Clean Power

Published on March 26th, 2012 | by Thomas Gerke


Germany — 7.5 GW of New Solar Power in 2011 (Confirmed)

March 26th, 2012 by  

Earlier this year reports were released that 3 GW of new solar power were installed in Germany during the month of December alone. This marked a new record for solar capacity installed in a single month in Germany and doubts were cast on the accuracy of the news. Many craftsmen and companies of the solar industry voiced their skepticism since they didn’t notice the kind of increased activity that would have been required to accomplish such a record.

To put the 3,000 MW in December into context, the entire solar industry of the US installed a total of 1,855 MW of new capacity in the entire year of 2011.

Now, weeks of speculation have come to an end as the German Federal Network Agency has confirmed its earlier assessment by releasing its final report on new solar installations during the 4th quarter of 2011.

According to the report, solar capacity did actually increase by 2,983 MW in December alone. This report also confirmed an annual solar power capacity increase of 7,482 MW in Germany.

What kind of PV-Systems make up 7.5 GW in Germany

Besides confirming the numbers of the estimates, the report also shed some light on the record months of December. As the reports shows, all kinds of solar projects were significantly up compared to previous months. The installed capacity increased across the board, from small rooftop solar with 3-kW installations, to huge multi-MW solar farms.

Solar power plants greater than 1 MW increased even more so compared to 2010. The market segment for these relatively “huge” solar power projects had a very significant spike in December…. While other segments were up by 200-400% compared to the average value of the previous 11 months, projects 1 MW or larger were up 12x! That pushed about 70% of the installed capacity of that market segment in 2011 into the month of December. I think that showcased quite a strategic move on the part of project developers — low installations during the first half of 2011 to keep cuts to the FiT in July rather low, and then connecting as many projects as possible in December. That’s my thought on it, at least.

What does this new record mean for the solar industry in Germany?

That’s difficult to tell at this moment. The success of the industry and the spread of individual energy autonomy has lead to a serious blowback from the fossil & nuclear lobby and their political allies within the current conservative government. This has been building up since October 2011 and followed the usual playbook of anti-renewable agitation. How hard the industry and the technology will be hit in the coming months is still uncertain. But one thing is certain:
December 2011 proved, once again, that decentralized renewables energy systems can be installed faster than most people are told to believe.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , , ,

About the Author

is a close observer of the scientific, political and economic energy debate in Germany and around the globe. Inspired by the life's work of the renewable energy advocate Hermann Scheer, Thomas focuses on spreading information that showcase the possibilities & opportunities of a 100% renewable energy system. Though technology is key for this energy shift, he also looks at the socio-economic benefits and the political, as well as structural barriers.

  • Robert

    All of your periods in this article should be commas. If th US installed 1,855 Mw in 2011, that is the same as 1.855 GW. No wonder people get confused.

    • anderlan

      Alternatively, a lot of the MW should be changed to GW. Maybe the typos are caused by losing track of the opposing numeric notation conventions: in some places, period is the separator for 3 powers of ten, and comma marks the point beyond which the powers of ten go negative–the exact opposite of the way it’s done where I grew up. I don’t know where the geographic boundary for the 2 different notation systems lies. It’s terrible, I’ll even say commercially and scientifically unacceptable, that they’re completely opposite!

    • ThomasGerke

      Really? In Germany it’s 1.855,00 MW = 1,855 GW.
      But non the less it’s a mix throughout…
      I will keep in mind to check it more carefully before submitting a post, next time 🙂

    • Sorry about that — i somehow saw a few of them and overlooked the others (was too engrossed in the piece perhaps and perhaps too accustomed to living in Europe! :D)

  • ae

    To put it into perspective, what is Germany’s total electrical energy requirement?

    • ThomasGerke

      The highest ever recorded peak-load demand was about 85 GW in Germany. That demand lasted for about 10 minutes and happend more than a decade ago.
      The average daily peak-load is 65 GW on work days and less than 55 GW on weekends.
      Right now there are about 24.5 GW of PV-Solar installed.
      For the last couple of overall sunny days/weeks solar peaked at 12-18 GW at noon.

      So it’s very significant compared to 12 GW of nuclear and 14-17 GW of lignite coal.

      • ae

        The impact of installed solar is enormous then. Off topic, what about de’s plan to use old mines in the south as energy storage buffers?

        • ThomasGerke

          As far as I know, the idea is still being developed.
          While it is considered to be economically possible, it’s still uncertain if it is technologically feasable.
          The mines are primarily located in the west of Germany and eventhough the idea sounds promising, the possible pump storage capacity will only be sufficent to play a role in terms of load management. (Catch the early evening peak demand)

      • Bill_Woods

        According to ENTSOE, for last year, peak demand during the winter months was 80 GW, in the evening. Peak load during the summer was 75 GW in the middle of work days. (Except in August, when apparently half the country went on vacation.)

    • anderlan

      GWh volume at the peak hours (midday) is 20. The hours cancel out, so peak electrical requirement is around 20GW in spring. Basically, right now, during sunny middays, PV will very soon provide 100% of the Germany power load it can be efficiently transmitted to!

  • jburt56

    100 GW by 2020?

    • I hope so.
      Is it possible? For sure. Is it likly to happen? Increasingly so.
      In my opinion it all depends on de-centralized storage technologies being introduced in the market as soon as possible.
      Many experts call for some kind of incentive for personal stoarage systems. Such incentives are not uncommon in Germany, since there are all sort of tax-credits & cheap loans for modernizing homes, heating systems and all things energy efficency.
      If this happens cheap home based multi-kWh storages systems could become a reality rather fast, since the technology is already available. If those systems could follow the learning curve of PV-Solar systems in the coming years, the question will be: Who is dump enough NOT to get off-grid?
      Since the price of storage technology is all about expanding the production capacity, I am very optimistic that it will happen untill 2020. Simply because the auto & chemical industry is currently investing billions in expanding their factories & mining operations for multi-kWh lithium-ion batteries and stuff like that.

Back to Top ↑