German Power Grids Increasingly Strained

This is a guest post by Paul-Frederik Bach. Paul-Frederik has more than 40 years experience in power system planning. He worked with grid and generation planning at ELSAM, the coordinating office for west Danish power stations, until 1997. As Planning Director at Eltra, Transmission System Operator in West Denmark, he was in charge of West Denmark's affiliation to the Nordic spot market for electricity, Nord Pool, in 1999. Until retirement in 2005 his main responsibility was the integration of wind power into the power grid in Denmark. He is still active as a consultant with interest in safe and efficient integration of wind power. See here for a previous post on the Oil Drum. This is a link to his website.

With a steep growth of power generation from photovoltaic (PV) and wind power and with 8 GW base load capacity suddenly taken out of service the situation in Germany has developed into a nightmare for system operators.

Figure 1

The peak demand in Germany is about 80 GW. The variations of wind and PV generation create situations which require long distance transport of huge amounts of power. The grid capacity is far from sufficient for these transports. The result is a remarkably large number of curtailments of RES (Renewable Energy Sources).

Reports from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E)[1] and the German Grid Agency[2] reflect concern for the operational security of the power system. The risk of a prolonged and widespread power blackout was earlier recognized by the German Bundestag and discussed in an interesting report[3]

This note will present main conclusions from the three reports combined with data, collected from the German system operators.

A New Operating Pattern

Since January 2012 all 4 German system operators have published estimated PV generation based on representative samples. The data will give research environments a new opportunity to analyse the impact of RES in Germany.

Figure 2
Figure 3

Some observations are possible from the charts above and other evidence:

  • Wind power peaks seem not to be simultaneous with PV peaks. This means that PV does not add its full peak capacity to the grid problems during high wind periods.
  • The main part of the German wind power is installed in the northern part of the country while the main part of the PV capacity is installed in Bavaria. The nuclear moratorium has created the most serious supply problems in the southern part of Germany. This observation suggests additional PV generation to relieve the supply problems.
  • PV generation cannot reduce the need for peak capacity. The reason is that there is no PV generation during the evening peak load.
  • The regulating work which must be made by controllable power sources grows considerably with the growth of wind power and PV. TenneT is one of Germany’s 4 main grid operators. In the TenneT area a calculation for April 2011 has shown that wind power alone would extend the regulating range by more than 50%, while the actual combination of wind power and PV has doubled the regulating range.

Although PV may be able to give some relief to the grids PV cannot reduce the need for peak capacity and additional PV will cause a considerable growth in the need for regulating capacity.

The German Grid is a Backbone in Europe

On 4 November 2006 a German 380 kV line had to be temporarily disconnected. Due to insufficient coordination of protection systems a circuit tripped and started cascading outages. The result was that the continental grid in Europe was divided into three islands and about 17 GW load was shed. The case demonstrates how a local event in Germany can turn into a widespread European disturbance.

In April 2012, the president of ENTSO-E[4], Daniel Dobbeni, states his concern about security of power system operation in Europe in a letter to the European Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger.

ENTSO-E: “As long as RES generation in certain regions expands faster – partly as a function of national support schemes - than the transmission network can accommodate, the risk of insecure system operation coupled with costly generation curtailments will rise significantly.”

An attached briefing paper gives an overview of the current situation. The rapid increase of wind power and other renewable energy sources (RES) without a corresponding reinforcement of the electric grids has caused the problems.

The paper explains: “Heavy ‘unplanned’ transit flows added to scheduled flows cause severe loading on southern interconnectors (PL/CZ, PL/SK, DE/CZ, and also SK/HU and SK/UA) and lead to non-compliance with fundamental network security criteria. The high level of flows on the interconnectors leads to overloading of the network in Germany and neighbouring countries Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.”

Figure 4

Among the countermeasures of the transmission system operators (TSOs) is the use of the HVDC links across the Baltic Sea for a redistribution of power flows. A common procedure has been developed by German and Polish TSOs and two Nordic TSOs ( and Svenska Kraftnät). However, the remedial actions cannot be guaranteed as they depend on prevailing system conditions.

The countermeasures have cost implications and cannot be implemented without cost sharing agreements.

ENTSO-E makes reference to its Ten-Year Network Development Plans (TYNDP). The timely implementation of the projects will require the active support of European policy makers.

The paper estimates the necessary investment for reinforcement of the western and the eastern transport corridors in Germany to 30 billion Euros for the next decade. The German reinforcements must be coordinated with investments in neighbouring countries.

Efficient market arrangements are important for efficient congestion management, secure grid operation and overall market efficiency. Therefore the organisation of more consistent markets and redefinition of bidding areas deserve consideration.

The ENTSO-E paper concludes: “If this infrastructure does not materialize in due time then the rate of RES increase should be examined under a more pragmatic prism”.

A German Performance Report for the Winter 2011/12

The Federal German Grid Agency has confirmed the assumption of a strained grid in a 120 page report on the supply situation for electricity and gas in Germany during the winter season 2011/12.

It is useful for the general understanding of the significance of the infrastructure when an authority evaluates actual system conditions and publishes annual reports for better or for worse. Unfortunately that sort of report is rare in the electricity business.

This is my translation of the 10 points of the summary:

  1. The situation of the power grid was very strained during the winter 2011/12.
  2. Besides the scenarios described in the Grid Agency report of 31 August 2011 the shortage of natural gas in February 2012 was followed by an unexpected event which added to the load on the electric grids, respectively required additional measures from the transmissions system operators for maintaining system security.
  3. In addition to that also unusual high forecast errors caused an exhaustion of the regulating reserves. Therefore the transmissions system operators had to resort to additional measures. The Grid Agency will create incentives for improvements of the forecasts by adaptation of the price system for balancing power.
  4. The synchronous compensator Biblis was commissioned in February 2012 and provided the expected relief of the voltage problems.
  5. German and Austrian power plant reserves were used in several cases for the relief of power lines and as a supplement to already exhausted regulating capacity. About the same magnitude of power reserves will be needed next winter.
  6. The power plant capacity has developed unfavourably. Planned extensions have been delayed. Further decommissioning of conventional power plants cannot be defended in Germany for the time being. The prevention of decommissioning of power plants for conventional production will require regulating and legal measures. If more power stations nevertheless should be decommissioned in Southern Germany the needed reserve capacity would increase correspondingly. Besides, the need for capacity mechanisms should be intensively investigated in the medium term.
  7. The supply of more power from renewable sources than can actually be transferred by the grid would add to overloading of the grid because the price signals would displace conventional power plants in the merit order and the electricity export from Germany in the internal market would increase. It is the understanding of the grid agency that the existing legal framework allows the transmission system operators to use measures which can reduce the supply to a level which can be transferred by the grid. Nevertheless, a normative clarification seems to be expedient.
  8. The cooperation between grid operators for electricity and gas must be improved in order to take account of the growing significance of gas power plants and gas supply to the security of supply of the electric grids. Even here changes of the legal framework are recommended.
  9. No technical valid measures can replace grid extensions. A consistent use of the established instruments for acceleration of the reinforcement of the grids is required.
  10. The reduced supply of gas in February 2012 has revealed the weak points of the gas grids. Action is needed for the gas grids. Fortunately this need is clearly inferior to the need for action in the electricity grids.

The general view seems to be concern for the future capacity of power plants, regulating power and reserves. The rigid point 9 seems surprising, but it may reflect a typical view of a grid agency. A strong grid is important, but several other integration measures deserve careful consideration.

The increasing trend in the use of §13.1 of the German Energy Industry Act (EnWG) for redispatch and in the use of §11 of the RES Act (EEG) and §13.2 of EnWG for reduction of feed-in of power is demonstrated in report. The data is valid for the transmission grid.

Redispatch is used for the relief of highly loaded grid components..

Winter season



Number of relieved components



Redispatched energy GWh



For both years most redispatch concerned the line Remptendorf-Redwitz between Germany and Austria.

Feed-in reduction was initiated 197 times during the winter season 2011/12 compared to 39 times the previous year.

In 184 cases wind power caused high feed-in from distribution grids into the transmission grids. 5 cases were remarkable and affected the entire grid:

Winter season 2011/12



3 Dec 2011


> 1000 MW

29 Dec 2011


>1000 MW

15 Feb 2012


1200 MW

22-23 Feb 2012


4000 MW
n-1 problem

28-29 Mar 2012


4800 MW
n-1 problem

This information confirms that German electricity supply had narrow margins during the winter 2011/12 without room for additional heroic political decisions. Hopefully the messages of the Grid Agency will be understood, so a better harmony between the transition of the production facilities towards green solutions and the necessary adaptation of the infrastructure.

A Critical Case

“Welt Online” has reported on “alarm level yellow” for German power grids on 28 and 29 March 2012[5].

German grid operators are obliged to report all operational interventions aimed at avoiding overloads or power failures. The grid operator for the eastern Germany, 50hertz, has published a very brief report on the event in German. More details are given in the Grid Agency report.

At 8:48 pm one of two circuits of the 380 kV line Wolmirsted-Helmstedt tripped. The other followed 12 minutes later. The reason was a technical defect in TennetT’s substation Helmstedt. Wolmirsted-Helmstedt is the northernmost link between the 50Hertz area (the former DDR) and the other German system operators.

The wind power peak level was not extreme. Nevertheless the remaining links had to be relieved and 50Hertz had to activate comprehensive measures. This is probably the reason why this event caught the attention of the media.

Figure 5

The interventions included about 2000 MW redispatch and about 4000 MW feed-in reductions.

Figure 6

The case reveals the vulnerability of the German power system. Until 9 April 50hertz has issued 23 similar reports on strained grid conditions in 2012.

23% of the Hours in Q1 2012 Affected by Interventions

The number of interventions has increased dramatically in Germany from 2010/11 to 2011/12. In spite of the obligation to publish information on all interventions it is difficult to form an overview.

The practical administration of the rules and the compensation is quite complex. There are 4 grid operators for the primary level (380 kV) and a number of grid operators at lower voltage levels. Bottlenecks are often detected in local grids. It makes no difference to the owner of a wind turbine if local or national grids are congested.

In an attempt to establish an impression of the extent of interventions in Germany EON Netz will be used as an example. EON Netz is operating the largest secondary grid in Germany. The primary grid in the same area is operated by TenneT.

The control area is divided into a number of local areas (Landkreise). An intervention concerning EEG § 11 is valid for electricity production in one local area. The severity is indicated in steps between 0% and 100%.

Each intervention record specifies start time and duration. Interventions for different local areas are usually overlapping. It is a main purpose of the lists of interventions to support the calculation of economic compensations for the owners of the affected power plants.

During first quarter of 2012 EON Netz has issued 257 interventions. The average length was 5.7 hours. Up to 10 interventions have been issued for the same hour. 504 hours had one or more interventions.

Thus there have been interventions active for 23.1% of the hours during the first quarter of 2012.

The total amount of curtailed energy from wind and CHP is probably modest, but the observations seem to indicate that German grids are frequently loaded to the capacity limits. Strained grids have a higher risk of cascading outages caused by single events.

What Happens During a Blackout?

The Federal political system in Germany has for some time been conscious of the risk of a large blackout.

In 2011 the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB) published an interesting report on the consequences of blackouts lasting up to two weeks.

The following infrastructure sectors are considered:

  • Information technology and telecommunications
  • Transport and traffic
  • Water supply and wastewater disposal
  • Food supply
  • Health care system
  • Financial services
  • Public institutes – case study on "prisons"

The conclusion is that an interruption of the power supply will be tantamount to a national disaster already after a few days. Though the probability of this event is very low the report recommends further efforts at all levels in order to “increase the resilience of critical infrastructure sectors in both the short and medium-term and also to further optimise the capacities of the national system for disaster control”.

Planning for blackouts is often neglected. One reason is the optimistic assumption that blackouts can be avoided. Another reason is the high cost of measures which are supposed to be superfluous.

However, large blackouts do occur. They cannot be completely avoided, but the restoration process can be more or less well prepared. Therefore vital infrastructure sectors should be prepared for power failures and the necessary facilities for a black start of the power system should be installed and ready for action.

[1] Interconnected system operation conditions in Continental Central Europe - A briefing paper to the European Commission, EMTSO-E, 13 Mar 2012.

[2] Bericht zum Zustand der leitungsgebundenen Energieversorgung im Winter 2011/12 Bundesnetzagentur, 3 May 2012 (in German)

[3] What happens during a blackout?, Office of Technology Assessment by the German Bundestag, 7 Apr 2011,translated from: “Was bei einem Blackout geschieht”.

[4] The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity


This situation clearly shows the need for two things: 1. greater energy conservation measures to reduce demand and 2. a more localized placement of renewables to reduce the strain on the grid. The energy use to convert Germany to passive houses will pay itself back quickly and reduce grid demand. On site solar and wind will further reduce grid load. Germany has a lot of it's wind off shore, and it's solar is also displaced. There are good reasons for this but renewables will eventually have to be brought closer to where power is used. There will be some who will say this is all proof that renewables cannot be counted on but Germany is actually doing very well given how abruptly they dumped nuclear. The early stages of fossil fuel based grid system also had a number of mishaps.

I would also add, that much more demand response (load that can be shed during cruch times, and control systems to actuate it) is also in order. Getting a grid with a high degree of variable sources is going to require efforts on many fronts, DR is one of these fronts.

As well as demand response there is untapped supply response.

George Monbiot pointed out that many organisations must have emergency power systems - hospitals, metros, food manufacturing and storage companies, the list goes on. He noted that these systems must be operated quite frequently (say monthly), or they don't work when needed.

Setting up a system to call on this reserve capacity in times of need would reduce the extra grid investment (and peaking reserve investment) required. Yes, it would be complicated to set up and manage, but if anyone can do it, Germany can.

My place of work has one. Boss freaked out during the dereg energy debacle of 2000-2001, maintaining this capability is expensive, but he thinks he needs it. It is tested weekly, but for only a few minutes. We once had a power outage caused by testing. They tested at the start of a weekend, and for some reason the backup didn't switch off. Ran on generators, till the fuel was gone -then blackout!

But I do agree. This is a potential source of DR, simply ask customers with such systems to switch to them during power emergencies. I assume some sort of price incentive would be offered to sign up.

I believe this is currently disallowed by law in CA due to air quality concerns. I know it was specifically disallowed during the rolling blackouts in 2000/2001. Most places with backup diesel gensets don't have enough for full facility function anyway, leading to a need to parallel with the grid or drop load. Most of them don't have the right gear or interconnection agreement to parallel.

air quality concerns. ... Most of them don't have the right gear or interconnection agreement to parallel.

These are just two of the complications that I am sure the Germans can overcome ... if anyone can.

Most places with backup diesel gensets don't have enough for full facility function anyway, leading to a need to parallel with the grid or drop load.

Full capacity and load shedding are not needed - as long as these places contributed something to the grid (or reduce their own draw from it by any amount, no matter how small), they would help relieve the grid.

Large scale industrial (diesel, NG, whatever) backup systems are very very rarely "grid tied" like our vanilla residential homeowner solar/wind/whatever system. The 50kw to 100kw systems that are sprinkled
throughout my town of 45,000 do appear to cover all their electrical needs until them run out of fuel (not probably for NG in the Eastern US), but many larger systems wrapped around telecom or IT would leave
the office space unlivable and the servers happy as always. It would be great if they would turn on these systems during peak except you have to deal with laws like California's, the very high incremental costs of that power over the grid, the fact that most of this generation capability was not designed for sustained power generation (ie it wears out, and needs serviced quickly), the additional pollution, and the coordination. One does wonder though with some really large generation capability that was onsite at places like HP, Apple, Cisco, etc why the state of California couldn't have worked through those economics in emergency. How many large sites are there in Silicon Valley and how many 100's of Megawatts? I'm not sure, but having installed 30MW for a small company there, I would imagine quite a bit.

I don't see why this would not happen if there was a shortage of grid power due to some type of temporary emergency. In Ontario, there was a severe power shortage for several days after the big blackout in 2003. Many of the nuclear plant operators had deployed a system that injected a chemical solution into the reactor to bring it down to a cold state faster and it was days before these reactors could be restarted. During this interim period, our university ran the main computer room off the backup generators so we would not be consuming grid power. My memory is a little foggy, but I think it was also necessary to have building air conditioning turned off for a few days.

I do believe regs won't allow it. My boss complained that he could generate power for less than he had to pay for it, but wasn't allowed. But, this was many years ago, when oil was maybe $20/barrel. It would make sense to make a demand response exception. Places don't have to actually export power to participate in DR, just be able to cut demand upon receipt of a signal. In our place of work we have parallel wiring, I have orange UPS outlets, and normal outlets in my office. But our place does SW development, and the vast bulk of our power runs computers, so most of our load is UPS anyway.

When we talk about intermittent renewable energy sources, we have to include the topic of energy storage. Pumped hydro storage is the cheapest but it takes massive capital and land area, not to mention having the correct potential energy conditions.

