Balcony power station

Own electricity from the balcony

What is a balcony power plant?

A balcony power station is nothing less than the simplest way to generate your own electricity! It usually consists of the same solar modules as those found on house roofs or particularly lightweight plastic modules. All types of solar modules initially generate direct current, which we cannot use in the household. This is why a balcony power plant always includes an “inverter”, which converts the direct current into alternating current.

The inverter also ensures that the energy from the balcony power plant is supplied at exactly the right voltage and frequency to suit the prevailing conditions in the respective household. This ensures that the electricity generated in this way flows directly into the household after plugging in the balcony power station without any additional technology and is used there just as if it came from the power grid.

How do you install a balcony power plant?

Assembly is child’s play. Solar modules and inverters are connected via two simple solar cables (plus and minus). The plugs used cannot be confused and are therefore easy for anyone to connect. The inverter, in turn, is plugged into a household socket with a simple plug. If no external socket is available, you can also use a socket in the home using a flat cable extension.

If you generate the electricity you need yourself, you don’t have to buy it from the electricity supplier. So as soon as the balcony power station is running, the electricity meter turns more slowly or even stops! This saves you the purchase costs again in a few years and you even make a profit afterwards! What other appliance in the household can make that claim?

Registration of the balcony power plant

A balcony power plant must be registered, there’s no getting around that. Even the fact that an estimated 60-75% of users do not do this does not change the basic obligation. The registration serves to better estimate the real share of renewable energies in the German electricity grid and also helps to correctly calculate the electricity demand in the distribution grid. If more electricity is purchased than the grid needs, this has to be compensated for at great expense by means of flexibilities such as controllable consumers or the curtailment of generation plants. In the end, this is reflected in the electricity costs of all consumers.

The nevertheless high rate of unregistered devices is also due to the more frequent problems with registration in the past and the associated negative experience reports that are still circulating. In reality, however, registering a balcony power plant has become much easier in recent years. This applies in particular to registration with the distribution grid operator.

Distribution system operator

The distribution grid operator manages the lines, electricity boxes, substations, distribution stations and other infrastructure of the low-voltage grid that supplies households. It is not itself the electricity supplier but is independent of them. While the distribution grid operators initially required the same forms for the registration of a balcony power plant as for a large roof-mounted system and even the signature of an electrician, in recent years, before the abolition of registration, they were content in almost all cases with a simple A4 sheet that can be downloaded from their websites, or offered a simple online registration portal. Data such as name, address, contact details, meter number and power plant performance data had to be entered there. In particular, the availability of certificates for the inverter confirming the conformity of the generation unit and grid and system protection (NA protection) with the Low Voltage Directive DIN VDE AR-N-4105 had to be confirmed. This is also really relevant, because only certified inverters switch off safely when disconnected from the grid. You should therefore check that the certificates are available at the time of purchase, even if you no longer have to register with the grid operator in 2024.

Market master data register

The market master data register is the central register for devices and systems for the generation and storage of renewable energy. It is operated by the Federal Network Agency, the supreme monitoring authority for German grids. Here you need to enter roughly the same data as with the network operator. For a long time, however, the registration process was somewhat more complicated than with the grid operator, as the user first had to be registered as a “market player” and then the balcony power plant had to be registered as a “unit”. A lot of superfluous questions were also asked here, such as whether the balcony power plant was built on the basis of a tender. These do not even exist for balcony power plants. Fortunately, however, the registration process was greatly simplified in 2024, so that now only a few details need to be entered and then everything is done.

Meter replacement

If a balcony power plant generates more electricity than is currently needed in the household, this is fed into the grid via the electricity meter. Old meters with a turntable, so-called Ferraris meters (no, this has nothing to do with the make of car), can then turn backwards if necessary. This is highly profitable but unfortunately also prohibited. As the distribution network operator is also the operator responsible for the electricity meters, once the balcony power plant has been registered, it sends a technician to replace the old meter with a new one that can measure consumption and grid feed-in with two different meters. According to the decision of the EEG Clearing Agency, this exchange must also be free of charge. If fees are nevertheless charged, you should object to this persistently. This often leads to success. By law, new electricity meters will have to be installed everywhere in the next few years anyway and no replacement fees can be charged for this. The new meters have a slightly higher operating price (€20 instead of around €10 per year as before), which is used to offset the costs of the replacement.

Non-registration

The majority of balcony power plants in Germany are still not registered. However, this proportion is becoming increasingly smaller. This has to do in particular with the simplification of the registration process. Another reason, however, is the increasing spread of balcony power plants beyond the originally predominant user group of “electricity guerrillas”. While they were more interested in the feasibility than the regulatory conformity of energy self-sufficiency, many balcony electricity users today prefer the legally and normatively “clean” use.
In fact, penalties are provided for non-registration with the market master data register. The grid operator may charge € 10.00 per kWp of module output per month for the period in which it can be proven that the module was not used as registered. For a power plant with 850Wp, this would be €102.00 per year (€10*0.85kWp*12months) – a not insignificant part of the savings from the power plant. The Market Master Data Register Ordinance even speaks of penalties of up to 50,000 euros. However, this only applies to large systems. In addition, the penalty is based on the revenue generated through feed-in. As this does not exist in the case of the balcony power plant, no payments have been determined to date.

