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German Grid Endangered By Too Much Solar


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http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/10/germanys-problem-too-much-solar-power.php

 

German grid endangered by too much solar

BERLIN, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- The German electricity grid faces instability because of too much solar power, an expert said.

 

Thanks to a generous feed-in tariff, the installation of rooftop solar panels and large-scale photovoltaic plants has exploded in Germany.

 

Stephan Kohler, chairman of the DENA agency, an energy adviser to the government, has warned that the green boom could turn into a disaster for Germany's aging power grid.

"The network is facing a congestion due to solar power," Kohler told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. "That's why the expansion of solar power has to be cut back quickly and drastically."

 

Experts have long called for an overhaul of the European power grid to integrate the fluctuating renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

 

Experts forecast between 8 gigawatts and 10 GW of solar power capacity to be installed this year -- the equivalent of roughly 10 large coal-fired power plants. In 2009, only 4 GW were installed.

 

Well aware that the industry is maturing more quickly than anticipated, Berlin this year agreed to reduce subsidies for rooftop panels by 16 percent.

 

The decision helped the German industry to a first-half sales boom, as private customers ordered panels in droves to beat feed-in-tariff reductions set for this summer.

 

Strong sales have continued until now, however, with experts forecasting a similarly strong 2011 when it comes to new installations. If the current trends continue, Germany would have a solar power capacity of nearly 50 GW by 2013.

"That would be a catastrophe for the grids," Kohler said, urging the German government to cap the installation of new solar panels at 1 GW per year. "Then we could reach the manageable benchmark of 30 GW in 2020," he said.

 

The German government through the Renewable Energy Law, or EEG, regulates the feed-in-tariff aimed at boosting power production from renewable energy sources. Paid by German taxpayers via their electricity bill and guaranteed for 20 years, the levies vary from 21 cents per kilowatt-hour for offshore wind turbines to 46 cents per kw/h for roof-mounted solar panels.

 

Berlin has vowed to gradually reduce subsidies but EEG-related costs will nevertheless rise significantly over the coming years, experts have warned.

 

The German consumer association VZBV claims that the solar panels installed in 2010 will result in additional costs of $36 billion during the next 20 years.

 

The German government has so far not voiced plans to limit solar power installations; an overhaul of the EEG isn't planned until 2012.

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Wonderful kind of "expert" that is... bought by the fossil / nuclear power gang. :Hmm:

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Its no conspiracy. I think Its great that solar is finally taking off, and this should be expected in the transition process to renewables. Unlike coal and gas and Nuclear, renewable are an unpredictable and unsteady supply of energy, and require buffering to absorb extra energy when these too much, and smooth out when there's not enough to meet demand during the night (in the case of solar, for example) similar story also for wind power.

 

Thats one catch, the other is inverting DC solar power to grid and domestic use, which is another problem for the grid if there's too much noise / disturbance being introduced.

 

I'm sure with enough cash and battery banks it should be sorted out.

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There should never be one "exclusive" source of power, aka countries shouldn't just switch to one form to the exclusion of all others. Since there aren't many alternatives to the pure base-load (always-on) the most economic sources are coal, fossil fuels, and nuclear. Solar power is good for regions of high insolation (solar W/m^2) and for daytime peak energy generation. Wind power is also good in windy areas (obviously). Natural gas is good for satisfying peak demand but can be costly in operating the required gas turbines. As for solar power, I doubt whether Germany is the best choice for solar energy. Its position has a relatively high latitude and its insolation (including factors such as regional weather patterns to account for sunlight attenuation and annual daylight hours) is smaller compared to areas where solar is most efficient (the American southwest, the Sahara desert, etc). Considering the present capital cost for solar panels it is obviously in the best interest to maximize output, so location is important.

 

So that begs the question, why not just set up wind turbines all over the coastline and solar panels in regions of highest insolation? It all comes down to economics and I^2*R power losses when reaching the customer. Power plants shouldn't be built too far away from where they are needed otherwise the power losses will become unprofitable.

 

Engineering is nothing but the calculated weighing of advantages and disadvantages, and electrical power generation is no exception.

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