Like fracked NG, we just don't know what the cost of fully realized renewable energy systems will we be. Matured renewable energy systems, as well as matured fracked NG operations, are most likely to be far more expensive in EROEI terms than the beautiful, plentiful and inexpensive black gold that was used to build our wonderful and energy intensive global economy.

The newer sources of energy sure do exist but what human population levels will they support and what standard of living will they provide is a whole different topic of discussion.

It seems reasonable to expect Earth's human population to be less than 1 billion people after the 150 year depletion of fossil fuels and that, depending on the structure of the resulting communities (King/Serf, Equal Resource Distribution, Minimum Levels - Feudal, Caste or whatever models future generations come up with), the standard of living for different communities will be vastly different, from very comfortable to extreme suffering for the enslaved.

Due to the need for deep supply chains to support complex technologies, we can expect many of the luxuries we take for granted today to become part of our history, much like how concrete and the building of advanced roads were lost for great periods of time after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Technology may be the answer... Too bad that technology requires so many resources.

Those renewable energy sources as heck won't support 3% p/a perpetual economic GROWTH! They probably won't even support our current infrastructure. Just how much energy does the Internet consume? (I know its an awful lot, especially with the air conditioning server farms need to operate).

Seems to me that an over-abundance of energy, even a somewhat erratic one, is a better problem to have than the alternative. Gives me hope for renewables. It's great to see a large country leading the way on this front.

As for DR, perhaps looking at energy intensive operations and placing a number of these on standby for surge events?

In my first reading, I did not note any mention of Swiss pumped storage (planned for 12 GW) or dispatch-able hydro. Or 1 GW pumped storage in Luxembourg.

Traditionally, the Swiss have filled their pumped storage and kept their water above the dams late at night, using French and their own nuclear.

However, this can be modified. Pump water up with cheap French nukes & German wind at 3 AM. Let water down early in the morning, when solar PV production is still low, pump up again at noon using cheap german solar (oh, it is not so cheap ?) and down again for evening peak.

Switzerland is well placed to serve much of southern Germany it would seem, although transmission lines may need to be added.

Pricing to allow the Swiss the profit they want is a complex issue.

Best Hopes for more German Pumped Storage,


Pumped storage is an excellent way to smooth out the highs and lows of renewables.

Another way to store excess energy is to use electric vehicles. The Nissan Leaf parked in my drive way has a 24kwh Lithium battery pack. I always charge at night when there is extra grid capacity.

Now think about if there were 1 million electric vehicles in Germany. They could lower their import cost for oil and make the electrical grid more efficient all at the same time. All you would have to do is make the price of electricity reflect the availability of renewable power and problem solved.

BMW already has a big R&D program for EV's. This program could be expanded rapidly and it would be a jobs program for the german people as well.

It is quite possible that a fair number of Germans would be willing to recharge when renewables are in excess of demand (skipping some days when they are not, even for one hour) due to cultural differences, but the vast majority of American J6P's will start recharging as soon as they get home, adding to the 6 PM to 8 PM peak (primary or secondary) and not recharge at all on weekends if they do not drive anywhere on, say Sunday.


Is it beyond the whit of man to add an internet connected intelligent charger to an Ev - Dial in the minimum charge you need for your impending journey and what time you plan to leave. Let the charger charge or drain your EV batteries to support the grid and yet get the best price to have your batteries topped up in the morning. For the US version you could simplify it so the driver cannot open the door to leave until he has set the time he plans to return.

Safety belt interlocks (one could not start the car without buckling up) lasted about 6 months before repeal.

Say, I have been "holding it' for the last 20 minutes and I FINALLLY arrive home. And the damm car won't let me out till I punch in some stupid time !!!

Sorry, for someone living an "active" "Drive Everywhere to Everything" lifestyle, immediate recharging is REQUIRED !

And just as those that refill the gas tank when it is half empty, so there are those that will recharge ASAP - and consider it a government intrusion if they are not allowed - or penalized for doing so.

All of these calculations and optimizations are way over everybody's head. Ain't going to happen for the majority.



BTW, I personally will never allow my battery to be drained to support the grid. Batteries are too expensive to waste on such.

Alan. I think your being too pessimistic here. We have to package charging when the grid operator wants, rather than our whim, as a way for the poor schlocks who gotta economize can save a dime -just like I get $.06 per reusable bag I use at the grocery store. I don't here too many complaints about that. As long as its packaged as a bonus for good behavior, rather than as a punishment for bad.

About that battery as storage. I used to think that way. But, it really depends upon the way a battery is charged and discharged. Use a very conservative schedule (slow charge and discharge), and within a narrow range of total charge, and the battery wear is very much much less than for normal use. It might be set up so that it pays (i.e. your credit for providing the service could exceed the cost in battery health).

Any cash benefit from allowing the utility to partially drain my battery as needed is offset by the reduced life of my battery AND the inconvenience of not being fully charged if something unexpected happens.

The net benefit (utility cash +, battery cash - & reduced utility) is too small to interest me.


All of these calculations and optimizations are way over everybody's head. Ain't going to happen for the majority.


Not to worry!

If Joe Six Pack gets his electrons for half price during off peak hours, he will do so believe me. Leaves more money for beer on next payday.

The Leaf also has a charge scheduler built into the car. I tell the car to finish charging by 7 AM and it figures out when to start charging to finish at that time. Works great.

the vast majority of American J6P's will start recharging as soon as they get home, adding to the 6 PM to 8 PM peak

No. At this point J6P cannot afford an EV. The buyers tend to be well-educated enthusiasts so they are mostly charging the right times. Especially since you can get time-of-use plans that allow you to charge up for cheap in the middle of the night.

Here in California, we have tiered-rates that pretty much make people either install solar or use a time-of-use system if you want to get a decent price for EV electricity. And this is where most EVs are probably sold.

If my reading is correct, the bottleneck is largely the grid itself. Enough storage and generating facilities maybe available here and there, but simply there is not enough interconnecting capacity to bring the power from the places it is available to where is needed. It seems to me that the whole structure is on the edge right now, as a failure of one component can easily lead to cascading failures of other components.

Yes, you understand the main article. The problem has been caused by the closure of the German nuclear power plants which has required rerouting power from other places through transmission lines that are not sufficient to handle the load. The author principally blames intermittent PV and wind generators which is incorrect.

Hi Alan,

Switzerland currently has about 4GW of pumped storage, and AFAIK "only" another 4 GW planned, 2.5GW of which are being built right now.
Switzerland has an average electricity consumption of ~7-8GW, so obviously, 8 GW of pumped storage is mainly for export/profit-making. Actually, there is quite some debate here in Switzerland about this - it will force us to build new transmission lines, which probably will be payed by taxpayers and consumers, while the profits for selling the power at peak times go to the corporations. Also, I hear that the whole business model is a bit endangered, because German PV is driving peak prices down, and the pumped storage is thriving on high peak prices.

The Germans have nearly 7GW pumped storage themselves, so more than Switzerland at the moment.

Personally, I think investing in more energy efficiency would be the way to go, rather than producing more and more electricity, upgrading grids - and all just so people can continue wasting electric energy...


I believe (not sure) that the 12 GW claim included some hydroelectric power plants where pumps can be added to reverse the flow and it was current plus planned. The claim is now several years old, so I will revise downward the #.

I did find two interesting facts - Swiss pumped storage will be expanded to 7.5 TWh and Japan has 25.5 GW of pumped storage.


Also relevant to solar in Bavaria is Austrian pumped storage of about 3 GW.

Pump water up with cheap French nukes & German wind at 3 AM. Let water down early in the morning, when solar PV production is still low, pump up again at noon using cheap german solar (oh, it is not so cheap ?) and down again for evening peak.

Oh, it's cheaper then the cheapest of night...

Does Germany have any underground mines which could be kept relatively dry and used to house large quantities and Vanadium-Sulfur flow batteries?

Distributed flywheel array energy storage centers?

Has Germany implemented aggressive demand management/'smart grid' technologies?

Methinks Germany and Japan are the energy innovation centers to watch and learn from going forward...

Necessity is a real Mother...

Sounds to me to be the ideal situation for small distributed thermal power, preferably but by no means necessarily fired by biomass or solid waste.

I do hope Germany and Japan keep up their trajectory toward sustainable energy, something I have seen the USA drop so badly.

Also, Japan seems to be leading the way toward population reduction, another absolute imperative. I presume they retain their zero immigration policy?

Denmark leads the world in combined heat and power (CHP) systems - and they are not unknown in Germany.

Best Hopes for More,


Vanadium batteries are not going to happen. Vanadium is at >25$/kg and Vanadium batteries can only store max 20Wh/kg. The price is thus at least 1.25 $ / Wh which is three times more than the current Li-Ion batteries cost.

I wonder how much Vanadium will cost after humans have a major league tear into the Orinoco?

Sodium sulfur batteries may work. I haven't heard anything new about the Presidio Texas battery for awhile though.

From this

It looks like it's losing about 1/2 the energy going in, probably mostly in heating costs since they have to keep the sulfur molten. Maybe heating that is a job for a concentrating collector during summer time.

As someone who knows very little about electricity generation, what I found most interesting was the offset between Wind and PV energy. If I think about weather, the sun generally shines in good weather when wind is often light. Conversely when weather is cloudy, the wind often is stronger.

Is that an accepted fact of Wind and PV?

If so then the "real" capacity of such systems is probably something like 1.5 times the capacity of PV or Wind individually. Adding the capacities together likely leads to a number that would be very rarely achieved.

I also believe that wind turbines operate at medium wind levels. How important is wind strength to electrical generation?


Here is some information:

1) The power in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed
i.e. double the wind speed and the power will increase by a factor of eight (2 x 2 x 2).

2) The power output of a wind turbine is proportional to the area swept by the rotor –
i.e. double the swept area and the power output is also doubled. (The forces on a wind turbine at higher wind speeds can get very high so its output will be limited at a rated power. Therefore, at a site with double the average mean wind.

Betz Limit; A theoretical maximum of
59.3% of the wind energy can be extracted

To estimate the air speed and output for the actual height of your tower you can use an empirical 1/7 power law.

If you know the air speed V1 at a certain height h1, then the air speed V2 at a different height h2 can be estimated as: V2=V1×(h2/h1)1/7.

...local geography (terrain, structures, tress, etc) has a lot to do with the exact answer here.

higher air densities should also help increase power output (greater lift over the airfoil, as wis the case with aircraft), but I ask for some smarter-then-me folks (most of you) to roll in and validate or refute that idea, and the other stuff I plucked off the Intertubes here.

When i talked to a windpower engineer working on the siemens windturbin factory in denmark he told me: if you increase the lenght of the turbineblade you increase the wind area square. At the same time the turbine blades volume increase in kubik. Which gives you a maximum effiency of turbinblades at something around 100 m (don't remember the right number). That toghether with the problem with transporting the turbineblades on the roads sets the limit of the size on the blades. Pardon the spelling.

If I think about weather, the sun generally shines in good weather when wind is often light. Conversely when weather is cloudy, the wind often is stronger.

Is that an accepted fact of Wind and PV?

Yes, it is more or less an accepted fact. Peak power from wind and PV tend to be anti-correlated more than correlated. On the other hand, it is certainly not the case that there will never be high sun and high wind simultaneously, or no sun and no wind. And grids need to account for such events according to the frequency with which they occur.

Exactly, grids need to anticipate the very real possibility that on a given day, in most inhabited locations, wind and solar combined may produce essentially no significant amount of electricity, and this could last for some number of hours of even days. Strong winds are somewhat rare during the summer months in many areas of the USA. And heavily overcast days are practically the norm in major areas of northwestern Europe during extended periods of the year.
I would think that nearly all such solar/wind generation on a grid will need to be backed-up with a more dependable energy source - probably natural gas systems at present, possibly geothermal energy at some future time - assuming that drilling technology evolves to allow deep enough wells for making geothermal work in those parts of the USA where demand is greatest, the east in particular. This may seem like a distant possibility, but if achieved it would finally position a renewable energy source that could provide so-called base-load energy for major electric grids. And geothermal may fill this role even without major improvements in large-scale energy storage (the equivalent of batteries to power entire cities) which seems to be the only hope for wind and solar becoming major components of current grids (more than 30%). This certainly seems true absent a major lowering of public expectations regarding the constant availability of electricity to homes and businesses - with the American public adopting more of what we might call a third world-style expectation about the general availability of electricity (and good luck to the politicians on selling that one).

I think that depends upon the local climate. here near the bay area, my PV system maxes out on days like the last couple with low temps and high winds. So on days like this with little AC demand, both wind and sun are producing flat out. In places where wind and clouds usually go together the situation look better.

Be careful of equating max PV power on a windy day with a correlation between wind and PV. Your PV system will also produce well when it isn't windy, and if my 35 years here has taught me anything, it is that the wind will blow strongest in the late afternoon/early evening after your PV has peaked or the fog has covered it. I don't think the Bay Area is hugely different from other places in this respect, although granted I don't have any data to offer.

I'm far enough inland, I don't get much warm season fog/cloud. At least at my location wind rarely is associated with cloud. Like I said, climates do differ. Also wind wants strongish, but not the strongest winds. When gales are forecast WTs are normally shut down to prevent damage.

"...the wind will blow strongest in the late afternoon/early evening after your PV has peaked or the fog has covered it. I don't think the Bay Area is hugely different from other places in this respect...

Based on past years of watching televised San Francisco Giants baseball games from Candlestick Park, I would say that the Bay Area might get more wind than most other areas of the country. I recall lots of wind-induced near misses (and even actual misses) on catching high fly balls, pop-ups and foul balls, especially in those late afternoon/early evening games. The stadium was infamous around the National League for its strong, tricky winds.

All true comments, but anecdotes are no substitute for data.

The SF Bay Area is famous for its micro-climates created by the geography. A cool ocean. A first set of hill blocking the cool ocean from the bay valley. A second set of hill blocking the bay area from a hot central valley. In summer, there are very reliable afternoon winds from the cool ocean toward the hot central valley to replacing the rising air columns. Legend has it that Candlestick was built where it is behind a particularly tall hill to try to hide it from winds. But the idea backfired because the winds go around the hill a meet right at Candlestick causing weird turbulence patterns. Sometimes you'll see flags at Candlestick flying in opposite directions.

Ben, it depends on your location. Here in North-Western Europe wind tends to fall still in the evenings/nights. But this observation is on ground level and not of import to wind turbines. High up (100m or so) winds tend to speed up at night.

This is an essential comment.
In Germany it is necessary to consider two dimensions in evaluating a combination of wind power and PV: time of day and geography.
It is an advantage that the two sources have different peak hours and different geographical distributions.
However, it is a disadvantage that there is no PV generation during the evening peak load. It is also a disadvantage that the regulating work which must be made by controllable power sources grows considerably with the growth of wind power and PV.
The publication of time series for both wind power and PV has given a good opportunity for replacing guesswork by analyses.

Yes, PV and Wind complement each other well and practically everywhere in the world:

Time resolved geospatial data of global horizontal irradiation and wind speeds are used to simulate the power feed-in of PV and wind power plants assumed to be installed on an equally rated power basis in every region of a 1°x1° mesh of latitude and longitude between 65°N and 65°S. An overlap of PV and wind power full load hours is defined as measure for the complementarity of both technologies and identified as ranging between 5% and 25% of total PV and wind power feed-in. Critical overlap full load hours are introduced as a measure for energy losses that would appear if the grid was dimensioned only for one power plant of PV or wind. In result, they do not exceed 9% of total feed-in but are mainly around 3% - 4%. Thus the two major renewable power technologies must be characterized by complementing each other.

Meanwhile there are also windturbines with capacity factors of over 40%:

"Wind power peaks seem not to be simultaneous with PV peaks. This means that PV does not add its full peak capacity to the grid problems during high wind periods."

Yes, the author appears to draw the wrong conclusion from this. The chart appears to indicate the peaks are complementary, which should help to reduce "the need for regulating capacity" (a concern raised by the author). During high wind periods, presumably grid operators would schedule less fossil fuels or less imports, or in a worst case scenario export some energy for a profit.

Germany has scaled back solar and wind incentives (meeting their previously established targets), and are prioritizing transmission additions (in light of concerns raised in these reports). I don't see where any of this is a surprise, and isn't being highlighted by current resource planning or funding priorities (although some obstacles still remain).

I'm not sure how you would classify this as a "nightmare scenario." For those who take their jobs seriously, it is more likely just another day at the office.

"If so then the "real" capacity of such systems is probably something like 1.5 times the capacity of PV or Wind individually. Adding the capacities together likely leads to a number that would be very rarely achieved."

This is mostly anecdotal from watching quite a bit: There are currently ~30GW wind capacity installed and 27GW PV capacity installed. This has resulted in a maximum of ~25GW of wind production and 22GW of PV production. However, combined, the maximum I have so far seen has been only a little above 30GW of wind + PV.