Upcoming legislative changes

The federal government’s solar package, which was adopted in spring 2024, led to major changes in the registration process for balcony power plants. In particular, registration with the network operator has been completely eliminated. This was possible because they are automatically notified of the new device on their grid when they register in the market master data register anyway. As the data to be stored in the market master data register largely corresponded to those of the previous registrations with the grid operator, it was possible to dispense with double registration. This also suited the network operators, as some of them had already decided not to register before the change in the law, as they were overwhelmed by the flood of new registrations due to the rapid growth in users.

How do balcony power plants promote the energy transition and climate protection?

Incidentally, a balcony power plant is also a real benefit in terms of the CO2 balance, as production and transportation are offset after a few years of operation. However, as the appliances last much longer, using them also contributes to climate protection. With the current average of around 400 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of electricity generated in Germany, an 800W balcony power plant saves up to 320 kilograms of CO2 per year!

As the balcony power plant can also be used to generate its own electricity in rented and owner-occupied apartments for the first time, it also ensures that the number of people who can benefit directly from the energy transition more than doubles in one fell swoop. It also brings the generation of renewable energy to the cities where it is most urgently needed. So in the end, everyone benefits.

Would you also like to benefit and generate your own electricity at low cost? Then visit our online store now!

FAQ

What is a balcony power plant?

A balcony power plant is a small solar power plant with solar modules and an inverter. As it is smaller than conventional solar systems, it can be connected and used in your own home, rented or owner-occupied apartment without the need for an electrician. Contrary to what the name suggests, it can also be used on house roofs, garage roofs and carports, installed in gardens and on terraces and even as wall cladding or even canopies on facades.

How much power should my device have?
Electricity from the balcony power plant that cannot be consumed directly is currently worth little or nothing. You should therefore choose an appliance output that matches your own consumption. Many factors such as consumption behavior, basic consumption and alignment of the modules play a role here. Roughly calculated, however, you can say: If the annual consumption is less than 2,500 kWh, 400-500 W module output is sufficient; if it is higher, over 800 W module output is also worthwhile.
What happens if I generate more electricity than I need?
Surpluses from the balcony power plant are fed into the public grid and the income from this ends up in the EEG account. This means that they ultimately benefit the general public. If you prefer to use them yourself, you can save them for later with a rechargeable battery
How much can I save with it?
In Germany, you can achieve an average yield of one kilowatt hour per year per watt peak output of a solar module. In the best case, this would be 850 kWh for a power plant with 850 Wp module output. At an electricity price of 40ct/kWh, this corresponds to 340.00 euros per year. In reality, the self-consumption rate, the often non-optimal orientation and possible shading sometimes reduce this to 200.00-250.00 euros per year. Nevertheless, the purchase pays for itself after just a few years and after that every kilowatt hour from the balcony power plant is free!
How do I install a balcony power plant safely?
There are now mounting solutions for the balcony power station for every conceivable installation location. However, there is often no clear information on their safety, for example with regard to wind and snow loads. The installation kits in our store, on the other hand, all have clear information on the installation location, load capacity and, in some cases, static calculations. Although there is no official obligation to do so, the commitment to do so is part of our customer promise.
How do I connect my balcony power station?
The connections of the solar modules are plugged together with the corresponding counterparts on the inverter. As the connections cannot be mixed up, this is very easy. To connect the balcony power station to the power grid, simply plug it in. Contrary to other claims, this is possible with a simple household plug (safety plug). The Federal Network Agency and the Executive Board of the German Electrical Engineering Association (VDE), which plays a key role here, have already confirmed this in 2023. If there is no external socket, you can use a window feed-through (flat cable) to reach the interior and then plug the power station in there.
Do I have to register this?
Currently, you still have to register a balcony power plant with the grid operator (not the energy supplier!). However, you can normally use a simple online procedure or a simple PDF to register. The first network operators have already completely dispensed with registration. The device must also be registered in the Federal Network Agency’s market master data register (marktstammdatenregister.de). Fortunately, this happens quite quickly. In future, only this registration will remain and the one with the network operator will be omitted.
Does my electricity meter need to be replaced?
Old electricity meters with turntables (“Ferraris meters”) are replaced with new, digital meters (“modern measuring equipment/mME”) once a balcony power plant has been registered. This exchange is free of charge and should be completed in a few weeks. In future, it will no longer be necessary to wait until the meter is replaced before connecting the balcony power station. Although this is actually still the case today, it is rarely actually done. The reason: the old meters do not record when they run backwards, they just do it…
What do I have to bear in mind with monument/environmental protection/conservation statutes?
Unfortunately, the rules governing the design of buildings sometimes make it impossible to use a balcony power plant. If your own building is subject to such regulations, you should therefore clarify this in advance with the landlord/owner and, if necessary, the local authority. More and more municipalities and federal states are currently adopting deviating guidelines that provide for exemptions for the generation of renewable energy.

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