How Germany Could Reach 150 GW of Solar Capacity

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Originally published on the ECOreport

Germany’s rooftops and facades could produce as much 300 GW of electricity. The challenge is storing the energy so that it is not simply dumped on the grid during peak hours. A new paper from Agora Energiewende suggests how Germany could reach 150 GW of solar capacity.

8141587163_4432e38b24_kUsing Alternate Storage Sources

This would seem to contradict current scenarios which state that Germany will not possess 40 GW to 70 GW of storage capacity until 2050 – and that isn’t anywhere near enough to handle the volume being suggested.

The Agora study suggests using sources not mentioned in these scenarios. Their breakthrough year is 2033, at which point it expects to have a capacity of about 193 GW and 426 GWh. The sources are:

  • 125 GW – electromobility
  • 40 GW – home saving
  • 23 GW – the commercial sector
  • 5 GW – usually reserved

Coordinating these sources presents a challenge. Left on their own, a large number of household batteries could create a surge on the grid by simultaneously discharging their excess electricity. Similarly, EV owners returning from work may cause a peak in demand when they charge their vehicles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 8.34.35 AMNeed For An Overall Energy Policy

Thus an overall energy policy is required, with incentives, taxes and regulations to manage distribution bottlenecks.

One of the ideas put forward is using smart meters on streets and in systems over 7 GW.

Another possibility is a “power light” system, in which access to the grid is determined by:

  • green light – all clear
  • yellow traffic – imminent power shortage
  • red light – access denied

Though by no means a blueprint, the paper Was wäre, wenn… ein flächendeckender Rollout von Solar-Speicher-Systemen stattfände? (translation:  “What if… there were a nationwide rollout of PV battery systems?”) opens the door to further possibilities.


Technically & Economically Possible

“Scenarios with 150 or 200 gigawatts of photovoltaics in Germany, which were until recently considered by many utterly unrealistic, are technically and economically possible. Rather than focusing on electricity sales, energy businesses will need other products to serve customers who produce and store their own power,” says Dr Patrick Graichen, director of Agora Energiewende.

Top Photo Credit: Roof in preparation for the addition of solar panels. Special mounting tiles replace the normal clay tiles to secure the panels. by Tim Fuller via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); German electrical production during the first half of 2015. Solar production was 1.0 TWh, or 5.1%, less than 2014 due to bad weather. Wind was up 11.4 TWh. Solar and wind power generators produced 59 TWh in the first half of the year, enough to put them in second position after lignite but ahead of hard coal and nuclear. – Courtesy Fraunhofer; German Solar Power Map About 1.5 million photovoltaic systems with a total capacity of 38,2 terawatt are installed in Germany. ( from Strom Report via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Reprinted with permission.

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Roy L Hales

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

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5 thoughts on “How Germany Could Reach 150 GW of Solar Capacity

  • Great story. 150 gigawatts is an outstanding achievement.

  • This is a terrific article on how Germany can achieve very high solar penetration. It can serve as a template for other nations as well. Thanks for posting it here.

    I note that about 2/3 of the energy storage shown here is “electromobility”, i.e. electric vehicles. Very conveniently, vehicles need to do about 2-4 hours of Level 2 charging to meet daily driving needs. But as the article indicates, this will need to be carefully scheduled so EV owners don’t overwhelm the grid when they get home from work, or at other times when it’s convenient for vehicle owners to charge but inconvenient for the grid.

    The obvious solution is one I’ve been trumpeting here for at least a year: retail visibility into real-time market-clearing pricing. Or rather, not real-time pricing, because that would destabilize the grid (price is cheap → everyone plugs in → price soars → everyone plugs out), but rather, a fixed minute-by-minute price schedule based on a forecast/estimate, which these days can be very accurate.

    Then it would be a simple matter of telling your car, perhaps through the smartphone, “Charge during the times of day when price is below 5¢/kWh” (or the Euro equivalent). Or, “I need 14 kWh in the next 24 hours, charge when it’s cheapest.” A reasonably intelligent app would do this automatically based on learned driving patterns, with the occasional override by the owner something like “I need to be near a full charge at 9:00 Sunday morning” (for a long trip). The app might also occasionally need to tell the driver, “You’re parked near chargers at these times of day when power is cheap, but not taking advantage of it – plug in then and you could save €5/day.”

    With lots of solar on the grid, cars would do a lot of charging in late morning, staggering according to how much each vehicle needs: the ones needing more would start earliest, etc. With a gradual transition into this kind of system, like if we start now with low EV penetration, vehicle demand becomes easy to forecast, and to integrate into the daily price schedule. The weather forecast would also include the electricity price schedule for the next 24+ hours. “Holidays are coming up, prices are expected to rise to €0.11/kWh, be sure to charge early to get ahead of the demand surge.”

    Demand rises and falls according to fluctuating production by intermittent renewables. Prices stabilize. EVs charge at low cost. Everybody wins.

    The alternative is top-down utility-dictated charge scheduling. But who wants that?

    • I think you have the right idea. I also think having EV charging at daily driving destinations, like work, would make implementing it a lot easier.

  • The special tiles are a clever and simple idea. I built a house in Strasbourg in the 1970s, using heavy German roof tiles. These interlock, and certainly looked strong enough to carry a solar mounting rail.It wouldn’t work with lighter shingles or slates, or mon-interlocking Roman tiles as in the Mediterranean.

    Agora: “Left on their own, a large number of household batteries could create a
    surge on the grid by simultaneously discharging their excess
    electricity. Similarly, EV owners returning from work may cause a peak
    in demand when they charge their vehicles.” Agora are influential policy wonks, but they don’t always have their feet on the ground.
    1. Battery discharge on to the grid must of course be subject to control by the utility. This can’t be a huge technical challenge.
    2. EV car owners are going to plug in their cars when they go to bed, not when they come home.
    Down the road, you need ToD pricing, domestic demand response, and intelligent home controllers to manage everything. The EV charger can be switched on and off during the night in response to surges and lulls in wind output, say.

    Germany is very backward in installing smart meters, and SFIK is barely present in the home domotics market, with no competitors to Nest, Honeywell and Apple.

  • Combine an ultracapacitor and conformal pv into an attractive roof tile matching traditional tiles in appearance.

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