Clean Power

Published on April 16th, 2013 | by Thomas Gerke


Solar Power Record In Germany — 22.68 GW — Infographic

April 16th, 2013 by  

On Monday, the 15th of April, 2013, the approximate 1.3 million solar power systems in Germany set a new domestic/world record by reaching a peak power output of 22.68 GW at noon.

The New Normal

This new record is almost 0.5 GW above the “old” record of 22.2 GW, which was set on May 25th, 2012. Allthough I love celebrating all solar records, the biggest news might be that “just” 22.68 GW is apparently no longer newsworthy in Germany, because above 15-20 GW of solar have become a regularity.

During the first two weeks of April, solar surpassed the 20 GW mark on several occasions and made a meaningful contribution to the domestic power supply on every single day. For everybody remotely familiar with German or Central European weather conditions, it’s needless to say that it wasn’t all sunshine & cloudless skies in April.

Graphs: Bruno Burger, Fraunhofer ISE

Graphs: Bruno Burger, Fraunhofer ISE

Since solar panels last for 25+ years and have almost no marginal costs, I like to use the opportunity to mention the fact that whatever might happen in policy in the coming years, those yellow areas of the electricity market will remain liberated* from the external effects caused by conventional electricity production for at least one generation. (*To use a slightly more energy revolutionary sort of language)

So, lets celebrate the new solar world record of 22.68 GW of solar power on a national grid, despite its relative “mediocrity,” with a little infographic!

Solar Record 15th April 2013In case you are wondering: The equivalents mentioned in the infographic were chosen for the Japanese “market” (for solar and ideas).

  1. The 167 GWh of solar electricity provided a little more than 12% of the total German electricity consumption on a typical Monday in April (presuming that consumption hasn’t changed too much since last year).
  2. The 34,000 tons of oil are calculated by considering a thermal power plant efficency of 42%, meaning that for each kWh of electricity you got to burn 2.4 kWh of oil. (42% is the average for Japanese oil-fired power stations that usually provided peakload electricity before, and now even more so after, the Fukushima nuclear accident.)
  3. The number of nuclear reactors refers to each one running for 24 hours straight. The comparison is intended to show that distributed solar can make a big impact and doesn’t need years to build. I am aware that comparing clean peak-load solar operating in the renewable energy paradigm with old-school baseload nuclear is relatively pointless.

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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.

  • Bruno Cipolla

    For the record, today i just (02pm) saw 23.05 GW of solar on the German network.

  • JoeK Cardiff

    In the UK there’s , is there something similar for Germany?

    • ThomasGerke

      There are two good sources, one is the transparency platform of the European Energy Exchange (, but they don’t display all sources nor current demand.

      A better source might be:

      But it’s in German only.

      • Thx! I thought of eex, but like you said, doesn’t show current demand. Appreciated! 😀

      • JoeK Cardiff

        genau was ich suchte, und gut dass ich dabei mein Deutsch ueben muss. Vielen Dank!

  • Alex

    Interesting to note what the thermal power stations have to do. Just below 20GW on Easter Monday during the day, ramping up to about 37GW in the evening, and then up to 48GW on the Tuesday evening.

    There must be at least 60GW of thermal capacity on the network – a lot of it brown coal. What’s to be done with this when the sun is shining – why, export it.

    It highlights the need for a storage breakthrough. It would also give a bit of realism to show graphs for March, which had lousy weather.

    • ThomasGerke

      That’s one way to look at it. In my opinion the residual load market has to be guided toward it’s gap filler role through proactive policy frameworks that push undesired unflexible power stations out of the market.

      There are basicly two storage sectors.
      1-Short term storage for day to day load management
      2-Long term storage (Week to week/ month to month) for energy harvesting => supplying residual load for gap filling

      The second storage sector will most likly be covered by power to gas conversion and the technology required for this are well on their way to be ready when needed. (2020+)

      However the dispatchable capacity needed for covering the residual load is not yet transformed in a way that allows economically viable operation. Meaning that we need a big chunk of distributed industrial, commercial and residential CHPs that make sense even with well under 2000 full load hours.

      I don’t understand you comment about march. It was cold and rainy, but energy wise it was the best month of the year so far with wind & solar producing 7 TWh (Only January & May 2012 have been better months in history)

      • Alex

        Agree with the problems and definition of storage sectors. Issue (1) can be solved with near term batteries – a typical house would need about 10KWhrs of storage.