So at least in Germany, wind and PV do appear to complement each other pretty well.

apmon, yes you are entirely correct, and it is this feature of wind and sun that makes the combination easier to predict and manage. This also means that it is simply not true that we must have 100% backup of all sun and wind capacity for times when there is no wind or sun, because this "event" is either extremely rare or extremely short duration or both. Load management is a much, much better solution to the challenge.

Hi: you can have a better view of the German system by looking at these web sites, where data are almost real-time:

1) PV production, SMA network:

2) PV production and forecast, Tennett network

3) Wind production andforecast, on=and off-shore, Tennett network:

4) Wind production and meteorological parameters of Alpha Ventus off-shore FINO station: (changing "week" to "day" gives zoom to daily parameters)

5) Related to German RES, Danish' Energinet production:

6) European electricity exchanges (ENTSO-E): (need to register, it's free)

Very instructive and enjoyable.

Here's a recent Synapse study regarding the benefits of adding more transmission to the MISO sytem here in the Midwest that may be relevant in the German situation.
The report found that adding more wind power could drive down the wholesale price of power by $3 – $10 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in the near term and up to nearly $50 per MWh by 2030. As indicated in this study, the benefit to cost ratio of adding transmission can be quite high and will help to integrate RES into the system.....especially as against the cost of building new thermal or nuclear generation. Of course, there are limits and it is important to also have some rotational intertia (steam turbines) or storage in there for stability.

MISO is doing a lot of Operations Research Network modeling of their system as described in their MTEP-11 and MultiValue Project analyses below:

I live int he bay area of california. In the winter wind generation does look a lo tlike figure 2 in the article. However in the summer where every day is sunny its a very different picture. In the summer the area between interstate 5 and Highway 99 often sees temperatures of 90F. All that hot air raising causes cool ocean air to move inland. In the morning there is no brease and it is cool were I live and frequently we have low clouds until about 10. By noon it is clear and quit comfortable with a very light brease. by 3PM the wind is getting quite strong. When I get home from work the wind is quit strong and the temperatuer is dropping rapidly. One hour after sunset the wind has almost stopped.

In centeral california wind power is at its best and most predictable in the summer in good weather. Most wind turbins are located in the costal mountains to take advantage of this. In southern california they get the summer winds but they also get a lot of wind on cold clear winter days. There the cold air in the high deserts falls down hill and can move very fast to the low costal areas. The Santa Ana winds can hit 70 miles per hour in some places.

The infrequent winter storms don't amount to much in california.

Yep . . . this is why the Bay area is a great place for wind surfing.

A thought that may be relevant to the EU grid transition.

Fairly recent developments in HV DC - HV DC Lite (ABB, a different name for Siemens) allows for both multi-drop capability (instead of point to point) and reactive power (allows black starts, keeps sine wave looking good for non-EEs).

And higher capacity HV DC Classic lines can be coupled with HV DC Lite lines and get some reactive power as well (done between Norway & Denmark I think).

Perhaps the EU should be split into smaller electrical grids/islands with large HV DC connections between them. Much lower transmission losses from Germany to, say Spain, Portugal & Italy. Easier undersea power transfers as well.

Bring in Russian HV DC across Poland (with a drop for them as well) into Germany. Etc.

IMVHO, smaller grids will 1) be more stable & easier to manage and 2) easier to manage 3) less prone to cascading failures. Instead of throttling back on renewables, call up a neighbor that can use some and ship them the power by HV DC (the Swiss will always buy if cheap enough).

Going from HV AC to HV DC is a major investment, and the human resources are going to be resistant to change on this scale, but it seems the better way to me.

Best Hopes for Competent Innovation,


The Germans can always buy in nuclear power from France,Sweden,Finland and the former USSR.
As long as the nukes aren't on German territory then they can still have that self righteous inner glow so necessary for keeping warm on the those windless,cold winter nights.

Just for the record:
Germany does buy A LOT of electricity from nuclear France and Sweden, especially since March 14th, 2011, day of the moratorium on 8 nuclear power stations by CHancellor Merkel.
The ENTSO-E web site I have linked above allows checking this, easily.
Concerning the self-righteousness you mention, actually they also want many French NPPs to be shut down, and some "environmentalists" do commute often from Germany to France's chosen site for permanent storage of nuclear waste, and they also tend to slowdown and impede transport of nuclear waste from/to recycling centers in La Hague, Normandy.


Germany is still a net power exporter (down from 70 to 7 TWh I think).

French nuclear power exports are almost all at giveaway prices late at night. One problem with nuclear power. The Swiss and Luxembourg buy at 3 AM and resell, often at 5x the price, at Peak.

In euros, I question if France is a new exporter of electricity.


1) No way, my friend! Germany has been a net exporter in 2011 only because the moratorium on nuclear has been started on March 14th, will see this year how it goes. Anyway, German utilities have lost hundreds of millions of Euros worth of exported electricity.
2) As far as your comment on France is concerned, your statement reflects a common position, which is a myth, very common among anti-nuclear "environmentalists" a-la GreenPeace... reality, alas, is very different. Go on the web site, register and then you can see the export/import profile of all European countries.
Select France, go back in time as much as you like, you won't find many hours where France does not export 24h/24 towards Italy and Switzerland. Since 14th March 2011 it is also the case, more than 90% of the time, towards Germany.
For instance, last Saturday, the famous day when the German PV has generated 167 GWh, France has CONSTANTLY exported to Germany, a minimum of 231 MWh between 14:00and 15:00 and a max of 2994 MWh between 8:00 and 9:00... for a grand total during the day of 50172 MWh.
Before you tell me that this amount is less than what PV has generated, I just tell you that back in December 22nd, a working day, Thursday, France has sent to Germany 77.8 GWh, while PV has generated ~10 GWh or so (max during the day was less than 1 GW!)

3) Don't understand what you mean "In Euros"... as far as MWh on the electricity markets are concerned, France IS a BIG net exporter... about 30-35 TWh/year towards Italy (directly and via Swizterland)... EDF makes big, big bucks.

By the way... all this generating 1/4 to 1/6 of the CO2 emission of any other European country (except hydro Norway and maybe Austria, of course).


He meant, that you have to calculate the price of the electricity which is exported. Base load during night time is dirt cheap, peak demand is very expensive, so the excess amount of electricity exported to Germany is very likely much larger than its impact on trade balance.

BTW with a trade deficit of 100 billion per year I really appreciate much higherr French exports to Germany :-)

I've perfectly understood what he meant, fact is that there is no "during night time" export, as it is 24/24 7/7!... including peak time. EDF is not giving away their electricity for free, that's for sure, they'd rather ramp down their reactors, as they do every night and every week end (not to mention seasonal stops).

EdF does not "ramp their reactors' up and down to meet demand.

A couple of years ago on TOD, I did a very tedious tracking of EdF demand and nuclear generation over several days.

There was no correlation between demand and nuclear power generated. The second highest hour of nuke power might be the 1oth highest hour demand - the hour of highest demand might be 13th highest hour of nuclear generation, etc.

In theory, newly refueled reactors can modulate their generation a bit, but this capability rapidly diminishes. In reality, EdF does not load follow with nukes.


"EdF does not "ramp their reactors' up and down to meet demand."

Oh yes they do, my friend!

Just look at this, real-time data!

Hope you do understand some French, should be clear anyway what they mean.
Second graph, with many lines, move the mouse pointer on it, you'll see the % of each form of production... go to 4:00 am, you'll read one value for nuclear, go at 9:00-10:00 am, in the middle of the morning power ramp, and you'll see 1-2 GW more... select a date on a weekend, starting on Friday night they ramp down even more, 2-3 GW... this time of the year, with the lowest consumption, the differences are small, in winter they can be several GW.
Please also notice the abysmal performance of wind power generation! :-(


I looked at yesterday. Random enough, and 24 hours of data.

Peak consumption was at 13:00 at 54,314 MW. Nuke was at 35,624 MW at 13:00.

Nuke was at 35,673 ME at 6:15. At 11:15, nuke peaked at 36,017, then 35,776 MW at 18:30, 35,904 MW at 22:45.

Just a quick push of the slider and found that nuke production was higher than nuke production at demand peak at:

6:15, 11:15 (Nuke peak - 1:45 before demand peak), 18:30 and 22:45.

Less than Germanic precision in "load following". More nuke power at 6:15 and 22:45 than at a very predictable demand peak.

Earlier, I did a much more detailed survey over several days - more statistical analysis - and the only conclusion that I got is that, most nights, between mid-night and 4:30, EdF does turn their nukes down - just a very little bit. But they are incapable of anything remotely called "load following".

Load following with nukes is like playing video games with VERY dark glasses and with mittens on your hands.


"I looked at yesterday. Random enough, and 24 hours of data"

Ehi, are you kidding or what??? You can look at data for the last 30 days!... are you not able to change the date?


I think you might be looking at the pie chart, which seems to be showing % domestic consumption by source rather than actual production. The chart above it shows actual production and export. The production from nuclear is almost constant throughout the day. They appear to be using hydro to meet peak demand in the early afternoon and exporting surplus nuclear at night. The variation nuclear output, as Alan says, appears to move within a very narrow range, ~3%, with the variation not clearly associated with peak demand.

You say you read peer-reviewed journals and "studies", but if you can't read a graph, I'm not sure what you are getting out of them.

Yeah, sure... I can't read a graph... next time you come over at CERN you will teach me how to do it, ok?

I already spent quite a bit of time making statistically valid analysis of several days a couple of years ago.

You appear impervious to logic and data, so why spend more time re-doing work I have already done (and it takes quite a few hours)

EdF does not load follow with nukes. Another pro-nuke fantasy that says that they do.

If you refuse to accept data and facts, more will not change anything.


Ramping nukes is not cost effective unless you must do it (increases costs, reduces output). The fact that nukes aren't being ramped does not say they can't be. Nukes are almost the last thing you want to ramp. At least with coal the fuel savings are worth something.

France has so many nukes that they turn off up to a dozen every spring and fall beyond outages required for refueling. Looking at the #s, they still have some off.

*IF* it were possible to ramp nukes, then the thing to do this time of year turn on several more nukes and ramp the fleet up and down, say 4 or 5 GW. Leave the coal plants in cold standby and burn no coal.


Without detailed knowledge of the French grid, let me offer the following general comments to follow-up on my previous general comments:

1)Where exactly the plant is on the grid matters, a lot. The grid isn't designed to deliver power from any plant to any load without regard for location or grid details. Where plants are off is likely to reflect local power demand.
2)It depends on the precise capital, fuel, and O&M costs (coal has lower capital cost and lower O&M than nuke, but higher fuel cost, but the exaact proportion will vary), but: Ramping nuclear costs extra money, ramping coal either saves money, just not as much as ramping gas or hydro, or costs less money than ramping nukes..

First grid necessity, then marginal cost.

Planned outages at nuke plants allow routine maintenance to be done in measured fashion, rather than only during refueling outages while working three shifts and making every purchase and delivery decision based on time rather than cost. It's still cheapest to run plants at the highest capacity factor possible, but if you must run at lower capacity, OFF is cheaper than ramping.

Again, none of this says than no nukes CAN ramp, just that the other options are usually better.

As a former President of a small company that did nuke plant electrical maintenance, I can attest to the pressure to get it done ASAP !

However, even using plant work force and minimal traveling workers, they can still bring them up earlier.

EdF likes to idle their older nukes in the spring & fall. So a reactor idle today was also idle last fall - and no refueling either time, plus a dozen or more weekends as well in the last year. Three months down at a time + weekends leaves very little maintenance to be done.

The French grid is designed for Peak+ loads and some nukes "in the wrong place" forced out. EdF is owned by the government and NIMBY does not translate well into French.

During mild conditions, I would anticipate no grid issues by bringing back nukes and idling coal (or NG) plants in their place.

French nukes are pretty evenly spaced around the nation, plus there is hydro, wind and solar dispersed as well.

In other words, *IF* EdF COULD ramp nukes, they WOULD be doing it now instead of burning FF.


So I went and looked at the data. There appears to actually be a lot of nuke ramping going on (way more than coal, though lower as a percentage of generation by fuel, of course). Also, a pretty minor fraction of the total generation is coal power which could easily be a result of local grid concerns. Also, apparently many coal plants will be shut down soon for emissions reasons, so, given they'll be scrap anyway, thermal cycling costs on life expectancy are going to be nil.

The EdF data shows random walk behavior within about a 2% range - and a deliberate ramp down at night of -1.5% to -2% or so.

At noted for March 31, Peak demand was at 13:00, and nukes were generated more power at just after 6 in the morning and after 22 at night than they were at peak demand.

Peak nuke generation was 1:45 before Peak demand, and demand was substantially less then when nukes peaked.


For 6/2, minimum generation was at 0545, and nuclear was 33801MW, maximum generation was at 1245hrs and nuclear was 36154MW -- a 7% change. Similar patterns occurred on all the days I looked at. This is too small to be described as load following, but it's definitely deliberate.

Yes, i admit that they did hit in on 6/2 at 12:45 with nuke = 36,154 MW. I was quite surprised, having seen the data for a number of days from EdF.

However, the ramp-down was quicker than economic. At 13:30, 45 minutes after actual peak and 30 minutes after projected peak, nuke was done to 34,981 MW while at 10:00 nuke was 36,011 MW.

I still stand by my statement, that load following with nukes is like playing video games with VERY dark glasses and mittens on.

One can "kind of" point in the right direction, but there is no fine control and the results are quite clumsy.


In the small segment I looked at after midnight, hydroelectric generators were performing load following decreasing from about 11 GW to 4 GW.

On most sytems, hydro is the first thing to ramp. The increase in O&M cost is lowest, the ramp rate is fastest, the fuel wasted is near 'nil and from a power grid standpoint reducing reservoir hydro production when water is not oversupplied is a net benefit (maintaining peaking capacity for later). Water delivery and environmental considerations may provide some limits to this (some water must be delivered). In a wet year, for a system with limited storage, reservoir capacity may be an issue with reduced production (increasing the likelihood of having to spill (total waste) to maintain flood control capacity.

Europe is a relatively small place (compared to the US at least). High capacity lines between states (or groups of states) are much more economically feasible. Here in the UK we already get up to 10% of our supply via undersea cables from France and Holland.

Nevertheless, if we are to move to a situation where the bulk of Europe's electricity comes from renewable sources, the scale of the electricity transfers required will be staggering.

High quality wind resources are overwhelmingly found along the north west coast of the continent, to the south of the north Atlantic storm track. There is easily potential for 200 GW, mostly in UK and Irish coastal waters, but also the extremities of Spain, France and the whole northern coast as far as the Baltic. And 200GW wind is far from being a fantasy. The approved UK pipeline will take capacity to well over 40GW by 2030.

Forgetting the back up issues and the danger of grids collapsing, there is the simple question of transmission capacity. Wind output essentially correlates with the passage of Atlantic storms - meaning peaks of perhaps 70%, even 80% of capacity across the system. 200GW capacity could result in as much as 100GW of surplus power from the north-west needing to be moved 1000km+ to the south and east where it could actually be used. I am not sure that this is feasible with current technology. With no way of selling power at times of peak output the economics of large scale wind collapses.

As for pumped storage on a large scale - forget it. Except perhaps in Norway. Mountains and coastlines are usually protected - and real estate prices in Alpine valleys are extremely high.

Europe is a relatively small place (compared to the US at least). High capacity lines between states (or groups of states) are much more economically feasible.

The US actually has three almost entirely independent power grids: the Eastern, Western, and Texas Interconnects. The Texas Interconnect is (despite what Texans like to think) relatively small -- the portion of the state covered by that grid is about the same size as France. The Western Interconnect is physically much larger overall, but the large majority of its population (hence electricity demand) is concentrated into six smaller areas. The Eastern is probably most similar structurally to the European grid, with a relatively large number of cities broadly distributed over the area. Two important points to consider:

  • The Eastern represents an enormously larger problem than the other two interconnects. In 2010, the Eastern accounted for about 93% of all US nuclear generation, about 90% of all US coal generation, and about 86% of total US generation. When people talk about the failing US grid, and the massive amounts of US coal and nuclear power, they are generally talking about the Eastern Interconnect (whether they know they are or not).
  • Of the three regions, the Western clearly has the largest and best quality renewable resources relative to its population (in 2010, almost 30% of Western generation was from renewable sources). There are a variety of quite detailed studies of the specifics for heavy use of wind and solar in the Western; the same level of detail has not been done (to my knowledge) for the Eastern simply because the problem is so much harder.

