV systems. Urs Muntwyler has been head of the laboratory for the past 10 years, treading new ground in the field of electric mobility in particular. Christof Bucher now wants to focus more on connecting photovoltaic systems to the grid, to meet future challenges.

Prof. Dr. Christof Bucher, Leiter Labor für Photovoltaiksysteme

Christof Bucher believes there is enormous potential in photovoltaics: “Generating power from photovoltaic systems is one of the key elements of the Energy Strategy 2050. Photovoltaic systems will have to take over the role of large power stations. The technology must now make this step an obvious choice. It has to be incorporated into new-build or redevelopment projects as a matter of course.” Christof Bucher wants to use the laboratory to help ensure that PV systems operate safely and are capable of performing this system-critical task dependably.

New focus on grid connection and existing priority of PV system technology

To achieve these goals, Bucher and the laboratory are now exploring new terrain in the connection of photovoltaic systems to the grid. Prior to his appointment as professor of Photovoltaic Systems at BFH, Bucher managed photovoltaics and distribution network projects for Basler & Hofmann AG and wrote his dissertation on grid connections at ETH Zurich. He is now seeking to collaborate with grid operators and to participate in international standardisation processes. “The testing standards for the grid connection of inverters are extremely important to ensuring the safety of systems with the anticipated increase in their numbers,” says Bucher. The laboratory will also continue to pursue the existing focus on PV system technology, working as before to improve the dependability and longevity of PV systems and their components.

Energy system in transformation

The current energy system is undergoing transformation on three levels: there is a shift in production from nuclear plants and hydropower to hydropower, photovoltaic and biomass systems. Electrical storage used in electric mobility will increasingly be used as a short-term storage solution in future. Hydrogen will also play a key role in the longer term. And with respect to consumption, decarbonisation is also contributing to a rise in demand for electricity. The Institute for Energy and Mobility Research IEM – to which the Laboratory for Photovoltaic Systems belongs – is supporting this transformation. The BFH Energy Storage Research Centre complements IEM’s activities in this area.

Industry networking

The challenges in the industry can only be overcome through closer networking. This is why Lukas Rohr, head of the Engineering and Information Technology Department at BFH, is delighted by the appointment of Christof Bucher: “Christof Bucher has an outstanding network of contacts from other laboratories and consultative bodies as well as in the industry. This puts us in an excellent position to help overcome the challenges facing the energy industry and to train highly skilled specialists in electrical engineering and information technology.” The Laboratory for Photovoltaic Systems is now tackling these challenges in an Innosuisse project launched in 2021 to develop new PV systems with the industry partner 3S, and by participating in the SWEET project of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy on the connection of PV systems to the grid.

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