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Published on July 25th, 2012 | by Giles Parkinson


Solar on Verge of Overtaking Wind in Germany

July 25th, 2012 by  

The amount of solar energy capacity on the German electricity grid will soon overtake that of wind, making it the first major developed country in the world to boast more solar energy than wind on its national grid.

According to the Federal Net Agency, the country’s solar PV capacity will have risen by 7,100 megawatts (MW) so far this year (to the end of July) to 32,000MW  – overtaking wind which is currently around 31,000MW.

The irony is that Germany is blessed neither with strong wind nor good solar resources. Its average wind speeds are around half that of Australia and its solar resources are less than half. But it is determined to source 35 per cent of its energy production from renewables by 2020, as it winds down its nuclear capacity.

Solar is taking an increasingly prominent role in the German electricity grid, accounting for more than 40 per cent of energy produced on some sunny days, and matching well with wind, as these graphs from Bruno Burger of the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany below show.

The first graph shows how Germany sources more wind and less solar in the winter months, before the tables are turned in summer. The second graphic shows the production of wind and solar compared to the production of conventional energy over the first six months of the year.

But here’s another graph that breaks down the contributions from renewables and conventionals even further. It is for the month of June, and shows that wind and solar combined produced as much energy in the month as Germany’s remaining nuclear reactors. At times during the month, solar provided twice as much energy as nuclear, and more than any other energy source.

This article was originally published on REnew Economy. It has been reposted with full permission.

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About the Author

is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

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  • Luke

    While I love solar & wind, I fail to see how both of these sources can provide a stable level of generation without some sort of back up – we may have to invest in pumped hydro or grid level energy storage. 

    • ThomasGerke

      You are right.
      Energy storage is always a part of any power supply system. The difference is that unlike coal, oil, gas & uranium, wind & solar have to be stored after they are converted into electricity. 

      There will propably be the need for two kind of electric storage systems… (1)hourly/daily storage in form of pumped storage (air & water), small battery (in cars & homes) and propably larger batterys (wind parks, local grid stabilizers,…)(2)long term storage in form of chemical storage… converting electricity to hydrogen, methan or methanol. 

      What these graphs show is that the need for long term storage can be significantly reduced by increasing wind & solar capacity equally. 

      • Dave2020

        “wind & solar have to be stored after they are converted into electricity.”

        That is certainly true for solar PV, but it doesn’t always have to be that way, either for CSP or wind.

        Germany is investing heavily in storage, especially pumped hydro, (10 schemes planned) but are too far North for CSP, I’d assume. Desertec makes more sense.

        CSP can use molten salt to store energy as heat, then you have some flexibility as to what time of day you generate the electricity. That time-shift is useful for grid balancing.

        Better still, wind power off-shore could capture the energy into raised-weight accumulators, so that the generator is driven from stored energy, not directly from the turbine. That approach allows you to dispatch electricity in response to demand.

        If sufficient capacity were installed it could massively reduce the need for grid scale storage, because it could have a dual role as negative reserve to take power off the grid as well.

        • ThomasGerke

          All those technologies are theoretically possible 🙂 

          I would urge you to consider who you mean when you say “Germany is investing”…. Utilites are investing in a few GW & GWhs of additional pumped-storage plants. 

          Which technology and which paradigm of storage will end up being the dominant sollution in 10-30 years depends mainly on other factors. 

          Basicly the means of storrage has to conform with the economic interesst of those who invest & operate renewable energy production capacity. 

          Since more than 70% of all renewables in Germany are owned by private individuals, farmers & businesses the sollution that will make it will most likly be distributed, modular and scalable. 
          Since the big energy corporations controll less than 7% of all renewables and only a tiny fractions of wind & solar, there is a rather small market for solutions that fit their economic interessts (centralizing storage solutions).

          Desertec is commonly understood as a ruse / mirage-project by a large fraction of the German pro-renewable community. It faces so many hurdles that it is a perfect justification for pushing other “bridge-technologies” instead of going renewable immediatly. 

          Before this decade ends, PV+Storage will provide electricity cheaper than CSP+Storage in Spain/Northern Africa does today. With no need for transmission via transcontinental super grids that aren’t being build anywhere.  

          Economical for households & commerce, no possible businessmodel for conventional power corporations.

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