One thing to remember is that even those high quality wind resources translate into a capacity factor of only 35% to 40%. As a result, it's increasingly hard to run the power grid when the share of wind electricity increases. When the share rises to 40% or so, wind powers entire grid for extended lengths of time. From this time, it's impossible to increase the percentage without wasting more and more wind electricity, simply because there's no users for it. Solar has the same problem, just even more exacerbated, as its capacity factor is at most 20% which drops to abysmal 3-7% in winter. These are physical limits, which can't be solved without a magic want. So there's no bright future for renewables.


1) More German Pumped Storage (with large turbines)
2) More HV DC to Swiss & Austrian pumped storage & Hydro (+ Norwegian Hydro)
3) More HV DC to more remote areas that can use the power (Spain, Italy, Poland, Romania)

France has to turn off a half dozen to dozen nukes every spring & fall. So, by your logic, there is not a bright future for nuclear power.

Best Hopes for Uses for Cheap Power,


"France has to turn off a half dozen to dozen nukes every spring & fall. So, by your logic, there is not a bright future for nuclear power."

I beg your pardon?

They still get a 75% load factor, and 24h/24 60 GW coverage during winter... what do you mean?

The "logic" was that since 100% of renewable production was not needed 100% of the time - they were uneconomic.

Applying the same logic to French nuclear power plants gives the same results.

And were it not for French wind (5 GW installed I think) + imports of German wind, France was in danger of blackouts last winter. A few nukes were down (true) and demand was up.

And more nukes in France ARE uneconomic - unless one plans to export the power (see how far the two new ones are from England - the second one is also close to Belgium & the Netherlands as well).


"And were it not for French wind (5 GW installed I think) + imports of German wind, France was in danger of blackouts last winter. A few nukes were down (true) and demand was up."

I beg your pardon? France has imported, big time, only during 10 days, past February, when the average temperature country-wide had fallen steadily, day and night, 10 C... a very tough and unusually long occurrence... as far as I can remember French wind was very low (I could check it up very quickly on RTE's web site, maybe later...), same for German wind... you can see it here

... I think Feb 9th was the worst...the column labelled "actual" can go as high as 9000 MW, while the "offshore" can top at 110... as you can see German wind has not been a big help, your statement reflects common misconceptions, I am afraid.

As far as economy is concerned, I have seen two days ago an official document from the German Federal Energy Agency (whatever its real name is), stating that in terms of primary energy German nuclear MWh is at 10 Euros,lowest than any other form of electricity production, coal and gas included... let' not talk about the 350Euros/MWh of subsidizedPV, please! :-) ... French nuclear MWh cannot be far from that, a small correction due to its lower capacity factor (76% in France).


As far as "cheap" nuclear power, does that include any pro rata for the half trillion euro plus plus cost of Fukushima ?

Every operator of nuclear power takes some chance of that happening on their territory. Pro rata, the cost of OECD nuclear power doubled at least (an argument can be made for quintupling plus if mental distress, etc are included). (Soviet nuke power already higher due to Chernobyl).

Which is why it would be a good idea for Germany to contract with EdF for their nukes they typically shut down in the Spring & Fall. If something goes wrong - it is on French soil and French citizens are most affected.


"Which is why it would be a good idea for Germany to contract with EdF for their nukes they typically shut down in the Spring & Fall. If something goes wrong - it is on French soil and French citizens are most affected."

Well... you have added a similar comment to many messages on this blog, and I must confess that I'll take the risk of having to flee my place because of a Fukushima-type accident, rather than having 63 GW of nuclear power replaced by 63 GW of coal or gas, which kill people much more than any nuclear accident will ever do.

I can suggest to you a good reading: "Electricity generation and health", published on the prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal "The Lancet", in 2007... if you google it you'll easily find a copy for free.
As explained in the article, the mortality of electricity generation by coal combustion is about 25 persons per each TWhe generated... morbidity is 10 times that concerning cronic illness (i.e. all life long), and ~ 30-50 times for temporary illnesses... the societal, medical, economic costs are huge, in the billions/year, tens of billions. Recently one European Union agency has issued a new, updated version of the study, claiming lower impact, but still very large.
Now, imagine for a moment that 50+ years ago Japan had not started its nuclear program, what would they had used?... no major gas at that time, it would have been coal, with emissions orders of magnitude higher than today's coal power stations, which in turn would have generated tens and tens of THOUSANDS of deaths... so, before mentioning the terrible consequences of Fukushima, I would think twice.

Also note that the mortality/morbidity figures I have cited are valid for OECD countries, for developing countries they are much, much higher... there is an intersting study published by the Swiss Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), but co-authored by Univ. of Tokyo, MIT, and others... which shows how using 2006 data for coal emissions in China a staggering number of 9.8 MILLION person*years of life lost could be measured across that country. Also note that coal emissions are on the rise, in China and many other countries (India).


Let's be very clear: Human lives are worth nothing. Well, ok, about 30k Euro in spent education p.p. but by the time someone dies of lungcancer or other airborne pollution they are already or almost retired and of no more use to society. Quite a difference to the valuable land and economic loss (tourism, agriculture, fisheries, abandoned infrastructure and cleanup expenditures) in case of a nuclear incident. Japan was lucky that it is surrounded by ocean and with favorable winds during the accident. Having usually westerly winds in Western-Europe one can be sure that almost all fallout will be on land when such an acccident happens here. A trillion will sound like pocket money, that's the scale we're talking here.

No country, indeed, no sane country in Europe can afford to risk of a Fukushima-scale accident and on the other hand have no problem whatsoever risking thousands of earlier-then-necessary deaths from air polution.

This is the problem for the nuclear industry and it's proponents: every country endevouring into nuclear energy risks bankrupsy and unimaginable loss of land for almost eternity (at human timescales). Is it worth saving a few lives in economic terms?

There is also an enormous amount of end-user storage that could sop up a lot of spare production, in the form of stored Heat for Space and Water Heating, and could be pretty easily developed to store for refrigeration and freezing as well.. all with the obvious benefit of these heavy-draws being able to demand less during peak load times.

As our 'on-demand' power mentality comes with an ever dearer pricetag, certainly all sorts of other processes, like water pumping and baking will start being revised with creative storage, consolidating and shift-scheduling, to name but a few.

So there's no bright future for renewables.

Peak coal and peak uranium means there won't be bright future for coal plants and nuclear plants.

This looks pretty bright to me:

"Stabilizing the Renewable Grid : The Off-Peak Energy Market"

Norway already gets almost all of its electricity from hydro, and there is a lot of potential for storage as well. I think in the face of realities with increasing oil scarcity the world will have to look past aesthetic issues and the "not in my backyard" kind of thinking. But its important that we dont go completely bonkers and ruin the nature because we want to live in our McMansions like before and zip around in our new EVs like nothing has changed. A good policy with reduced energy use and increased effectiveness would be a better solution imo.

If we put our back into it we could be generating wind and solar power on a much larger scale on each house or local community and use a couple of EV batteries as excess storage which could be used back into the houses when necessary. There is a huge potential here, the question is if there is enough oil around to build this new infrastructure and if we will be able to sustain or service this as the oil supplies are dwindling. I guess part of the oil needed for certain essential production could come from biofuels, but it would absolutely necessary that most of the world was running on electricity including most of transportation. Again, "peak everything" could be a more serious issue than we think as well and it doesnt matter how much hydro you "could generate" if you cant find the raw materials to make the generator. :)

Yeah, Norway has a great hydro system. They need to set up pumped storage and then they can act as the 'battery' for the Europe that can be charged up anytime there is excess renewable energy being generated.

As far as I am told, NIMBY-time is big in Norway... many Norwegians have a hard time understanding why they should give up their Alpine lanscapes for the sake of Germany's electricity needs.

They already did, though. Norway's *existing* dams already have enough storage capacity through deferred generation alone to justify massive HVDC interconnects not only to Denmark and Germany but also the Netherlands and the UK, solely for the purpose of buying cheap and selling high.

There will be some new turbines installed to increase power capacity, but there's no need so far to do any pumped storage or build any new dams.

How would this affect their landscape much if at all? They've already got the hydro system. Just add some pipes & pumps for pumping water back up.

They would need to add catchment reservoirs to hold the water released from the dams, when generating power, to be pumped back up.


Block off a few fjords (they have plenty :p) and use the oceans as the catchment reservoir...

As far as I am told, NIMBY-time is big in Norway... many Norwegians have a hard time understanding why they should give up their Alpine lanscapes for the sake of Germany's electricity needs.

Apparently there's a range of opinion:

Because wind and solar energy are inconsistent, energy managers are looking for ways to fill in the gaps when it is dark outside and the air is still. A Norwegian company wants to turn hydroelectric power stations in the north into Europe's battery packs.
But not every Norwegian shares in this enthusiasm, above all because such a plan would require numerous new overhead power lines. The network in southern Norway is currently not yet ready for a connection to a North Sea electric highway. New poles disturb residents, and there have already been protests on the Hardangerfjord. In Germany, too, it would require new electricity lines -- an equally difficult venture.

Yep!... you are right, and similar things happen in UK every day.

It is not by chance that Germans are considering installing most of their future wind power off-shore... first because most of the good land sites have already been taken, second because local communities on land often oppose even replacing old turbines with newer, bigger ones... in fact 2010 and 2011 wind production in Germany has been LOWER than that of 2009, in spite of several extra GW installed... and the speed at which off-shore installation are progressing is staggeringly low, lots of problems, delays, etc...

"Offshore" is also a solution to the unsightly pylon problem:

And of course there's options like these:

The ring main idea will be about twice as long as an on land one near the main industrial north/south corridor. It will also be at risk of damage as many submarine cable links are already. It will still need connection into the existing grid which may need reinforcing to handle this new system.


My understanding is that if you have PV in Germany the owner of poles and wires is obliged to take what you don't need at a fixed price. I wonder if next generation smart meters with time-of-use pricing could smooth the resulting PV spikes. Assuming it will be a while before most homes have an EV in the garage the grid could make an offer on surplus production.

I believe German PV reached 22 GW last weekend, a massive share of the 80 GW peak demand. Of course that came about as a result of years of subsidies. If the TOU price is too low, say 5c per kwh, the smart connection switches off until the price is right. If the TOU price was $1 then the PV owner might choose to rug up or economise to sell more of the output. However the ability to refuse or curtail surplus PV would be a blow to those who expected it to guarantee income.

I think it is a good thing that there is a country bold enough to attempt what is being done. It would have been easy to have continued BAU but, then nothing would be learned. Who is it that said, "nothing ventured, nothing gained"?

Alan from the islands

I agree. Germany's problems are good problems to have.

In a country politically committed to renewables, I'd say yes. Over here, where the legions of enemies of renewables are seeking any excuse to pounce, a blackout that could be blamed on them could have a catatrophic effect on their growth.

And the Texas black-out (2/2/11) that wind shrank by an order of magnitude gets zero credit.


Went and had a look at the comments. Something interesting is happening. There is a heated debate going on that reveals something that may have escaped notice. The fact that deniers are engaging proponents of renewables lets us know that, deniers are being repeatedly exposed to opposing view points.

As time goes on, one or the other sides of this debate will be silenced as events unfold to support one side or the other. I know which side of the debate I am on and really hope that I don't end up with egg on my face.

Alan from the islands

From (25.May): "Thursday, PV-Solar broke through the 20 GW barrier (in Germany) for the first time, but before I managed to write about that, it’s old news already. On Friday, output from PV-Solar climped up to a staggering 22,240 MW as Germany experiences a week of wonderful summer weather.

To start, I will take a short look at Thursday’s record, which was historic to say the least. At about 12.45am, solar peaked at 20,097 MW. Throughout the day, it produced about 167 GWh of electricity.

That sure sounds like a lot, and it is a lot, especially considering that Germany consumes 1,200-1,400 GWh during a typical day in May."

No report of any major grid stability problems in Germany for this day.

Why is it so hard to acknowledge that Germany has chosen and acted correctly, while most all other nations are hopelessly behind the curve?

The energy users are not so happy however. All consumers currently pay additional ~0.045 $/kWh which is used as feed-in for renewables. This surcharge is expected to rise to ~0.07 $/kWh in 2013. That's a big price to pay, given that the wholesale price of electricity is similar. What will happen when the penetration of wind and solar increases further? Germany will have the most expensive industrial production in the world. And don't let me start about the fundamental problems of renewables - intermittency and non-dispatchability.

OK, please check

1) electricity prices for industry.

2) Correlation, or better lack of correlation between German industrial production and energy consumption.

3) Price increase for electricity in the last ten years for consumer, then you will find, that the renewable contribution (0.036 EUR/kWh) is only a very small part of the problem, but gets the whole blame. Interesting isn't it?

And also please check the reduction in electricity prices as renewables slash the historic very profitable midday peakload:

It is not difficult to see that traditional energy monopolies are upset about decentralized renewable energy reducing their profits and reducing energy prices for consumers. No?

Solaria Energia y Medio Ambiente says it has begun developing a 60MW PV array in Spain for which it will not receive any feed-in tariffs.
Solaria’s announcement follows a similar one made in April by Germany’s Gehrlicher Solar, which intends to build a 250MW PV project in Spain by 2015 without any subsidies.
Solaria will supply modules and act as engineering, procurement and construction contractor at the €60m ($75.1m) project, which will be located in the area of Calera y Chozas, Toledo province.
The array will feed power into the Spanish grid, fetching only the going rate for the electricity.
“Solaria is demonstrating its commitment to the Spanish market, where grid parity is becoming a reality and PV is already a mature energy technology capable of competing with traditional energy sources,” the company says.
Source: (June 6, 2012)

I had heard that German peak electricity demand is in fact in the middle of the day?

I cannot find anything on the net to confirm that...

Anyway, it is worth looking at what solar PV the Germans are getting either side of the peak.

Typically I see them in last month or so getting over 10GW for 5 or 6 hours on days with a 17 to 20 GW peak and on days with a lower peak, still 5 or 6 hours of 8 Gw or more. That's got to be good and must be predictable, up to a point, allowing some switch from conventional?

I am fascinated by the graphics on this website, by the way and watch it a lot!

The highest output recorded there last year was 13.5 GW in July when they only had 18 GW installed - I suspect they could break the record again later in the summer and they've been regularly beating that 13.5 through April and May.

I had heard that German peak electricity demand is in fact in the middle of the day?

I cannot find anything on the net to confirm that...

Last summer, Germany's peak demand was about 75 GW, in the middle of the day.
However, the peak demand in winter was about 80 GW, in the evening.

Well, your figures say it all! 167 GWh out, at best (May is the sunniest month in Germany), try to look at any PV production data from November through February, and then we'll see how it goes.
Also, last week's high PV production has been accompanied by a low wind production, so things are not so rosy as they seem, for renewables.

What's not rosy about that?

A big part of this ongoing discussion is how these two particular renewable sources have often tended to make good complements to one another, which is what seems to have been exemplified in small part last week.

'You can't always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes you might find-
You get what you need..' -Rolling Stones

"A big part of this ongoing discussion is how these two particular renewable sources have often tended to make good complements to one another, which is what seems to have been exemplified in small part last week."

Yes... agreed... during the day... on the other hand it seems that all of the German territory lay under the Arctic Circle, so the sun sets, about 8 hours/day, these days... so the question becomes "how much power does Germany use at night".

An denier is not called a 'denier' for nothing. They deny in face of the truth and are not persuaded by facts, it is at the core of the denial movement on any subject. So never expect a denier to be rational and accept events as they unfold.

Well, I'm happy that the Germans are encountering these problems so they will assign a lot of engineers to figure out how to fix them.

It certainly isn't an easy challenge, but I think between a combination of geographic spacing of wind turbines, sharing with other countries, demand-response programs, some pumped water storage, some natural gas turbines for peaking, and some continued old school coal . . . we'll they'll figure it out. Honestly, I'm surprised that they have done as well as they have. Many people have said that if you go above 20% renewables, the grid just won't be able to handle it. They've gone far above that and things have continued to work.

And the rest of the world will benefit from the solutions they come up with to solve problems.

BTW, Figure 1 is a cruel trick on those of us with red-green color blindness.

I never could quite figure out what was so bad about those nuclear reactors. They haven't killed anybody, the same can't be said for wind and solar in Germany. And, they are emission free. Ah well, I guess Germany will just have to go back to a yearly intake of solar energy, like during the dark ages. There will be more sheep, and more horses, and more local food. Wind & solar just can't do it.

Wind and solar have killed people in Germany? Did someone fall off a roof while installing or something?

The Germans haven't really abandoned nuclear power . . . they still get a lot of it from France.

I think you are quite over-pessimistic on Germany's ability to make it work. The ability of Germany to engineer solutions is world-reknown. Between their very large installation of renewables and their dropping of nuclear power, they have certainly given themselves a challenge. I look forward to seeing how they solve these problems so that we can all learn from their experiences.

My state of California has a reasonably aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard so we will eventually have the same issues.

Dark Ages?

Germany can turn on lights, toasters and battery chargers if the wind blows OR if the sun shines. Japan's reactor fleet is now in the 'Dark Ages' again, it would seem.

