Clean Power

Published on July 12th, 2013 | by Thomas Gerke


Sunday, Solar Sunday — Germany’s July 7 Solar Power Record In-Depth

July 12th, 2013 by  

On Sunday, CleanTechnica broke the news that Germany broke yet another solar power record when the country’s 1.3+ million PV systems turned a sunny summer day into 23.9 GW of solar power at about 1:30 PM. This short breaking news has drawn quite a lot of attention, which is reason enough to follow it up with some in-depth analysis and additional data.


A Word On Solar Power Records

At the time of the recent solar power record on July 7th 2013, Germany had an installed PV capacity of approximately 34 GW (33.87 GW at the end of May + June). It has been the experience of the last few years that this total domestic capacity peaks at about 70–80% even under superb weather conditions, due to the various angles of installation. In other words, since not all systems face south at exactly the same angle, some systems peak at 11:00 AM others at 2:30 PM.

Solar Power Record of July 7th 2013

While the “suboptimal” orientation of solar systems isn’t too helpful for reaching (even) higher solar power records, it’s good for grid integration. Since extreme solar power peaks — as cool as they might be — are not really the point, many solar energy experts advocate that future capacities should be installed facing southeast and southwest… instead of simply south. This would increase solar production in the morning and evening hours and provide solar energy more evenly throughout the day – matching production even more with demand peaks.

Sunday, Solar Sunday

When looking at the whole German electricity picture on July 7th, it’s important to recognize that it was a Sunday. Many Germans don’t work on Sundays, leaving offices and also almost all stores and shopping centers closed. This cultural aspect obviously affects electricity consumption a lot, leading to approximately 20–30% below weekday demand and a slightly “flatter” load curve.

German Loadcurve July 7th

That said, solar power does have a significant impact on the net-generation mix on weekends, as well as on weekdays. On July 7th, solar power pushed the share of renewable energy sources in the electricity generation mix above 50% between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM — the hours of peak demand. In total, solar energy generated more than 200 GWh in a single day, providing more than 20% of Sunday’s total electricity.

German Electricity Mix July 7th 2013

This 20.9% share of solar energy in the total electricity supply was propably the real record. As I mentioned before, this was a low-demand weekend day, but this doesn’t diminish this record in my opinion. It’s more like a window into the weekday summer reality from the year 2016/17 onwards, when the installed solar capacity is projected to pass 50 GW.


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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.

  • eject

    New record, definitely above 24.5 GW. We will need to wait for the dust to settle atm SMA reports a peak of 24.7 but history shows that those prognosis are to optimistic.

  • Paulo

    just read that Portugal achieved a fabulous 72% of renewable generated electricity in the first half of 2013. and the electricity exports to Spain had a 50% increase compairing with last years numbers.

  • anderlan

    Nameplate capacity on DC panels on an AC grid automatically take a 10-20% dip for conversion inefficiency. I think perhaps angling of systems in Germany is on balance exemplary.

    • Bob_Wallace

      How do you figure that? Inverter efficiency is around 98%.

      • anderlan

        I suppose I was mistaken. PV Watts has a ‘derate’ factor. PV Watts assumes good angle and no shading (the whole point of the calculator is to account for angle and statistical cloud cover), so I ass-u-me-d that the derate factor was inverter loss alone. Here they give more details:

  • Jack

    That grate news even so for such a short time, back to the drawing white broad coal power Germany number one issue right now, building more coal power stations, what can you say we try solar energy it didn’t work.

    • ThomasGerke

      I think solar works a lot better than most people/analysts recognize.

      Peak-load electricity prices in Germany are falling increasingly often to or below base-load power prices. This has already destroyed the profitability of every new and many old coal power station.

      A top German energy economists even called all coal power stations coming online this year stranded investments. (construction began 2004-2007, before the solar boom of 2009-2012)

      Unless the political allies of the conventional energy industry (coal, gas & nuclear) manage to slow renewable deployment down significantly this development will lethal blow to coal in Germany. Unfortunately the political minions of the energy industry try to slow things down right now (back to the official RE targets).

      If they don’t suceed the current renewable electricity generation trend point towards a nuclear phaseout by 2030 – even faster if solar growth goes viral AND/OR if neighbouring nations also go solar.

      Coal powers last hope for surviving a little longer is exporting electricity to neighbours, when ever renewables push them out of the German grid.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Germany’s new coal burning plants are replacing (not adding to) the older plants that either have been or will soon be decommissioned. These new plants were planned and construction was started prior to the decision to close nuclear plants.

      By 2020, 18.5 gigawatts of coal power capacity will be decommissioned, whereas only 11.3 gigawatts will be newly installed.

      Furthermore those plants will be more efficient, releasing less CO2 per unit electricity produced than are the ones they are replacing. And the new coal plants are partially load-following.

      Germany gets its natural gas from Russia. It would be politically dangerous to build their fossil fuel component around an undependable supply. Furthermore their new coal plants are capable of load following to some extent, which will further reduce the amount of CO2 they produce.

      The citizens of Germany decided that they would accept slowing their reduction in CO2 in order to get nuclear reactors out of their backyards. They live next door to Chernobyl, they still experience the nuclear fallout.

      After seeing a technologically advanced country like Japan melt some down they decided that they did not wish to live with this danger any longer. Other European countries have made the same decision.

      I suppose we’ll have Homer one of our plants into a pile of smoking radiation before we figure it out in the US. We are just so “superior” that we have a difficult time learning from other’s experience.

      BTW, Germany is still on track to be CO2 free by 2050.

      As for solar not working – the modest amount of solar that Germany has installed so far dropped the wholesale cost of electricity by 5 billion euros in 2012.

      • patb2009

        why isnt Germany building more wind power?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Didn’t know they weren’t. They increased their wind capacity by 20% in 2012. They’re building offshore.

          ” Germany aims to increase its production of wind power from 31,000 to 45,000 megawatts over the next seven years. By the middle of the century, it hopes to be generating 85,000 megawatts in wind power”

          Now, lately the right-wing press has been pushing what seems to be a made up story that German wind is in trouble. They seem to have found a few NIMBY folks and tried to build that into a story of great opposition, which simply does not seem to be the case. And there was some offshore turbines which were completed before the transmission line was built that they’ve tried to spin into a story. Perhaps some of that mislead you?

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