        The seasonal or week to week storage is a big issue. What do you mean by power to gas conversion? The best solution I can see to this is domestic / commercial level fuel cells providing CHP. These provide heat and electricity when solar is pretty useless (ie winter).

        Ref: March being lousy – I was referring to solar. Yes, it was better than January and February, but poor compared to last March (which was very sunny).

        • ThomasGerke

          (1) Indeed, decentralized storage, more EVs / heat-pumps that get charged/produce heat when desired (excluding must run of course), …
          Though right now, the 7GW / 40 GWh existing pumped storage capacity is not even really tapped in for load management.

          (2) Power to Gas refers to the converstion of electricity into hydrogen or methan (creating “Synthetic Natural Gas” (SNG) by adding CO2). This will only make sense when there are truly regional / national wind & solar outputs in excess of demand. (never happend until now)

          • Alex

            Power to gas also needs electricity too cheap to meter. With round trip efficiencies of about 40%, it is a significant waste of resources.

          • ThomasGerke

            The conversion efficency is actually not that bad compared to other storage technologies and . 40% round trip electricic efficency sounds bad from the perspective of todays electricity system, but it’s not at all a waste of ressources when concieving the energy system of the future.

            We already agreed that CHPs will be the ideal way to provide the residual load in the electricity system of the future. That means that SNG generated from excess variable renewables (wind / solar) would be reconverted (into Power & Heat) with 80-95% efficency.

            Such a system ends up supplying energy needs with a 40-60% efficency.

            Since most of our electricity needs would be suplied by wind & solar directly, the efficiency of the system would not be reduced incredibly much even if a certain amount of TWhs would go through the “Power to Gas” => “Gas-to-Power & Heat” process.

            Electricity from Solar & Wind in excess of current demand would basically be to cheap to meter, because the marginal costs are close to zero. 😉

    • Bob_Wallace

      My understanding is that the new coal plants coming on line in Germany will be capable of load following to some extent. If so, that’s going to give the grid more flexibility.

      Additionally it’s probably best to not think of Germany as a ‘stand-alone’ grid. That does not seem to be where Europe is heading. Germany may need more fossil fuel fill-in at the moment but as the energy gathering net is cast wider supply will become more regular and dispatchable renewable sources in other countries will come into play,

  • your solar is totally useless, as witness its production from 6 pm to 8 am. During that period, it’s not oil — it’s coal, at 1 kilogram of CO2 per kilowatt-hour, providing the power. This is why Germany’s electricity GHGs are and will remain unconscionably high for a country that lectures the world in reducing GHGs. Make like France, and go nuclear. Get real results instead of phony-green bogus results.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Congratulations Steve!!!

      You’ve been entered into our Stupid Comment of the Day contest.

      And here’s some more good news – you have an excellent chance of winning!!!

      • wow… good comeback Bob.

      • Alex

        Which bit of the his argument is incorrect?

        • Bob_Wallace


          “your solar is totally useless”

          “This is why Germany’s electricity GHGs are and will remain unconscionably high for a country that lectures the world in reducing GHGs”

          ” go nuclear. Get real results instead of phony-green bogus results”

          Big bits….

    • Steve, I think Bob took you for a simple troll, but I think you are actually somehow convinced that nuclear is the way to go. That’s is so far from the truth that it’s hard for many of us to believe you aren’t tied to the industry or something.

      Some key points: nuclear power is absurdly, immensely, catastrophically expensive… even if you use very conservative estimates.

      The only places new nuclear is getting built is where the government (taxpayers) or ratepayers are *heavily* subsidizing it and taking on its considerable financial risk.

      Even France, which as you point out took the nuclear route awhile back, is dropping nuclear and heading towards renewables. It seems it has learned something from neighbor Germany.

      “totally useless” is probably what got everyone to completely ignore you. Obviously, if it was totally useless, it wouldn’t be getting bought like hotcakes. Obviously, it wouldn’t be the fastest growing source of new electricity. Electricity fro solar is often created when electricity is most expensive, so it is providing a supply with practically $0 marginal costs at times of highest demand. As such, it is *highly* valuable. It also often doesn’t require new transmission infrastructure, which saves us a pretty penny. And it cuts fuel imports. Really, the list goes on, but I think you’ve got the point by now….

  • heinbloed
  • heinbloed


    Thanks, Thomas, for the report!