..and is there something wrong with more local food?

I just spent several days with my cousins in Iowa, one of the topsoil capitals of the country, and didn't have a fresh leaf of Lettuce until last night.

Solar and Wind work alright, but there will be some adjustments necessary.. I'll have mine with a big side of salad, please.

"Dark Ages?

Germany can turn on lights, toasters and battery chargers if the wind blows OR if the sun shines. Japan's reactor fleet is now in the 'Dark Ages' again, it would seem."

Yeah!... what do you think would have happened had Japan installed, say, 50 GWp of PV power in the area hit by the tsunami? Californians would soon be recovering solar panels from floating home debris...

Also, same issue... it seems that 2 of 4 reactors at the Ohi nuclear power station will be restarted next week, just read on NHK's web site.

You can serve me some fresh, clean Maguro Sushi right on top of a nice piece of PV Flotsam, if you like. I'll gobble it up.. then I'll find the traces and wire that panel back up, and meanwhile, the coastal areas where those PV farms had been would already be cleaned up, occupied and working and living again..

Frankly, a bunch of Pole-mounted PV might very well have survived both the quake and the flooding in place, and been available to patch together to help with the recovery efforts.. within HOURS or maybe DAYS..

They may well restart some of those plants, they need the power.. but there's a great big hole in their country now, a country that still sits on the edge of the Ring of Fire.. so they will be having a whole new conversation about what role Fission will be playing over there. A couple of restarts is hardly a triumph for the Industry at this point.. it's merely the presence of a couple Vital Signs. Won't take much more before this patient is read their rites..

Maybe you are right... anyway... generating 290 TWh/year 24h/24 relying on PV and wind is gonna be a "mission impossible", that should be clear, right?


Certainly not as Step One or Two.

but over time, reduce the TWh (population should drop soon which will help), make a deal with Norway (or even Iceland too), etc. etc.

Better technology.

By 2050 ?


Hey, we are talking about 2050, you can really forcast that the transition will not work in 4 decades :-)
With your knowledge you can earn a lot of money :-)

It is perfectly clear that during winter we have to use chemical energy (methan, hydrogen, methanol, biomass..) to produce electricity, the interesting question is, wether these chemical compounds can be produced with a reasonable price tag (in 2050).

In 2012 Germany needs 600 TWh electricity, 60 TWh are already produced by wind, 25 by PV, around 35 by hydro power and biomass.

To reach 300 TWh we have only to replace most of the old existing wind turbins with better ones, this at least triples the out-put (200 TWh), and to install around 4 GW PV per year (100 GW, 100 TWh in 2030), which is not very ambitious for the next 20 years. Here I have ignored that we will see additional 10-20 GW off-shore wind turbines and a few thousand on-shore windturbines in sourthern Germany which produce at least additional 75 TWh. The rest (almost 50%) is still conventional, so I do not see real supply problems around 2030, especially when batteries become quite common and bio gas is not used for base load production. :-)

The following two decades (2030-2050) will become more interesting as we would have to store summer excess production as chemical compounds or as potential energy in really large scale.

"Here I have ignored that we will see additional 10-20 GW off-shore wind turbines and a few thousand on-shore windturbines in sourthern Germany which produce at least additional 75 TWh. "

It seems that you also ignore that Germany, in spite of having installed several GW of wind power in 2010 and 2011, has produced LESS electricity than in 2009!

Installing turbine per se does not mean that they will produce electricity efficiently, and the best on-land site are taken already, off-shore is a hope whose long-term potential is far from being demonstrated, so far German energy/electricity policy is wishfull thinking at best.


The avarage power of a on-shore turbine is only 1.4 MW in Germany, therefore, it is no black magic to replace most of the older turbines with 5 MW turbines or smaller ones optimized for more full load hours and gain a lot, your best sites argument is nonsense, because turbines are replaced, i.e. the new ones have the same good conditions.

Because one or two years yield less electricity does not make an argument, sorry. The long term developement is important.

Whether there will be much resistance in southern Germany will be seen, I bet wind has more supporters than nuclear power and the PV FIT are now much lower so wind becomes an alternative.

Your pro nuclear position will be interesting when France has to replace many of their reactors in the next two decades and will face very high kW prices for the new reactors, here I -even as supporter of nuclear power in Germany- clearly prefer the German problems. France will face exploding costs for the new reactors in combination with an idiotic structure on the demand side. :-)

"The avarage power of a on-shore turbine is only 1.4 MW in Germany, therefore, it is no black magic to replace most of the older turbines with 5 MW turbines or smaller ones optimized for more full load hours and gain a lot, your best sites argument is nonsense, because turbines are replaced, i.e. the new ones have the same good conditions. "

Not at all, my argument is full of sense! Uprating the existing turbines is not going to happen, on a large scale, anytime soon. 5 MW turbines are 150 m tall monsters, very few communities would be happy to host them.

Try reading these:

"Economic properties of wind power: a European assessment", Energy Policy 38 issue 7 2010 p3232-3244


"Capacity factor of wind power realized values v. estimates", Energy Policy 37 issue 7 2009 p2679-2688

... both by Nicholas Boccard of the University of Girona. Quite an eye-opener!


... 5 MW turbines are 150 m tall monsters beautiful pieces of moving sculpture as they harmlessly harvest the wind for the needs and wants of humanity.

There, fixed it for you :-)


Perhaps there should be a serious attempt to try painting them in different colour schemes to see if there is any effect on acceptability. Brute, harsh, industrial grey verses bright organic colours for example.


"Perhaps there should be a serious attempt to try painting them in different colour schemes to see if there is any effect on acceptability"

Haze gray (aka hull gray), equipment gray, and machinery gray come to mind. I'm willing to consider that bright white may not the best choice for blending in.

Being from New Orleans#, I would suggest a variety of "interesting" color combinations. Purple tower and hub with yellow blades, white tower with a green spiral stripe and green blades, blades with different colors - say purple, green and gold, and so forth.

Best Hopes for visually entertaining wind farms,


Interesting painted houses, we get quite a bit of that here. The other day I walked down a road I have mostly driven or ridden down before and noticed the painted houses that I had not noticed before.


They need to be visible to aircraft.

What Germany is actually doing about it is building 19 new coal fired power stations.

Of course, this means that emissions of CO2 will remain high, in spite of any drive for renewables, whilst so do electricity costs as the price of the power is bumped way up to pay for the renewables even though the real donkey work of running the grid is done by despatchable fossil fuels.

Electricity costs are also so high, around $0.30kwh, that German's do not use it for heating, instead using gas whenever possible.

The net effect is that energy prices are high, dependence on fossil fuels is total as renewables can't run the grid without their support, and CO2 emissions remain some of the highest in Europe, just like those of Denmark, who also are in theory going to renewables.

So their policy to date has achieved high costs to the consumer, uncompetitive prices for industry, high CO2 emissions and enhanced dependency on natural gas imports together with a destabilised grid with increased chances of catastrophic failure.

The cherry on the cake is that very high electricity rates make it very difficult for German car makers to introduce electric cars as the economics do not make sense.
Hence the interest of Daimler and others in hydrogen.
In the meantime dependence on oil imports from the Middle East and Russia is likely to remain high.

The cherry on the cake is that very high electricity rates make it very difficult for German car makers to introduce electric cars as the economics do not make sense.

Hmmm. I've had the same thought . . . but, it really depends on how their subsidy and tariff systems works. At the current low price for PV systems, the PV generated electricity for an EV is cheap compared to $8/gallon gasoline. So if you install your own system and have net metering, it is pretty good. But paying over 30 cents/KWH is pretty darn high.

I think part of Germany's difficulty is that they are saddled with paying for all those PV systems installed years ago when the prices were more than double what they are today.

Crazy subsidy systems may say that you are charging your electric car using solar, physics says otherwise.
EV's are going to be overwhelmingly charged overnight, when solar is not available, so further destabilising the grid.

As a rough calculation, the $130 billion they have spent on solar alone is operating as a highly regressive tax, and could instead have paid around $4,000 per housing unit towards seriously reducing energy consumption.
That would have the political disadvantage of being loaded towards the poorest, where energy use is a higher proportion of income, instead of being a perk for the middle classes.
Such a program would have been 'rather' more effective at reducing energy than the 0.3% or so Germany gets of it's total power supplies for it's $130 billion.

Of course, if the objective is to cost effectively save CO2 emissions then in any case it makes no sense to throw all the money at renewables, when they are planned to make up at most perhaps 25% of supply, with any existing technology.
75% will still have to come from fossil fuels, which are simply not used optimally when used to make up deficiencies in non-despatchable renewables..

Anything like the same money as that which has been spent on renewables would reduce use and emissions far more is spent on energy use reduction and improving the efficiency of fossil fuel use, for instance in the use of home fuel cells which is now reaching viability.

Of course, that would involve facing reality, which is that if you don't use nuclear power you are not going to eliminate fossil fuel use, nor anything like it.

So you get eco-bling at huge expense, with possibly disastrous consequences for the European grid, not to mention German users and industry.

Load on the grid for charging the light vehicle fleet using electricity would be of the order of 10Gwe, mostly overnight.

One hates to think what that load of perhaps 25Gw in peak overnight charging would do to the German grid.

EV cars will further destabilise the grid, with the only fix I can think of is to encourage daytime charging at work, in distinction to what is done everywhere else.
That is not going to help at all in December, when at the latitude of Germany solar is of the order of one tenth of that available in June, and that is when the grid is most stressed anyway.
More fossil fuel plants, and lots of them, would be the only way out.

For nuclear France in contrast EV's will improve the economics of the grid, as several million can be powered by overnight charging using under-utilised power stations, before a single new one needs to be built.

Happy days for EDF, and decreasing French oil imports.

Besides that the renewable power industry including its employees pay more taxes than what they indirectly receive in feed-in tariffs (which are paid by the electricity consumers and NOT the tax payers -> people always have the option to waste less electricity and thus pay less feed-in tariffs):
German tax-payers already paid €204 billion to the nuclear power industry:!59828/

Mandates to take renewables are a hidden subsidy, and compel the provision of under-utilised fossil fuel back up, if back-up is the correct term to use for a power source which provides 75% of the power, but just does not do it efficiently as it is switched on an off to cope with the vagaries of renewables.

It is wonderful economics when efficiency consists of using the most number of people you can to provide energy.
The economy should improve even more when they are simply employed to dig holes and fill them in again.

The fact is that Germany is currently building 19 new coal fired power stations.
If renewables were actually practical at scale, they would not need to do so.

It looks to me like renewables are very practical at scale, just that plugging them in to a grid designed for fossil fuel generation and using them in a society organized around the assumptions of fossil fuel energy is not always the best course. Wind and solar are producing a LOT of energy here; the only problem is that people can't seem to figure out that it doesn't work the same way as fossil fuels, and they are having to reverse engineer things designed for fossil fuels.

The existing infrastructure is effectively a massive subsidy for fossil fuels.

Those 19 coal stations may look good now, but in 20 years? If coal prices rise? What about the pollution (another subsidy, as I doubt the operators will have to deal with the cost of pollution)? My guess is that you either don't think these things matter, or think Germany should use the nuclear they shut down after Fukushima. Short-term thinking at its best.

You seem very determined to avoid facing the fact that renewables can't do the job!

If current technology can't do anything like it, then it is simply assumed that it will improve until it can, although even the most far fetched schemes such as DesertTec which envisages collecting solar in the desert and piping it north at the cool cost of around $500 billion, last I heard, is only based on supplying around 15% of Europe's power, and that not until 2050, and simply assumes that umpteen technical problems will be resolved.

The 19 coal plants being built guarantee heavy dependence on fossil fuels for decades.
Gas imports from unstable areas of the world are supposed to do the rest.

Grid instability, high CO2 emissions, high costs, import dependency and huge problems in moving to the electrification of transport are the perfectly clear consequences of German policies.

You can't run the grid on intermittent power which is not deliverable on demand. It really is that simple.

The huge size of the demand for biomass and the devastation to the environment that filling any substantial part of the demand for despatchable power are now clear, and for countries like Germany are of the wrong magnitude to do the job.

The reality is that German policies will lead to continued dependence on fossil fuels, and those are most certainly subject to analysis in terms of Hubbert peak supplies, with a time span to peak in at best decades.

The renewables 'plan' boils down to hoping that something will turn up.

Besides that Europe has enough power capacity to bridge over 20 days (of 0% biomass, 0% wind and 0% PV): (there are no nights and dead calm periods which last that long.)

The grid has been and is being run on intermittent consumers and intermittent power plants for decades. This is why there has been interconnection power and flexible power plants (with low capacity factors) for decades.

More importantly: Most people keep unfortunately ignoring the fact that much more energy is consumed for heating and hot water than for electricity in Germany:

Heat pumps which substitute fossil fuel heating systems reduce the fuel demand by over 50% even if their electricity is solely produced by a combined cycle power plant or a combined heat power plant. And low temperature heat can actually be stored cheaply:

If the heating and hot-water sector is electrified with heat pumps, natural gas consumption is not only reduced greatly, but demand response capacity can be increased tremendously.

Even though Germany has taken 8 nuclear power plants off the grid last year it has still reduced its FF consumption last year:
Nevertheless and unfortunately Germany has still a very powerful coal-lobby, which is even getting support from TOD...

177Twh is the total Norwegian potential.
They have actually developed about 115Twh of it:

177Twh is 177Gkwh.
Divide that by 1 million and you have 177,000kwh.
Divide that by 381 and you get 464kwh per person, not 4,645.

This amount of storage will vary according to both the weather, and the demands put on it, and is by no means a constant resource which can always be drawn on.

'The grid has been and is being run on intermittent consumers and intermittent power plants for decades.'

No it hasn't.
There is no grid anywhere in the world which does not rely on despatchable power.
Again, that is why the German's are building 19 new coal plants, not from some obscure urge to continue to emit CO2.

'Heat pumps which substitute fossil fuel heating systems reduce the fuel demand by over 50% even if their electricity is solely produced by a combined cycle power plant or a combined heat power plant. And low temperature heat can actually be stored cheaply'

I have a heat pump at home, and if you have to use electricity rather than gas that is the most economic option.
However, it is no more efficient than using gas in a combined boiler, after the gas to create electricity is burnt and transmitted.

Better than either are home fuel cells, which make use of the otherwise waste heat to provide hot water.

Their better efficiency means that similar savings can be made to those from building vast fleets of wind turbines, without bothering with them at all.

They don't fit well run as back up for wind as you would not have any hot water if you were using wind generated electricity instead.

Solar thermal is realistic at the latitude of Germany, unlike pv, as you don't have the losses incurred by altering the state of the energy.
They still cause a big bulge in demand in the winter though, as they can't provide all the hot water needed then.

Using gas etc to provide for larger peaks caused by the annual intermittency of renewables is not economic, and a dreadfully inefficient way of proceeding.

"Better than either are home fuel cells"

What do they run off of? Natural gas? Hydrogen from excess French nuke capacity at night? What's the efficiency of that? How do you deliver the H2?

I think Germany's problems bring forward for all to see the underlying fact that you can't really build and continuously grow a major manufacturing economy in northern latitudes without easy cheap energy, which basically none of the options before us offer. Welcome to the real world constraints of Planet Earth. Renewables may offer some kind of a "solution" but won't be as good as FF's for a long time to come, if ever, at least for Europe. And I wonder how much of that additional coal plant demand Germany is installing is just to power economic growth as opposed to merely having to offset intermittent renewables.

In other places of the world with more reliable solar resources like the United States, that isn't and will never again be a big manufacturing center (it will return to its roots as an agricultural producer), I don't think the problems would be as severe as in Germany, assuming the US gets its act together before we seriously run out of fossil fuels.

It seems like you want to be able to continue BAU, using nuclear to do it, which I don't think is really a good way of approaching the problem going forward. I'm not fundamentally against nuclear, but I think its fervent supporters haven't really thought through the long term implications of its use. They simply extrapolate historical social and economic conditions to the future and say, "look it worked in the past, it can work in the future". But it seems almost inevitable that humanity will see a die off of some sort in the next few decades, so what many consider to be inherent qualities of human society (stability, continuity, order of law) may break down and be revealed to be merely a 70 year exception to the rule of human history. Unfortunately, nukes require a highly organized and stable society to be able to function safely for decades and decades (and for the next gazillion years afterwards in order to keep the waste safe), whereas solar panels on your roof don't. The future is going to be increasingly more difficult to manage, but renewables are going to and will have to play an important role as we lurch forward.

Written by DaveW:
Again, that is why the German's are building 19 new coal plants, not from some obscure urge to continue to emit CO2.

Some of these new coal to electricity generating stations will replace old ones. I wonder how much influence the German coal industry has over the German government in pushing them down that path.

To turn off existing nuclear power stations prematurely only because in Japan they failed to build their plants high enough to withstand a tsunami was not very clever.

