Originally published on the ECOreport
I finally met Thomas Grigoleit last week. The Director of Energy and Environmental Technology for Germany’s economic development agency (Germany Trade and Invest) peddled up to the restaurant where we were waiting. He had left the office for the day and, folding his suit into a rucksack, set off to meet the North American journalists. This was probably going to be my best opportunity for an interview of GTAI’s Thomas Grigoleit.
GTAI’s press junket
We were on the fifth day of Germany Trade and Invest’s (GTAI) autumn press junket. Most of the people sitting around the table, in the photo above, are journalists. GTAI had already taken us to 17 sites in the Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin areas.
I’m the fellow with the white moustache. The black rectangular shape in front of me, partially masked by a vase of flowers, is my recorder. Thomas Grigoleit is sitting directly across from me. Our table was full of conversations and, listening to the MP3, it is sometimes difficult to pick out our voices from some of the others.
Solar Plus Battery
I asked Thomas about residential solar plus battery.
“Depending on how long the financing period is, the price of solar plus battery is becoming competitive right now. You see already battery packs with storage costs of 20 euro cents per kilowatt hour. I think they already have 25,000 installed. Most of them are new PV systems with battery, but there is also a retrofit market. Customers who already have systems now want to add a battery,” he said.
Longevity of solar panels
There are already a number of +30-year-old solar panels operating in the United States, where this technology was first developed. Has he heard any stories like this from Germany?
“A father of a good friend of mine was one of the very first movers in PV and he installed his system twenty-five years ago,” said Thomas.
Our conversation was interrupted by the clinking of glasses and calls for “a toast.”
Renewables on The Grid
When the opportunity returned, I asked Thomas about price fluctuations on the spot market.
“We still have a huge amount of kilowatt hours that are fluctuating. Sometimes you have negative electricity prices. Sometimes you have very high electricity prices on the spot market. On the other hand there are battery banks being installed now, to balance out the fluctuations, but that really will not change the fluctuations on the market. Therefore a new electricity market is being designed. The fluctuations are on the generation side and that is, right now, being worked on,” he said.
(A week later, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy unveiled SINTEG (Schaufenster intelligente Energie/ Shop window for intelligent energy), a €230 million energy project to digitize of Germany’s economy and make the increased adoption of intermittent energy sources possible.
According to Phillip Hiersemenzel, of the battery park company Younicos, the real problem is too much fossil fuel electricity is clogging the grid.
Hiersemenzel once emailed me that, “To be able to adjust their power just a little up and down, these plants have to run at something like 70% of capacity. in fact a typical coal fired power plant runs at 90% in order to adjust 2% up and down. The remainder of the power thus produced has to be absorbed by the grid and thus blocks space for renewable generation. In Germany we have about 25 Gigawatts of such so-called “must-run” capacity. With an average load of 60 GW and a low of 45 GW that means that in times of low load everything above 20GW of renewable generation has to be powered down or exported.”
This was far too controversial a subject for the Director of Energy and Environmental Technology for Germany’s economic development agency to get ensnared in.
Nor could he comment on the recent Agora Energiewende study that suggested Germany could develop storage capacity much faster by utilizing EV batteries and “home savings.”)
Our suppers started arriving after that.
I turned my recorder off and enjoyed a delightful evening.
Then Thomas Grigoleit rode off on his bicycle, the other GTAI people went home, and we journalists checked in to our hotel.
There were only two sites to visit the following day. Then the press trip was over.
Photo Credits: (l to r) Pamela Wolfe (Editor-in-Chief, WEF Publishing UK Ltd); Flérida Regueira Cortizo (Senior Manager Environmental Technologies, GTAI), me, Roy L Hales (Editor the ECOreport); Jim Hight (Senior Editor Climate Change Business Journal); Susan McVittie (Managing Editor, Watershed Sentinel); Thomas Grigoleit (Director of Energy and Environmental Technology, GTAI); Todd Latham (President actual media) – Our guide, Daniel Stephens of GTAI, took the photo with my camera; A much clearer picture of Thomas Grigoleot – Courtesy Germany Trade and Invest; Residential solar adoption at Ahaus, Germany, in 2014 – by Tim Fuller via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); The Demonstration grid at Younico’s facility in Berlin – Roy L Hales photo
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