    • ThomasGerke

      Thank you 🙂

  • heinbloed

    The state’s part (taxes) on the German household electricity price is over 50%, they finance schools with this money, free schools, free books, no uniforms, no armed wardens ….

    and the graphic disc

  • Pingback: Low-Income Households Get Quicker Solar Return On Investment In Belgium | CleanTechnica()

  • Bob_Wallace

    Looking at the ‘Actual Production’ graph it seems clear that Germany has enough dispatchable conventional capacity to allow a lot more wind and solar to come on line. There’s a range from ~20k MW to ~50k MW over the time span.

    • Bill_Woods

      Looking at pages 71-85, you can see that they only cut coal production when they have to, and only cut lignite production when they really have to. Rather than ramp up and down like a yo-yo every morning, midday, and afternoon, they import/export.
      It’s kind of a nuisance that Fraunhofer has three series of graphs with the same label, “Electricity Production in Germany / Actual Production”, when the first only splits out solar and wind, the third has a more detailed break down, and the second shows production minus export — i.e. consumption.

      • Bob_Wallace

        You do realize that the fossil fuel industry is quite powerful in Germany, do you not?

        While renewables are rapidly growing there is considerable pushback from traditional energy. The fossil fuel industry is worried about loosing their profits. I’m sure if they’re able to sell product to other countries and make money, that’s what they will do.

        • arne-nl

          There is a free market for electricity in Europe, so I would interpret that as business as usual rather than evil fossil fuel company behaviour.

          • ThomasGerke

            Free Market for electricity/energy? Nowhere on the planet to my knowledge.
            The european electricity market has been unbundled and liberalized. It is however heaviliy distorted by a legacy of past & present subsidies (for fossil & nuclear) & priviledges for conventional energy corporations and their oligopole structures.

            Besides, “Business as usual” is destroying the ecosphere, makes us more dependent of imports from questionable coutries and destroying the health of people (especially the unborn -< mercury emissions)

            How do you define evil?
            Hint: If sunny days + clean energy technologies hurt your credit rating, "good" usually does not apply.

            Besides, to you suggest that "markets" lead to favourable/good outcomes, even if they are riddled with distortions and externalities? That's usually the recipie for market faliure. (catastrophic in the case of the energy sector)

  • jburt56

    It’s getting there.

  • UKGary

    Regardless of what happens on policy, solar arrays will continue to be installed in Germany. Even if incentives were to stop tomorrow, some householders – particularly retired people with cash savings and few options for secure returns on their investment would choose to install an array as a hedge against future rises in electricity prices, and to reduce their energy bills.

    • Dave2020

      Spot on Gary, and the same is true even in Wales, which is not noted for its sunshine.

      I would already be enjoying an income from PV, were it not for the peculiar UK regulations, that permit roof-top installations, but subject ground-mounted PV to planning consents.

    • Alex

      Well – sort of true, Solar would be cost effective – at least here in south west Germany – without the subsidy because of the high electricity prices, One of the reason for the high electricity prices is the surcharge to pay for the solar subsidy.

      Also, solar dumps cost on to the traditional grid with thermal power stations operating at lower utilisation, but still needed at night.

      And April has been great here, but March was lousy (March 2012 was better than April 2012).

      • Bob_Wallace

        Germany had high electricity prices well before renewable subsidies came into play. Currently renewable subsidies account for about 3% of the price of electricity.

        • ThomasGerke

          Well to be fair, the EEG surcharge makes up about 19% of residential electricity rate.

          Some argue (with comprehensive alalysis) that only half of the surcharge can be considered “subsidies”, the rest are mainly re-distribution effects (merit order effect, industry free loading,…).

          At the end of the day electricity bills are just 3% of household spending (I think that’s where your percentage number came from) and funding everything you hear about renewable electricity / energy democracy in Germany is just 0.6% – not much and it stays in the country.

          • Bob_Wallace

            My 3% came from here…


            “although renewable energy subsidies increase retail electricity rates by 3%, they reduce the profits of German electrical utilities by an average of 8%, making them less competitive with other European utilities;”

            That is from a 2009 paper and may not accurately reflect today’s conditions.

          • Alex

            I know that the EEG is now 5.28c/KWhr, which is over 25% of the pre-EEG tarriff. Part of the reason this is so high is because its mostly paid for by consumers, with internationally competive industries and industries with a powerful lobby being excluded.

            Electrical utilities don’t compete internationally. It’s not like I can ring up Good Energy and get them to deliver electricity in Germany.

            Of course, a lot of that tarriff comes back to me through solar subsidies. But only because we’re rich enough / lucky enough to have our own house with a south facing roof in a sunny part of Germany.