Here is a calculation how much energy is lost in the next 10 years or so:

If anything, (brown) coal fired power stations should be turned off first. Now Germany will face a triple energy whammy

(1) peak oil and everyone assumes there will be electric cars
(2) Nuclear power voluntarily turned off (hopefully they keep the power plants still in a condition which allows them to restart them quickly)
(3) Nature will force us turn off coal power plants within a decade

NASA climatologist James Hansen at Sydney Uni: "Australia doesn't agree now that they got to stop their coal, but they are going to agree. I can guarantee you that within a decade or so because the climate change will become so strongly apparent that's going to become imperative"
20 seconds clip:
Full lecture:
>From here:

"renewables can't do the job!"

What you seem not to understand is that I think the "job" we're asking energy to do for us - heat and cool every room in our house at all times, put bright lights on every street, etc. - is unreasonable. Japan actually proves how much of this is pure waste - they have substantially reduced electricity use and shut down all their nuclear reactors. Some of this has been replaced by natural gas, but most of this has been replaced by... nothing. By having vending machines that only turn on the lights if someone puts in money or presses a button. By turning off some lights. By using less A/C.

It may not be popular to say that we need to think about using less, even if that means a reduction in "standard of living". There are ways to minimize this loss, such as upgrading houses to higher standards of insulation, using more natural light in buildings, etc. In any case, we should do what we can voluntarily, before we are forced into it.

You seem to have missed Japan's massive increase in fossil fuel burn.
It isn't renewables that have taken up the slack.

They also suffered the inconvenience of dozens of deaths from heat prostration, and thousands of hospitalisation.

Dying would seem to be an odd way of avoiding an assumed risk.

On the whole I think I would rather take the wholly theoretical risk from most of the power plants sited so that they are not in any danger of being hit by a 14 metre tsunami, as that is what did the damage to a few old and inadequately designed plants, not the category 9 earthquake which preceded it and which all of the plants bore to admiration.

It seems likely that no-one at all will die from the radiation.

It is perfectly clear that dozens have died so far from not switching back on perfectly good plants, built to a different design, and not in vulnerable areas.

It seems likely that no-one at all will die from the radiation

Your un-critical (to say the least) support of nuclear power has taken you into fantasy and lost you credibility.

Or do you believe that a little radiation is good for you ?

True Story- the US NRC commissioned another look at seismic risks at US nuclear power plants after Fukushima. the report came out and listed North Anna as the least likely (out of 70 or so nuke plant sites) to get an earthquake over design standards.

Just one month later, a previously unknown fault subjected North Anna to over twice the design force earthquake.

Fortunately, the design was conservative enough to tolerate this.

None-the-less is shows the weakness of human analysis of risk.

And there are *SO* many risks we do not calculate. A major EMP, another Tunguska explosion, terrorists, and more.

BTW, I do support a limited number of new nukes - despite the very heavy subsidy they require, as a last measure after EVERY other measure, to reduce carbon emissions. Put them places (such as south central Georgia) where the risk (say 0.25%) of losing a large swath of land for centuries is acceptable.

Nukes are a VERY bad choice, but Climate Chaos is even worse.

" BTW, I do support a limited number of new nukes . Nukes are a VERY bad choice, but Climate Chaos is even worse."

The problem is - the Germans are building 17 new coal plants right now. So, given that Germans won't abandon electricity (or even reduce the consumption of it, unfortunately) any time soon, it's a very simple choice:

a) 17 new coal plants
b) 17 new nuclear reactors

There's not much ambiguity. Either one technology is better or the other. So what would you choose?

P.S. The third option, renewables, are bound to fail. They are intermittent and not dispatchable. Once you have high enough penetration of wind and solar, you simply can't have a stable grid without wasting some of the electricity. At that point, the grid is run entirely from wind and solar at times, so, penetration can be increased only by cutting the usage of the backup. So, on average higher wind generation when the backup is running, but also on average higher wind generation when the grid already can't accept more electricity. The second case is when the electricity is wasted. So, for example, if renewable share is 50%, there must sit at least 10GW of renewables for each GW of stable supply.

The third option, renewables, are bound to fail

Nuclear is not dispatch-able - or even variable. On (with a few days prior to schedule procedures) or off.

OTOH, pumped storage is ideal. Superb VAR support, usually dispatch-able in 90 seconds or so. Absorbs the excess renewables and makes up gaps very nicely. If there is no wind or sun, rev up one or more combined cycle natural gas plants (the 60% efficient ones). THAT is what Germany should be building instead of coal plants.

And I also think Germany should make a deal with EdF to take the production from some of half dozen to dozen nukes they shut down every spring and fall. Cheap power and if a problem develops, it will be French citizens evacuating and French soil contaminated for 15 generations.

Another option is just export excess renewables.

Best Hopes for 7 GW more German pumped storage,


you simply can't have a stable grid without wasting some of the electricity

Then dump the electricity. Having too much electricity so it goes to waste isn't really a "problem" as far as I can see for renewables. It's a shame, but not a problem.

Coal plants are guaranteed 100% to fail eventually as a power source because they run on coal.

"Or do you believe that a little radiation is good for you ?"

I first became acquainted with the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) hypothesis and other radiation models during the late 50's. I have followed some of the literature on radiation hormesis, especially the two books by T. D. Luckey, since 1980. I am reasonably convinced that there is more evidence for radiation hormesis than for LNT. Unfortunately proof is difficult as any possible effect of low level ionizing radiation is buried in a sea of noise.

Let us say there is a single unstable atom in a human host. Let us omit the fact that it may not decay in the natural lifetime of the host or in millennia. When it decays it has to hit something that can be damaged sufficiently to cause a biological effect and not have an inert interaction or have the decay particle leave the body without interacting. If it does interact, causing biological effect, it has to do something that will cause consequential actions and not cause something that can be repaired or be considered trivial and non-harmful. this would indicate that, at very low levels, radiation cannot simply be scaled, it depends on an aggregate of probabilities. In other words it cannot be linear, in effects, all the way to zero. The question should be 'At what level does the effect of radiation start to gain significance?'. It also has to cross a line where it is no longer lost in the noise. These indicate that the LNT model does not hold. Perhaps if all those that take part in anti-nuclear meetings stopped smoking then they might prevent more cancers than what they protest against?


Certainly we have developed means for handling what is seen as certain 'baseline' rad. levels, and our bodies have responses that have been in place to save our ancestors. Nonetheless, we're playing with that baseline in many places in the globe by having highly concentrated stores and occasionally spills of radioactive materials, playing russian roulette with the ambient averages, all this while our toxic body loads and our immune systems have been compromised with any number of our other experiments.. and then finally, we're toying with teratogens and mutagens, so that the damage we might be doing is going to show up as genetic changes that can affect our 'Darwinian Fitness' in ways we won't even see until it's been spread throughout populations.

As with the selection process in any situation, you could say this will simply be self-correcting as the unfit are escorted back to the dust.

The question then becomes.. 'Would you allow your people to do this to your species if you could help it?' 'Plausible deniability' is just another way of saying Cheap Cop-out.

The customer is always right. Obey your Addictions.

The other form of atomic power has increased the C14 load in the biosphere by +15% above natural levels. Still some slight trend down - perhaps our grandchildren will have only +12% the natural load of C14.

Add in medical and dental X-rays, and we are significantly above the natural baseline for ionizing radiation. I see no benefit from increasing it further.

Best Hopes for Less, not More, radiation,


..and to reiterate, that these things pose a mutagenic danger to all manner of life forms, so it's MORE than just the level of radiation, which will fall off eventually, and our own defenses against it,

..but it's that we are rolling the dice at a faster rate towards creating some form of genetic damage that hits our food supply, that increases our vulnerability to changing pathogens, viruses, fungi etc.. in the air/water.

As with all the environmental and habitat changes that species have been getting dumped on them at an accelerated industrialized rate, we are forcing the entire biosphere to respond to radical changes at a pace that doesn't give the natural processes the time they might need to come up with essential adjustments.

According to the National Academy of Science's Beir 5 report (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation), the linear no threshold exposure hypothesis is correct and there is no such thing as a safe exposure to ionizing radiation.

Another problem is that risks are notoriously difficult to calculate when almost all components are one-off fabrications: there are no statistics on failure rates etc in unique environments. So nuclear risk assertion is more guesswork then rock-hard statistics. Then, when you leave the risks assertion to people who have huge commercial and/or regulatory interests...well... one can be sure numbers are twisted here and there. In face of the potential concequences....why in Gods name?

What has "turned up", DaveW, is that PV is cost effective today in sunny regions. It is cost-effective to modify and improve the grid to accomodate more PV. It will become cost effective to implement more load management and energy storage to accomodate more intermittent sources in the system.

Here is piece of reality to back this claim up:

"Solaria Energia y Medio Ambiente says it has begun developing a 60MW PV array in Spain for which it will not receive any feed-in tariffs.
Solaria’s announcement follows a similar one made in April by Germany’s Gehrlicher Solar, which intends to build a 250MW PV project in Spain by 2015 without any subsidies.
Solaria will supply modules and act as engineering, procurement and construction contractor at the €60m ($75.1m) project, which will be located in the area of Calera y Chozas, Toledo province.
The array will feed power into the Spanish grid, fetching only the going rate for the electricity.
“Solaria is demonstrating its commitment to the Spanish market, where grid parity is becoming a reality and PV is already a mature energy technology capable of competing with traditional energy sources,” the company says.
Source: (June 6, 2012)"

I do think the nuclear shutdown was panic driven. How much of these expensive high electricity prices are a result of the huge writeoff of the N plants?

Besides that feed-in tariffs are no subsidy by definition (since they are not paid by the tax payer):
The average PV-feed in tariffs are meanwhile only 16.3 cents/kWh. Wholesale electricity prices at day time are at 6 cents/kWh. Thus, for each additional 1 GWp of PV, PV only adds 0.015 cents/kWh to the electricity bill (at 900 kWh/kWp).

Only 0.015 cents/kWh extra per GWp of PV (not counting for the thousands of tax-paying jobs)!
For comparison: If the US would finance its defence-budget by its electricity consumers, each kWh would cost 30.769 cents/kWh extra and it does not get one single clean, FF-free, import-free, coolingwater-free kWh in return!

How's the subsidy not a tax? It's paid by all electricity users, so it's sort of excise.

Your maths are seriously wrong somewhere. Currently the EEG surcharge (the additional cost due to feed-in tariffs) is 0.045$/kWh for all users and expected to rise to around 0.07$/kWh in 2013. That's actual fact, no need for any calculations. The cost of the displaced capacity is 0.06$/kWh, so it's obvious that the renewables are costly. Depending on one's viewpoints the cleanliness of renewables might be worth the cost, but that's entirely another question.

Is paying a coal plant for the power they produce a subsidy? No. Is paying a gas plant for the power they produce a subsidy? No. Not even when the power from a gas plant is more expensive then coal? No, it still aint a subsidy. But it's paid by all electricity users! Well, it still aint a subsidy. We pay gas more because gasplants have benefits over coal plants.

So what if we pay even more to PV producers for the power that they produce? Is it now suddenly a subsidy? No, we pay more for solar because solar power has benefits over ff plants.

FF plants have to load follow anyway.

There is no practical difference between load following and load minus renewables following

Your point is invalid.


Exactly and German-PV is actually flattening load following curves for the FF-plants:

Fossil fuel plants of course load follow, or that proportion of them which is not designated at base load does.

What is in question is how much of that capacity can be relatively economic base load, and how much has to switch up and down.

Solar in Germany peaks at precisely the wrong time, during the day in summer.

With air conditioning not as prevalent there as in the US that is exactly when load is lowest.
The installation of large amounts of solar power and it's mandated primacy in the pecking order effectively destroys all the economic and efficient base load.

So all the fossil fuel plants have to operate as peaking power plants, less efficiently and with very poor economics.

When demand is highest in the winter, the effective solar output is minimal, and the previous economic baseload of nuclear has been taken away.
To some degree this may be mitigated when the wind happens to blow, but again that worsens both the economics and efficiency of the fossil fuel plants, as they still have to be able to take up the whole of the load during the regular periods in winter when there is a cold calm, which can and do last a week and more.

So your point is invalid, as you need to load follow with fossil fuel plants, but renewables make it far, far worse.

That is why the German grid is endangered, as the article lays out.


Load following vs. Load following minus renewables have VERY little, if any difference, except FF plants run less in the second case. Which I guess is your point - and the reason to build renewables.

Renewables do NOT "make it far, far worse".


PS: Except on the coldest winter days, base load is at 3 AM or so. When solar PV is simply not an issue. So how can solar destroy base load ?

OTOH, wind (see France last winter and Texas the winter before) does quite well when a cold front blows through - and minimum demand may not be @ 3 AM.

And building new nukes is simply *NOT* economic in developed nations with halfway decent safety standards. Too damm expensive to build, safely store the fuel rods, to recycle the fuel, dispose of the waste and to decommission AND occasionally make millions of hectares uninhabitable.

The Japanese were always looked upon as one of the most competent nuke operators - certainly better than the British and likely a bit better than the French.

How in the world you imagine that you can bung in perhaps 20Gw of solar power in the summer days, and so everything else has to be switched off, which is simply not available to any extent in the winter even during the day when it might, as long as it is not too cloudy, hit 2Gw but often lower than that, without impacting baseload capacity I simply do not understand.

The Finnish reactor with all of it's first of a kind delays works out to about $5,000 kw.

That is economic, and is the reason Finland is ordering more.

The notion that nuclear is uneconomic is because they are more expensive than coal and gas, at least until the build is amortised, after which for the remaining 30 years or so of their lives their power is some of the cheapest around.
Renewables though are a whole different ball game, and rely on mandates to take their power even to fake a competitive position.

That's why French electricity costs around $0.12kwh, German $0.30 kwh.

Your definition of 'uninhabitable' is based on no medical standard, but simply on the hysterical reaction that was generated.
Not being Japanese I would not have moved anywhere.
Shutting the windows for a few days and staying mostly indoors would have been perfectly adequate.
Avoiding holidaying in Cornwall seems a better way of minimising exposure - and don't fly.

OTOH, not too many other places are likely to be hit by a 14 metre tsunami, and better electrical back up to cope for weeks if they are will now be mandatory.

How many deaths will ensue, and what is the economic cost if a German failure pulls down much of the European grid?

How in the world you imagine that you can bung in perhaps 20Gw of solar power in the summer days,

Do what France has to do with nuclear power - sell it to the neighbors when supply > demand. Swiss pumped storage will always take cheap power. French nuke or German solar. Norway can import power for a few hours, Finland too, etc.

And I would have to look at German load profiles, but I would anticipate that 3 AM load is 15 or so GW lower than noon load. If so, *NO* impact of base load.

not too many other places are likely

Just as likely as the North Anna earthquake. Just one month after the report.

Shutting the windows for a few days and staying mostly indoors would have been perfectly adequate

I believe that
1) the US Government recommendation to US citizens was to evacuate if within 50 miles
2) The soil is useless for agriculture for 300 or so years
3) If the spent fuel pool had gotten worse, radiation levels around the world would have increased for generations. A bit more than all the above ground nuclear bomb tests did.

Better Hopes for realism,


Nukes are TERRIBLE - but Climate Chaos will be worse.

This is pretty hopeful of you, to put even a loose theoretical price on the power from Finnish EPRs.. they've continued to push back their ribbon cutting dates, and their budget actuals are clearly following suit.

..and last I heard, they were pretty sure that the Japanese reactors were done in by the Quake.. the water was icing on that cake.

Nuclear is the kind of industry that likes to have other people pick up after its messes.

Nuclear is the kind of industry that likes to have other people pick up after its messes.

A bit like the banking industry?

Maybe they're just different nametags on opposite ends of the same piggy..?

How in the world you imagine that you can bung in perhaps 20Gw of solar power in the summer days

I have read through most of these posts and I think there is an important point that needs to be introduced: the costs of all non-renewable sources of energy are going to go way up in the future. The reason to move to renewables is not because they are the best or cheapest solution now, but because they will eventually be the only affordable solution. Asia is not going to stop growing and using up more energy, the world's population is not going to reverse growth anytime soon. More people plus more denmands for better living standards (higher energy per cap) will drive almost every non-renewable to unaffordable levels. The key part of the non-renewable definition is that they are non-renewable- that is they run out and become more expensive as supply diminishes. The only answer i have for all those who dismiss renewables is the Maggie Thatcher answer: TINA- there is no alternative. Will nuclear really be cheaper after 500 more reactors are built to replace the coal and gas running out? This is the law of supply and demand. The sun provides a continuous supply- the underground earth doesn't(our Finite World)

Also- I do not envision a renewable future as luxurious. As my post at the very top notes- energy consumption must be radically reduced through conservation and human powered mechanical activity (hanging up laundry to dry instead of a dryer). Those who say renewables can't support 900 million electric SUV's are setting up a straw man- nuclear can't either- at least not for very long.

