Monday, March 18, 2013

Germany's Solar Projects Are a Bust

In an earlier blog, Germany Abandons Nuclear Power, I explain that Germans pay some of the highest costs for electric power in the world. Part of that high cost is the "renewable surcharge" which is used to subsidize uneconomic alternative energy sources such as wind but mainly solar power. Wind power makes sense for the windy North Sea coast if you don't mind the visual pollution, but solar is probably not an economic concept for them.

Germany is ill-suited for solar energy as it is at 50 degrees North latitude and has extensive cloud cover and weak sunshine in the winter.  There are only 1550 hours of sunshine per year in most German cities which amounts to only 17% of the year (only a cloud-free desert at the equator would have 50% sunshine).  Refer to the graph below.  But even on a sunny day, only cloud-free sunshine after about 8 or 9 am until late afternoon will give full output of solar voltaic cells.  Early morning and late afternoon sunshine gives low photo-voltaic cell output.  Clouds are also a problem.  This means that solar panels really only function at full, rated power about 1/2 of the time WHEN THE SUN IS SHINING or something like 8 to 10% of the time in Germany!  Eight percent of rated capacity is essentially nothing compared to the installed cost!   Furthermore, you have to duplicate installed generating capacity (or capacity from imports) for the other 92% of the time!

Germany Climate Graph Shows Average days of Sunlight (Click to Enlarge)
You see from the above graph, in Germany, for about 4 months, there's only about 2.5 hours of sunshine per day and this light is so low in intensity and so low on the horizon that there is very little energy can be captured.   Even in summer, where there is 7 or 8 hours per day of official sunshine, but early morning and late afternoon sunshine is too low intensity to be useful for solar energy generation.

Installed solar panels might have a large "name plate" capacity at ideal conditions and full, direct sunshine, but actual captured energy is so small that it probably will never be economic to capture solar energy with photo-voltaics in Germany.

So, yes there is a costly surge of capacity addition of solar panels in Germany, but actual production of electricity is quite low and unreliable.  What's worse if that there has to be back-up sources of power generation when wind and solar power is unavailable.

This fact is echoed in a very good Der Spiegel article "Re-evaluating Germany's Blind Faith in the Sun" which says that Germany has already committed something like 100  billion (Euros) of Solar energy subsidies in the next 20 years and is getting very little for the money for the reasons above.  The consumer has to pay this via subsidies on their already high electric bills (or taxes).

Germany Set To Import Power to Offset Closures of Nuclear Plants

As I predicted in blog, Germany Abandons Nuclear Power, Germany is scrambling to provide sources of  "real" and reliable electric power.  On Dec. 4, the Norwegian and Dutch power grid operators, Statnett and TenneT, along with the German development bank, KfW, announced plans to build a high-voltage electricity connection between Norway and Germany that would run along the seabed. The governments of Germany and Norway, which would have equal stakes in the project, agreed in June to proceed with the plan, but the final decision on whether the 1,400 MW connection actually will be built is expected in 2014. The first electricity would flow by 2018. Germany already has similar connections to Sweden and to Denmark with a total capacity of nearly 3,000 MW. This project aimed at the electricity market is part of the ongoing trend of European energy infrastructure integration.

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