  • Matthew

    Americans use to love being number one. Now we are just the best at being fat and lazy, while the rest of the world leaves us behind while people like Mitt Romney say things like “you can’t put a windmill on a car.”

    • sean

      It’s funny ’cause it’s true…. and so nice of the Americans to finally realise it. Perhaps now they can pull their heads out

    • at first i wanted to laugh. then wanted to frown. but yes, i fully agree. (though, not to say we are *completely* failing. the US is still the most attractive solar power market for investors, according to Ernst & Young. and it is home of Tesla, the Chevy Volt, First Solar, SunPower…)

      • When I mention to my Euro colleagues who is the number 3 US state with the most installed PV, they never come up with NEW JERSEY! I also like what VERMONT has done to get rid of the soft costs (permitting fees, etc.) and about a 1 WEEK approval decision to allow a private homeowner to create their OWN POWER on their ROOF. Excellent policy Vermont! 49 states to go….

    • Ross

      We have our fair share of short sighted politicians in Europe. The geniuses in the EU parliament on Tuesday rejected the EU commission’s proposal to increase the carbon price in the Emissions Trading System by 334 to 315, with 63 abstentions. Ok they aren’t as bad as the Tea Party but they’re pretty bad.

    • docscience

      Americans enjoy electric power at a cost 1/3 that of Germany.

      • Bob_Wallace

        From a 2009 Economist article about the high price of electricity:

        “The main reason Germany’s electricity market is not working as it should is the lack of competition.”

        “A second problem is that Germany’s biggest electricity generators also own the networks that distribute electricity. Critics argue that this gives them a huge advantage over independent producers…”

        “… over the longer run, ambitious plans to increase the share of electricity from renewable sources may erode the dominance of the country’s four biggest electricity generators. Germany hopes to get as much as 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and although few in the industry think the target will be met, there is nevertheless likely to be a huge investment in new generating capacity over the coming decades.”

        Of course that 30% by 2020 prediction looks puny now in 2013. Germany is on track to hit 35% by 2014.

      • ThomasGerke

        Ah well, Apple and Oranges…
        Of course it’s true that German residential electricity rates are about twice as high as those in California or New York, but this difference has just as much to do with a general high energy price policy (taxes on Energy consumption), powerful conventional utility oligopoles, as it has to do with the renewable energy expansion.

        But at the end of the day:
        A. German households might pay higher rates per kWh, but they end up paying similar or even lower electricity bills due to higher energy efficency standards.
        B. Oh buhh freakidy huh. We are (relativly) rich, Bitch! The American society wastes more than 10% of it’s GDP on excess spending on a broken healthcare system (Germany 11% – US 17+%), Cold War like “Defence”-Spending (Germany 1.5% – US 6%) and the totally oversized US financial sector.

        Pardon my straight talk, but a few cents per kWh are a very tiny price to pay for the positive domestic & global developements that have & are being triggered by the German example.

      • PT

        pretty short sighted…I’d rather pay more for power and not use an archaic harmful power source

    • Infact, this is not exactly. US has a lot of changes in energy supply sources, switching from coal to shale and natural gas, introducing pump-hydro stations, mass electric cars and very good investment in solar and wind power. The CO2 levels are back to 1994 alredy(and green energy is all what about) Just let you know that green energy in Germany makes the highes electric bill per family compared to the world. Second, Germans still does not have electric network mechanisms to embrace such energy more than 11 percent(still need 90 percent backup from conventional energy sources), other countries like sweden and finland already reached more than 25 percent(and finns are more fat than US citizens:). So, US is still a good source of green energy novelties and promise very good green future in next 30 years.

    • Chris

      Texas is #1 in wind power in the U.S. and we’re building solar now too. We need to build renewables along side our efforts to become oil independent. Mandates will lead to increased energy costs and that will hurt our economy more than we already are. We have a helluva lot more space to cover than anyone in Europe does.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Texas better kick it in gear.

        South Dakota and Iowa are getting about 25% of their electricity from wind and Iowa is on track to get 50% from wind by 2016.

        You want to be #1 in wind, you better cowboy up. ;o)

    • Jim

      Solar in the U.S. is booming, or haven’t you heard of Agua Caliente Solar Project? Or Arlington Valley Solar Energy? Or that Texas gets a full 10 % of its electricity from wind alone? Or the dozens of gigawatts of renewable energy that are already on line, and as much more in the works? Yes, a third of us may be obese, but our solar and renewable energy sector is strong and getting more so.

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