One of the most valauiable aspects about renewables are that they deliver energy to your door- delivery of energy along power lines wastes energy and should be reduced a s much as possible. The lower delivery costs of renewables is a key asset. I think that dreams of putting wind mills and solars cells miles away so as to not interfere with the ambiance of a neighborhood are a luxury that will have to be abandoned. Solar and wind must become as local as possible.

I agree. I will also say that some of this stuff is really trivial, like air-drying clothes, but needs to be planned as well - when I was in Japan for a summer, I air-dryed my clothes like almost everyone else in the entire country, and it was no hardship. But then the verandah of the apartment had hooks and a pole to put in the hooks, from which you hung your clothes on hangers and on various drying racks with hooks (that could be bought at the dollar store). In the USA, many condos and apartments actually won't let you hang up your clothes, and certainly building codes do not account for drying clothes (they do in Japan, in a funny twist that turns out to have been really genius - there are rules about buildings blocking light to residential buildings expressly due to the idea that everyone has to hand dry everything). You certainly won't find a built-in drying rack in the US!

Same goes with buildings without A/C or heat - they need to be designed to be comfortable, otherwise they become stifling. My apartment is easy - when the verandah and room windows are open, the wind blows right through. But we're just lucky that our building is situated so that works, and both my roommate and I leave our doors open often. And that we're in Hawaii.

I also agree that we should be relying on the grid as little as possible, and solar and wind should be on the houses. The land is already developed, to put it elsewhere in the name of whatever is just to sacrifice land that could be used more productively - most especially by leaving it to nature. Here in Hawaii they talk about building solar plants, and I am far from the only person to wonder, "why not put it on the roofs?". But of course, this means businesses, landlords, condo associations or individuals pay a big chunk right out. Hopefully having power that is closing in on 4x mainland rates will make this more popular.

Honestly, I think we can get a lot more "poor" and still be pretty comfortable. If hanging up clothes can make a difference, it should be done. It's not a hardship. Though as I've said before, I'll keep the washer! Handwashing all clothing is an actual hardship, one of the biggest chores back in the day. It used to be an all-day affair.

Handwashing all clothing is an actual hardship, one of the biggest chores back in the day. It used to be an all-day affair.


So how can solar destroy base load ?

By, cutting the marekt clearance price of daytime power. A baseload plant sells power 24/7, and relies disproportionately on peak prices to make the annual numbers. Solar has definitely impacted these revenues, and the owners of fossil generating assets around the world have taken notice. One of their responses is to support anti-renewables politics.

I would expect that load following, is less difficult than load +renewables suuply-gap covering. Unles you get really lucky with the timings/correlations. Its not a new problem, it just increases the amplitude of an old problem. That means we know how to deal with it in principle, just not at the magnitude we are starting to experience.

They've done the rest of the world a big favor. The fact that panels are now less than a dollar a watt, is in large part a result of the large German subsidies. Someone has to pay the high cost of driving PV down the learning curve. The main benefit of early systems is not the direct benefits, but rather the advancement of the industry. But, critics never get this, they only look at narrowly defined local costs/benefits -ignoring the knockon effects of decreased demand for fossil fuels lowering the price of fossil fuels. The problem is that many of these benefits are global, i.e. they will be captured by people in other places and even other times.

California did the same service to humanity during their Great Wind Rush of the last 1970s & 1980s. 60 kW wind turbines were the largest available then. Yet California built more than 1 GW.

Without that "jump start" wind would not be a viable option today IMO.


They've done the rest of the world a big favor. The fact that panels are now less than a dollar a watt, is in large part a result of the large German subsidies.

Yeah, I don't think this can be stated enough. With their generous FIT program, Germany (and Spain, California, and some other places) created a mass market for PV components. Price dropped year over year . . . and quite dramatically in the last couple of years as silicon prices dropped and China jumped into the biz with subsidized factories.

People can buy really inexpensive PV equipment now because of the sacrifice they made. They really should be thanked for it.

If you have not noticed, the German economy and its industry are the envy of the world. I would argue that its aggressive,early rollout of PV is part of that success.

"I think part of Germany's difficulty is that they are saddled with paying for all those PV systems installed years ago when the prices were more than double what they are today."

Yep!... at the rate of almost 11 BILLION EUROs/year!... just for incentives, that is... capital costs on top of that.

Big numbers are really scary. Wow, 11 billion!! I guess Germans must be really broke now. All because of those nasty renewables. Bah!!

Oh wait, what is the turnover of the electricity market in Germany again?

I don't actually see a turnover figure, but I did find a 2010 "average consumer price" per kWh of €0.23

(the actual mean may be lower as wholesale consumers are probably not included in retail statistics)

and a gross consumption of 534 TWh in that year

€0.23 / kWh = €23/ MWh = €23000 / GWh = €23m / TWh

534 TWh x €23m = €12052m ~= €12bn

So the alleged annual subsidy of €11bn is about 91% of the total 2010 power bill.

I think someone is exaggerating.

The FIT surcharge for 2012 is € 3.592ct/kWh. An average household using about 3500 kWh/yr pays this year € 125.72 extra for about a 20% share of renewable electricity and ofcourse if one uses less electricity then the surcharge is lower. Surely jumpstarting the change from fossil to renewable energy is an unacceptable, shocking and economy busting ridiculous idea!!


"€0.23 / kWh = €23/ MWh = €23000 / GWh = €23m / TWh"

Off by one decimal place:
€0.230 / kWh = €230/ MWh = €230,000 / GWh = €230m / TWh

DUH, thanks and sorry. So the alleged subsidy is ~ 9% the annual turnover. Plausible this time.

I guess your post explains why a little German company formerly called DBM Energy does not exist and why, this company that does not exist did not develop something they call a Kolibri battery, which they did not install in a small Audi. Said non existent company did not take said non existent car with non existent battery and did not set a record for the longest distance covered by an EV on a single charge, on public roads.

In addition, I wonder if this Bloomberg story, linked to in Fridays DB, is off the mark.

The European Union’s failure to decide whether to curb supplies of emission permits is sending prices for electricity in Germany, Europe’s largest market, toward their biggest losing streak since at least 2006.

Power for 2013 delivery has fallen as much as 8.8 percent this year to a record low today, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. It may decline a further 7.1 percent by November, according to UBS AG. Adapto Advisors AB, a hedge-fund manager, forecasts an additional 5 percent slide this year.

Could the fact that Solar PV is Reducing Price of Electricity in Germany have anything to do with the decrease in the forward prices for electricity rather than "The European Union’s failure to decide whether to curb supplies of emission permits". See the graphs at the top of this article.

As far as

So their policy to date has achieved high costs to the consumer, uncompetitive prices for industry

goes, the same article linked to above, presents an analysis that directly contradicts that.

Alan from the islands

"As far as

So their policy to date has achieved high costs to the consumer, uncompetitive prices for industry

goes, the same article linked to above, presents an analysis that directly contradicts that."

Actually whoever said that the policy is a failure is right, because the "peak shaving" when sun shines in Germany (a country not known for having a nice weather year around, BTW) amounts to between 520 and 800 million Euro/year, while the extra-cost paid by all German households amounts to 10-11 billion Euros or so.

The article you've linked, saying things like this...

"The wind blows the most at night. We all know when the sun shines."

... is a very sloppy piece of literature, missing the point, for instance, that more that 30% of the time German wind turbines generate LESS than 10% of their nominal power, and that just looking at the data available on internet long spells of no or little wind at night can be easily spotted.

"What Germany is actually doing about it is building 19 new coal fired power stations."

These will replace older and less efficient plants. By this strategy, they hope to gain a 14% reduction in overall carbon emissions.

You're not doing away with coal in Germany. It's politically untenable and would break the back of effective voting blocks and change the shape of industrial policy in Germany.

Retooling the entire electrical system of an industrialized nation to run on renewables is a gigantic task and no one is expecting to complete the task in only a few years. Even the most optimistic scenarios expect it to take several decades to reach 100% renewable energy.

So building new coal fired plants now to replace the old ones (some of which where built in the 1960s) and at the same time increase efficiency and drastically increase load following capacity of the ff power plants makes some sense even if one would wish one wouldn't have to. That does not mean one can't or doesn't continue to move towards a 100% renewable electrical grid.

Germany can build 60% efficient combined cycle natural gas plants instead of 39% (or so) efficient coal fired plants if they are worried about carbon emissions. Mothball the coal fired plants for emergencies.

Methane has less carbon per joule of heat, and a higher % of heat is turned into MWh with methane/Natural Gas.

The combined cycle NG plants lose a little (not a lot) of their efficiency "load - renewable" following, but they are generally more flexible than coal plants.

Based on the last few days, combined cycle power plants could run at close to their ideal operating efficiency for 24 hours with German, Swiss & Austrian hydro + pumped storage. Without, at 70% to 100% of capacity - not a bad range.

Of course, given US carbon policies - there is little ground to criticize.

Best Hopes for Less carbon emissions,


Several of the newer and planned German coal-fired plants incorporate combined heat and power, which sort of obviates the specific objection that they turn less of their heat energy into electric power than gas does. Total coal consumption is intended to fall as the older plants are decommissioned.

To tell you frankly: The biggest roadblock is our own federal government.

One example:

The proposal to connect Norway and Germany with an undersea power line is more than 20 years old. Nowadays that project is called NorGer [1]. It would provide 1.4 GW of power, about the same of one nuclear reactor of newer generation.
Unfortunately our federal government would have to make a very small (a couple of words) change to a law governing the connection of this power cable to the german power grid. There even isn't a need to discuss this change of law in the parliament, the secretary of economics could do this on his own.
Unfortunately this guy is from the liberals (FDP) who prefer to keep people dependent on the four big power companies in Germany, so this change of law may not be made unless the next federal election (2013) wipes the liberals from the federal parliament...
That change in law is now more than two years overdue!

Of course, if there were a blackout, renewable energies would be the scapegoat...


by the way: The European Energy Exchange (EEX) provides quite a lot of information on power production and prices (exchange prices, not customer prices!). The power companies have to provide information on production and production capacity by law and the exchange must publish it. More often than not, this data contradicts the propaganda spewn by nuclear and fossil power companies and by some business lobbyists.
Unfortunately most journalists seem to be either corrupted or stupid and report the propaganda as facts...

production data:
price data:

for comparison: An average household pays about 220 to 300 €/MWh. The consumer price is mostly made up of taxes (30%), production and profits (30%, exchange prices are included here), grid maintenance (20%), costs of renewables (14%)
Of course, the costs of renewables are born mostly by households and small companies. The large power consumers in the industry are mostly exempt from paying this part, yet they still claim that the nuclear phase out has driven their power prices higher. A quick look at data from EEX shows that power prices have gone down or stayed the same since the "new" nuclear phaseout was begun in 2011.

The "destabilised grid" is certainly difficult for operators to handle when the infrastructure lags the deployment of intermittent renewables, but none of these problems is insurmountable.

Time to mention these again ...

Pumped-heat power storage :

Stabilising the renewable grid with dispatchable demand (and producing fuel) :

A German implementation of the same basic idea :

And of course transmission upgrades ...

Well, I bet the Brazilians are just delighted that they've hired some Germans to overhaul their SmartGrid system...

Tom Murphy wrote about pumped storage here:

While pumped storage remains the far best solution, its implementation appears daunting, to say the least, even if energy dependency was to significantly drop. Just think about all that concrete!

Europe has at least a decent starting point, what with having mountain ranges in fairly disperse geographical places, like the Alps, the Scandians, the Carpathians and the Pyrenees.

I disagree, on technical grounds, with much of his analysis.

It is FAR more scalable than he believes.

The USA is a society that routinely practices mountain top removal mining for a one time energy return. TBM drives keep getting cheaper (inflation adjusted -3%/year). Combine the two and a lot of pumped storage can be built here.


The problem with wind and solar is that in order to have stable grid, one must store weeks, not hours worth of electricity. All one has to do is to look at the capacity factors, a number defining how much electricity given source produces on average, compared to the nameplate capacity.

Wind, for example, has capacity factor of only 35-40% in the few best locations, usually it's more like 20-25%. This means, to simplify, that the wind blows only 25% of the time. During that time it must satisfy the demand PLUS fill up the pumped reservoirs which would provide electricity during the other 75% of the time. For Germany alone it means you have to add 240GW of pumped hydro (this is twice the current global capacity). In addition to that, wind sometimes not to blow for weeks. In case of Germany, to provide pumped backup for two weeks, one needs to have a reservoir able to contain 40 cubic km of water for head difference of 150m. There's simply no such location (nor combination of several reservoirs) and it would be quite a feat of engineering to build one.

Solar is even worse since it fluctuates on an annual scale. It has a capacity factor of abysmal 3% during German winter, compared to 17% in summer. It's simply impossible to level down such differences using pumped hydro.

Renewables are good and easily doable until their share becomes high. After that, it's very hard to keep the grid running. It's hardly possible to have a grid without some kind of baseload generation.

Your math is way wrong!

Germany produces/consumes something like 60GW electrical power during the day (at least now, see - perhaps it's a bit more in winter. So obviously, there is no way, ever, that they will need 240 GW pumped storage power. Nobody wants to overbuild generating capacity with wind by a factor of 4!

Pumped hydro in Switzerland has a capacity of nearly 2 months of the Swiss electricity consumption (of course, only when all lakes are fully filled). That's not quite enough to shift solar power ouput from summer to winter, but it's actually quite close.

I notice you go on a lot about baseload & variability. Of course it's a problem, but it's not as big as you think it is. For one, thanks to good weather forecasts, the utilities actually have a VERY good idea of what is going to happen to solar/wind output in the next 24 hourse, and a decent idea for the next 7 days, and can schedule accordingly. Another thing which will help a lot in the future is load management: in well-insulated buildings which lose only little energy, it doesn't matter much when exactly you run your heat pump. You can use such houses to take up energy when there is some extra, and cool down a bit when there is less. Of course, this can only deal with short-term variability.

Nevertheless, we have a really long way to go with demand/load management. One example: this winter was the coldest Switzerland experienced since 25 years. A big interview appeared in the press with the boss of Swissgrid, the operators of the Swiss power grid. He claimed that our grid was just short of breaking down. So I go to my workplace on a Sunday, it's a huge building (a university), nobody is there, but all lights are on... our current system is just incredibly stupid... no way we can't improve that!

Your link shows a very dramatic REDUCTION in conventional grid variability due to wind + solar.

Interesting !


A thought. At this time of year, EdF usually is turning on their idled nukes, one by one. Probably a couple left idle.

Contract for those still left off, and run them and idle a several German coal plants instead.

If a problem develops, it is on French soil - their reactor.

Yeah, that reduction in variability is interesting, and the reason why solar is pushing down electricity spot prices herearounds - if/when the sun is shining, you don't need the peaking plants any more...

There are diurnal load curves for Germany in this document:
(pg.12). It is clear that solar is a very good fit since in summer, peak solar output very closely matches peak demand.
In winter there is a secondary peak in the evening, but it is clear that solar is mostly irrelevant in winter.

"Germany produces/consumes something like 60GW electrical power during the day (at least now, see "

I have been wondering for a while why that site shows just over 60 GW most days, when the headline German consumption figures (as in the article) are 80GW winter and 70 GW summer.

Does it exclude imports?

This is still Spring - the season that the French turn off several of their nukes.

Lowest demand season typically.


Burn a little natural gas in CHP and combined cycle plants and your massive claimed needs for pumped storage evaporate.

And, because it is uneconomic today it is not built, but a long TBM drive connecting a high reservoir with a high head can work nicely. I worked on a hydro project with a 599 m head and 2.1 billion m3 in Europe.


What fraction of renewable generation is being dumped because the grid can't handle it?

Last year around 3% of the renwable enregy was lost due to tranmission/production peak problems.

This is unfortunately one of worst articles posted in TOD so far, and basically just repeats some of the PR-bashing against renewables from the German coal lobby (renewables take their marketshare and reduce 'their' spot market electricity prices). Hopefully TOD is at least getting paid for this article by the four German utilities (RWE, EON, Vattenfall, EnBW).

In fact Germany was (thanks to sufficient renewable-power) exporting power to France, when France was close to a blackout last February (due to its inefficient electric heating systems):

PV clearly relieves conventional power plants in Germany: (But conventional power plants still have to produce more power during daytime than at night).

Even though Switzerland does often import over 4.5 GW from Southern Germany at night, it in fact imports less than 1 GW even on very sunny days during day time (obviously there is by far not enough PV in Southern Germany, even though PV already covers 10% of the electricity demand in Bavaria on average):

In addition, PV power relieves the grid, because it can directly be consumed where it is being generated.
Furthermore, even small PV inverters have a voltage and a frequency protection and large PV inverters even deliver reactive power on demand. A blackout with PV is physically impossible even if there ever was far more PV than there is demand for it.

