Germany sets new solar power record, institute says

BERLIN Mon May 28, 2012 8:54pm IST

Construction workers fix solar panels for a new solar power plant near Olching-Esting west of Munich in this July 7, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/Files

Construction workers fix solar panels for a new solar power plant near Olching-Esting west of Munich in this July 7, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Michaela Rehle/Files

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts o f solar power fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs.

"Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity," Allnoch told Reuters. "Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over."

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources.

Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

SUNSHINE

Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible.

The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide.

The 22 GW figure is up from about 14 GW a year ago. Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.

"This shows Germany is capable of meeting a large share of its electricity needs with solar power," Allnoch said. "It also shows Germany can do with fewer coal-burning power plants, gas-burning plants and nuclear plants."

Allnoch said the data is based on information from the European Energy Exchange (EEX), a bourse based in Leipzig.

The incentives through the state-mandated "feed-in-tariff" (FIT) are not without controversy, however. The FIT is the lifeblood for the industry until photovoltaic prices fall further to levels similar for conventional power production.

Utilities and consumer groups have complained the FIT for solar power adds about 2 cents per kilowatt/hour on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world with consumers paying about 23 cents kw/h.

German consumers pay about 4 billion euros per year on top of their electricity bills for solar power, according to a 2012 report by the Environment Ministry.

Critics also complain growing levels of solar power make the national grid more less stable due to fluctuations in output.

Merkel's centre-right government has tried to accelerate cuts in the FIT, which has fallen by between 15 and 30 percent per year, to nearly 40 percent this year to levels below 20 cents per kw/h. But the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has blocked it.

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Comments (1)
iyermr wrote:
It is certainly creditable that the photovoltaic industry in Germany is showing the lead. But the whole story is not told!

What they are talking is about the peak power; nevertheless it is a remarkable performance. It is the capacity factor that is important for assessing the overall impact. The solar power stations as most of the non conventional power sources have a utility factor of 10 to 19%. Means that if you have an installed capacity of 1000 MW then the power availability would be 200 MW if one averages for the whole year. In comparison the large capitative power stations like nuclear, thermal etc. have capacity factor of 80%, so if one has a reactor of 1000 MW the corresponding figure would be 800 MW. Again meeting 50 percent of power for a particular 24 hours, need to be viewed in the context of the part of the day and year. In cold countries the winter power consumptions are indeed much higher and during summer it is low!

In spite of its impressive performance the availability factor of solar and wind are only 10-13%. So if Germany has a solar installed capacity of 25 GW then its averaged output would be around 2-5 GW only. The statistics show that the solar contribution to Germany’s overall power needs works only to about 3.2% for the year 2011

Mahadeva Iyer

May 30, 2012 8:32am IST  --  Report as abuse
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