Clean Power

Published on April 28th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor


Two German States Have Already Hit 100% Renewable Electricity

April 28th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Renewables International.
By Craig Morris

In 2015, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein generated more renewable power than households and businesses in each state consumed.

Germany has 16 states, three of which are city-states, leaving us with 13 Flächenländer (which could be roughly translated as states that are not only urban areas). In the countryside, renewable energy production is easier than in developed areas, and population density – and hence, power consumption – is lower. So it’s natural for rural states to reach 100 percent renewable electricity first.

Back in 2014, I wrote about how Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (which borders the Baltic and Poland) had already reached 120 percent renewable electricity for 2013 as a whole. Essentially, the state exports quite a bit of electricity. Furthermore, the calculation is net; the state is reliant on neighboring areas at times of low wind and solar power production in particular.

In 2015, the state increased its net share of renewables in power supply to 130 percent (report in German). Onshore wind made up roughly 2.6 TWh of the total of 4.9 TWh, followed by power from biomass at 2.3 GWh, PV at 1.2 TWh, and 0.6 TWh of offshore wind.

Schleswig-Holstein is another German state to watch. Located along the North Sea and bordering Denmark, this state had 78 percent renewable power in 2014 – but it apparently reached 100 percent net last year (report in German). If heat and mobility are included, however, the share drops to 24 percent – much lower, but still considerably above the German average of 14 percent.

Biomass made up 46 percent of this energy, followed by 44 percent wind power and 10 percent other. The state has a target of 300 percent renewables.

Reprinted with permission.

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  • Thies Beckers

    I can tell you a thing or two about those states ±

    1. they are coastal ones, so they get the highest wind ratings.
    2. The article says that biomass is 46% and wind 44%

    Biomass, we all know what that means… predominantly burning wood-pellets. Besides these are really small states.

    Mecklenburg-Vorpommern : 1.6 million inhabitants (country has 80 million +)

    Schleswig-Holstein : 2.8 million inhabitants (country has 80 million +)
    Electricity generation in Germany is about 640 TWh per year. That’s roughly 8000KWh per person in Germany.

    So we’ve got 4.4 Million inhabitants in these two states. That’s 35.2 TWh.

    46% of it is burning wood-pellets i.e. 16.2 TWh
    44% of it is wind i.e. 15.5 TWh

    Solve for X : ((X x 8766)/100)x30=15.5 TWh

    X is 0,0058 TW or 5800 MW or 5.8 GW

    It’s not that spectacular… In the fact generation in these states is less than a percent of the total energy in Germany.. Hardly something to get excited over.

  • ROBwithaB

    Pumped hydro storage is an idea almost as old as electricity itself.
    But it doesn’t really make sense on a small scale.

    It is fairly simple to do the calculations for total energy stored due to gravitational potential energy. F=ma, and W=fd.

    You need lots of water and lots of height. And then two big containers.
    It’s a very expensive undertaking if you have to do it all yourself, in concrete, rather than relying on nature to provide the height difference (mountain) and the big storage vessels on either side (deep valleys) with convenient narrow openings to plug (gorges).

  • Karl the brewer

    And the world never came to an end?

  • Brian

    It’s too bad the USA cannot emulate the success Germany has with renewable energy. The USA has better wind and solar resources than Germany, so clearly it needs to change it’s focus, and strive to get 100% of it’s electricity from renewables.

    • Roland

      the US is doing ok. It could be doing better, but could be doing worse as well. PV Solar is starting to pick up and wind is doing pretty well in central U.S. We’ve got three or four states that are 75% or more renewable in their electrical generation (mostly hydroelectric power). More states are raising their renewable portfolio standards than are lowering them.

    • Karl the brewer

      Better resources but more idiots in power.

  • egriff5514

    Thanks – that is exactly the sort of explanation of terms I was looking for. (It will come in handy arguing with anti-renewables types).

    • Craig is your man for anything on the German renewable energy front.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Craig, do you know how much electricity is shipped out of and into these states over a period of time? That could give us some idea of how large a “battery” the would need to be 100% renewable and self-sufficient.

    • Ammaross Danan

      I would hope they invest in something like hydro storage as a “battery” rather than actual battery arrays, as I still don’t see real batteries as “renewable” or “green.” But certainly better than just burning coal instead!

      • Bob_Wallace

        The materials in batteries are not “consumed”. It may turn out that used up batteries will be sources of concentrated materials for new batteries.
        It may turn out that the value of some of the material (cobalt?) will be valuable enough to reclaim it and that would leave other material (lithium?) refined or easy to refine, so why not reuse it.

        I can see the same thing happening with silicon solar panels. It may make economic sense to reclaim the metal used for connections. And that might leave the processed silicon cleaned up and ready to reuse.

        • Ammaross Danan

          The energies and chemical baths required to reclaim spent batteries, combined with their short workable lifespan, would make them far less “green” than something like a water tower with a turbine and pump.

          • ROBwithaB

            You’re going to need a bigger water tower…

      • ROBwithaB

        Flow batteries might be the way to go.

  • Matt

    And before Debbie downer jumps in and says “Yes but they are connect by grid to other regions”, so are all area that produce > 95% of current CO2 equivalents. And we have already see several example of islands getting there. So onward and upward, everyone catch up to these leaders and also grab the transportation section by the horns. Or if you prefer the other end and squeeze!

  • neroden

    Worth noting that these states are the furthest north, and have terrible sunlight. If they can do it, anyone can.

  • egriff5514

    I’d like to know more about what counts as biomass in Germany – can anyone enlighten me?
    I get the impression this is anaerobic digestion mostly, plus wood (and that no wood products are imported for generation?)
    How often do these 2 areas need to import power -and how much of it is fossil fuel?

    • Andy


      • egriff5514

        I have of course googled this extensively… but difficult to interpret the terms used… Craig’s article and onesecond have kindly pointed me at some interpretation!

    • onesecond

      I did some googling and it is mainly biomethane out of corn silage and liquid manure with waste heat recovery for long distance heating. So the good news is no biomass imports, but corn is grown there as an energy plant.

      • egriff5514

        Thanks.. that’s what I thought… googling it has been difficult to interpret how the term is used in German refs…

    • Philip W

      Fraunhofer ISE ( counts electricity production, and that’s what they count as biomass:
      – solid biogenic substances
      – liquid biogenic materials
      – biogas, sewage gas, dump gas
      – and the biogenic share of waste

    • Freddy D

      Good point on biomass shipping – need to be careful on biomass as “renewable”. I don’t know about Germany specifically on biomass, but some of the biomass schemes have been poorly implemented. End up deforesting in the US, shipping wood using diesel to ports then across to Netherlands, I believe, and the net use of fossil isn’t good in some of those situations. Not getting into specifics, safe to say that biomass has good applications if done locally and with opportunistic waste that exists already. It’s not good when it drives deforestation or long distance shipping.

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