Ideally, DG relieves the grid. This assumes DG goes where the load is. The difference between theory and practice is that in theory there is no difference, and in practice, there is.

In my experience in California, most renewables applications by capacity occur in areas which are already generation dominated and thus transmission constrained. I have many distribution and subtransmission circuits where additional generation is a problem, not a relief. This is not theoretical. This is not a conspiracy by grid analysts to pretend a problem exists.

I support efforts to steer DG (thru incentive structure, etc), to locations where it will relieve the grid rather than burden it. I support efforts to build additional grid infrastructure to support additional renewables.

Ignoring this issue is not an option if we wish to continue increasing renewables penetration.

You are ignoring the simple fact that most PV systems in Germany are on existing roofs with existing electricity demand, whereas most renewable systems in California are not on existing roofs with existing electricity demand.
(Just visit California and Bavaria and you'll see).

In addition, Germany could easily increase the flexible electric demand in existing buildings (and further reduce FF imports) by replacing its FF hot water heaters with flexible heat pumps.
Unfortunately utilities are also not interested in decentralized demand response, because this also reduces electricity-price-volatility.

Also, at least in Germany it's the utilities who are lacking in improving the grid (since they usually do not own the renewable power plants and obviously do not want their power in their grid as they want to sell their own power):
(It's usually not the public that is blocking new transmission lines as often portrayed).

You are ignoring the simple fact that most PV systems in Germany are on existing roofs with existing electricity demand, whereas most renewable systems in California are not on existing roofs with existing electricity demand.
(Just visit California and Bavaria and you'll see).

I think that's wrong. Maybe you should visit California.

The quality of this article is not good:

Many of the peak production problems can be solved with small electric storage facilities (batteries + loading manager in combination with a PV inverter)in households. First products are available and I really hope that companies like SMA can mass produce the stuff. No need for MANY new HV transmission lines.

More serious was the limited capacity of pipelines for natural gas, the storage facilities are in norther Germany, the result was that power plants in southern Germany could not work in winter, when Russian NG supply was reduced due to high domestic demand in Russia.

The pump storage capacity in Germany's neighbour countries is too small and will not solve the problem.

Can the reluctance to connect Germany with Norway be problem of the utilities? Electricity from Norway would kill some of their cash cows.

The problems we faced last winter/spring were often NOT caused by wind but showed basic flaws of the transmission system, however, in some newspapers they were attributed to the renewable energies, i.e. used for pure propaganda.

Germany has an interconnecting power capacity (with its neighboring countries) of close to 20 GW, which is about the power all of the PV system in Germany can produce on a perfectly sunny day. (Switzerland is 10 times smaller than Germany has an electricity demand at noon of close to 9 GW and in addition is currently increasing its pump storage capacity to 5 GW).

And here's about the fairy tale regarding short supply of electricity:

Chemical batteries are simply too expensive and consume too many resources for widespread energy storage.

They are nothing but a niche solution.


The Hawaiian island of Maui (small population, climate & oil fired electricity limit consumption) is having a 12 MW wind farm installed with a 4 MWh battery. The small battery is to even out any short term fluctuations in wind generation that might affect grid stability.

But this scale is four or more orders of magnitude less than the EU grid and not generally applicable.

As long as there is so much FF waste in the hot water and heating sector, there is little point in filling basements with batteries.
Heat pumps can replace old FF hot water and heating systems (freeing lots of FF for the electricity sector) and cheap gas turbines (low capacity factor is not an issue) can bridge potential renewable power gaps.

Also, it simply makes little sense to store every single renewable kWh, since overbuilding is usually cheaper. If a PV-inverter is capped at 70% of the installed PV-capacity, only about 3-6% of yield is lost. The same is the case for windturbines with a relatively small generator (compared to the swept area).

You ignore, that the PV capacity is incrasing at a much higher rate than the transition to heat pumps. As owner of a heat pump I can tell you, that I only need 2.5 kWh per day electricity to produce hot water for 4 persons, even with more heat pumps this would be peanuts.

Therefore we need batteries in summertime to store a few kwh, IMHO it should be 5-10 kWh, to cover the evening demand peak. With price of 300 EUR per kWh it will take only a few years until we reach a level (~150 EUR) that makes really sense if I get 19 cent FIT but pay 25 cent to the utility.

The grid and the power system control have been designed for controllable power sources. A successful transition into less controllable power sources will require a redesigned infrastructure, which is often referred to as a Smart Grid.
The grid problems in Germany indicate a temporary imbalance between production system and infrastructure. Therefore it is interesting to observe the grid performance in Germany.
It is my experience that analyzing and understanding grid problems and blackouts is the most direct way to better system performance.
Both Southern Germany and Souther California depend on remote power sources. We are still waiting for the results of the investigation of the San Diego blackout in September 2011.
The lobby for wind power and PV should be the most eager supporters of a balanced integration process. To deny the existence of any operational problems caused by wind or PV is a typical reaction. However, it is not a constructive approach.

Besides that Wind and PV are different (since Wind is mostly in remote places and PV is not), but both renewable sources can still be shut off and on very rapidly (as opposed to large power plants):
Fact is that France was close to a blackout last Winter and Germany was not.
This discussion has to be based on facts and not on coallobby-based-PR.

The (from memory) 5 GW of wind that EdF had installed also made a major difference. With 15 GW installed in France, there would not have been an issue.

Just as there would have been no rolling blackouts in Texas on Feb 2, 2011 if they had had twice as much wind installed. But without any wind, Texas would have certainly faced a major and prolonged blackout, and quite possibly a complete grid collapse.


That's probably correct and France would actually have better wind energy resources than Germany.

A review of French wind shows that they have a quite varied resource. Different winds in different regions - not dominated by the North Sea like German wind is.


The San Diego blackout was due to "remote power sources" only if you consider Los Angeles to be "remote" from San Diego. (They are ~200 km apart.) The investigation has led to a published report: see That detailed report on the blackout shows pretty convincingly, to my eye, that the reason an N-1 event cascaded into 4+ million people without power was a series of planning failures having to do with the small utility with its own control area located east of San Diego (IID,peak control area load < 1000 MWe). The IID system operators did not account in their day-ahead planning for a 600 Mw unit outage just south of their control area. The overall grid planning organization for the Western United States(WECC) did not model the IID system's 92 kV system, even though it provided a parallel path between the larger San Diego and Arizona utilities to the west and east of IID. The result was that a series of outages on the IID system after the original N-1 event in Arizona caused ever-larger flows between Los Angeles (LA) and San Diego (SD) areas. When the flow between LA and SD eventually exceeded 8000 amperes (~3500 Mw), on a set of lines collectively rated for 2500 Mw continuous flow under N-1 conditions, those lines tripped. The instant loss of 3500 Mw of flow into San Diego then caused voltage collapse. The resulting outage was the worst in the WECC grid since 1995. Dropping no more 500 Mw of customer load at any time during the 10+ minutes between the initial event and the ultimate collapse would have prevented the collapse, if anyone had been monitoring IID and LA-SD flows well enough to realize where things were heading. Instead, the SD system operator, the CAISO, thought it had 30 minutes to get flows down to 2500 Mw between LA and SD, and the Arizona control area operator, APS, told the CAISO it would have the original N-1 outage fixed in well under 30 minutes. Unrelated outages in the adjoining CE control area in Mexico didn't help, as CFE leaned on the CAISO for 160+ Mw of emergency imports that, in retrospect, the CAISO couldn't spare. By the time of the collapse, SDG&E (which is in the CAISO control area) was exporting power to the Arizona, CFE, and IID control areas, whereas it is normally neutral or slightly importing from IID and CFE, and strongly importing from Arizona.

Moral: This outage was only slightly related to reliance on remote sources, and very much related to (inadvertent and unconscious) reliance on IID behaving better than it did. So arguably the real problem was the balkanized nature of control areas in the WECC, with IID, CAISO, CFE, and Arizona each under separate control areas with poor inter-area communication. Does Germany have similar communications problems between its four main control areas?

On 4 November 2006 a serious system disturbance divided the European continental grid into three islands. Poor coordination of protection settings was a contributing factor. See the Final Report on the disturbances of 4 November 2006 here:[]=2006
The case was a serious lesson to the European system operators and they have intensified the coordination within ENTSO-E.

In my (personal and not representative of my employer) opinion every actor identified in the report significantly contributed to the blackout. Each of the actors could have prevented this event either before or during the event.

Hey anyone, you have been in my thoughts a lot recently, ever since I posted a news story from my neck of the woods. I got to thinking about the situation in Germany and how they managed to get the existing players to go along with the plan. I discovered the work of Hermann Scheer and think I have a much better grip on the situation.

In response to a recent "Peak Oil" story on Sunday in the same newspaper, I was able to point fellow readers to the ideas of Hermann Scheer and hopefully over the next few weeks I will be able to raise the level of awareness of how renewables can be encouraged on my island. In my DB post, I linked to a section of a video interview with Herr Scheer where he makes the salient point in relation to encouragement of renewables.

In watching the interview with Herr Scheer I have formed the impression that, renewables are disruptive technology that threaten to wrest control from and compromise the viability of, the large corporate fossil fuel extraction and electricity generation entities. It is understandable that a considerable amount of FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) will be spawned by the threatened parties and find it's way into analyses, even on fine sites like TOD. Trust me, I am typing this using Firefox, on Linux, on a netbook connected to the Internet via wi-fi so, I know the powerful and deceptive FUD campaigns can be.

edit: Funny how a slight misdirection of the finger and the dropping of an "n" turn Hermann into German. :^/

Alan from the islands

Do you have any ideas how to solve the problem of PV having only 3% capacity factor in German winter? That is, their entire 22GW PV fleet produces less than 0.7GW on average for months.

Obviously theres no easy solution to that one. Thats also shared by solar thermal -probably even more so. At least the seasonal changes are predicted, so whatever workaround is choosen can be planned for. Its easier for places with less seasonal variation.

There is a proposal called "Desertec" to deploy solar power in North Africa and transmit it to Europe via HVDC. Currently, Brazil is constructing a 1,500 mile HVDC to transmit Hydro power to one of their major cities.

The easiest solution is to burn bio-mass plus natural gas in CHP plants plus natural gas in 60% efficient combined cycle plants.

The French solution - to build nuclear reactors and then turn them off for half the year - is obviously uneconomic as well as being unsafe.

Several TWh might be traded with Norway - summer solar PV for winter hydro.


Do you have any ideas how to solve the problem of PV having only 3% capacity factor in German winter? That is, their entire 22GW PV fleet produces less than 0.7GW on average for months.

CF is measured on an annual production basis.

For 2011, 24.8 GW capacity and 18 TWh generation gives a capacity factor of 8.3%. This equates to some 3.2% of overall electricity consumption in Germany, or roughly the same level of electricity consumption as Puerto Rico (with a population of 3.7 million), or Iceland (with it's vast geothermal potential). And this appears to be displacing more expensive peak generation resources, and lowing the overall cost of energy by 10% in the country (via merit order effects and TOU market pricing).

The solution to seasonal shortfalls is adequate resource planning.

Do you have any ideas how to solve the problem of PV having only 3% capacity factor in German winter? That is, their entire 22GW PV fleet produces less than 0.7GW on average for months.

PV is certainly better in places where it tracks the load better. For example, in the American south & southwest where summertime AC loads cause large demand in the summer and less demand in the winter. (Winter lighting is much easier than summer AC due to CFLs and LEDs.)

But that doesn't mean Germany's PV is useless. They can do things like store up summer solar for use in the winter via:
-Pumped water storage.
-Synthetic methane (
-Create hydrogen (not very efficient)

But even if you don't do those things, they are reducing the amount of fuel the need to burn in conventional plants.

Written by PLL2:
Do you have any ideas how to solve the problem of PV having only 3% capacity factor in German winter? That is, their entire 22GW PV fleet produces less than 0.7GW on average for months.

On a sunny day the best capacity factor for fixed PV is about 25%, single axis tracker is about 33% and dual axis tracker is about 50%. The capacity factor is an average through a 24 hour day with some power output in the day and nothing at night. If the capacity factor is averaged annually, then it includes the effects of clouds and seasonal variations in insolation.

A solution for cloudy winter days is to overbuild the photovoltaic arrays. All energy generated from PV does not have to be used. Another option is to transfer power from a sunny location at a different latitude, such as Spain. Power can also be transferred from locations with different longitudes to provide power in early morning and evening.

This is unfortunately one of worst articles posted in TOD so far

I agree. Another anti-renewables "drive by shooting" and diatribe posted by Euan. If The Oil Drum wants to marginalize itself, I can see no better way than posting one sided articles that minimize emerging trends and markets (and only serve to show how out of touch and immersed in conventional thinking many analysts can be).

Far from being just a critic, however, I would like to offer something constructive in return. Rather than post a skewed and one-sided picture (something that any entry level journalism student or peer reviewed scientific journal advises you NOT to do), why not provide some counterpoint (however minimal). You can do this in many ways: a dialogue among several writers (I would certainly enjoy reading this), a section on alternative approaches or perspectives (since all models have uncertainties), or perhaps just selecting papers from people with a broader view (who can offer alternatives, weighing of options, and are well versed in the scientific, engineering, or operational literature of their field).

How to spot an article driven by ideological concerns? It's quite simple. Everything in the world has trade-offs (there are no perfect solutions). Anybody who suggests otherwise, who reduces complex problems to a single solution, or who sees in contingent circumstances conspiratorial motives, is not very well versed in their respective fields. Arguing the pros and cons of a position, or situating an issue in the complexity of competing variables, should not be remedial math for publishable pieces on TOD.

But the worst article on TOD, that would have to be: "A Nation Sized Battery." Maybe it has something to do with how engineers think, having an outcome in mind, and then working backwards. Sometimes, the opposite approach makes all the difference: asking the right question (and re-evaluating fundamental assumptions).

But the worst article on TOD, that would have to be: "A Nation Sized Battery." Maybe it has something to do with how engineers think, having an outcome in mind, and then working backwards. Sometimes, the opposite approach makes all the difference: asking the right question (and re-evaluating fundamental assumptions).

...But that's exactly what the article does.

I'd say your post is a an almost-perfect example of something driven by ideological concerns.

The "nation sized battery" article takes an idea that is completely impractical from an engineering standpoint (and that nobody is attempting to do anywhere), and suggests the concept is unworkable and hasn't been thought out.

Funny when your conclusions are already built into the basic assumptions of your study. If the author wished to make a contribution to the relevant scientific or engineering literature, he needed to first read this literature and understand how researchers are working with the problem and addressing many of it's concerns. ARPA-E programs for grid level storage would be a good place to begin. White papers on energy storage from DOE, Sandia Labs, NREL, EPRI, and others, would also be another good place to look. Scientific Journals too (Energy Policy, Renewable Energy, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Energy for Sustainable Development, Applied Thermal Engineering, Energy Conversion and Management, Journal of Power Sources, Energy Economics, Applied Energy, and more). FERC, Academic Research Institutes, and Industry Trade Organizations (Energy Storage Council, Electricity Storage Association, European Association for Storage of Energy, China Energy Storage Alliance, etc.). He didn't, and the article should have never been published on TOD (if TOD wishes to remain relevant and make a substantive contribution to this emerging and increasingly important field of study).

If the author wished to make a contribution to the relevant scientific or engineering literature, ...

That wasn't his wish. (Obviously). His purpose was to point out to lay people the scale of the project that would consist of converting to 100% intermittent non-carbon sources. His hope is to impress upon people that it won't happen in a decade and that conserving energy remains important. And not only that, but that post was part of a series that looked at different storage options. And furthermore he pointedly refrained from looking at technologies that are in development and have not been proven economic, which is pretty much everything you posted about. And that being for the obvious reasons that it is likely that a small minority of those technologies will pan out and that their scalability is not even analyzable until they progress further.

TOD is not a site purely for academics and scientists, and that is why it gets so many more readers than the journals you mention, and arguably that increases its relevance. (Perhaps TOD isn't so useful, but you made a comment about relevance, not usefulness.)

TOD is not a site purely for academics and scientists, and that is why it gets so many more readers than the journals you mention, and arguably that increases its relevance. (Perhaps TOD isn't so useful, but you made a comment about relevance, not usefulness.)

Biogas is a renewable fuel … and runs perfectly well in a peaking OC/CC gas turbine.

The author showed nothing, other than the limitations of his own pre-conceptions and prejudices. Something that is popular and relevant should also be credible and well thought out. I don't consider popularity and scientific relevance to be mutually exclusive. If the author wishes to say something substantive about energy storage and energy utilization on a modern grid, he should at least know something about energy storage (it's utilization today and perhaps in the future), and also something about how a modern grid can be useful to maximizing the potential and scalability of generation resources and storage applications. He showed neither. And while entertaining, his paper has zero practical relevance or scientific utility. It's up to TOD editors to decide whether or not they want to continue to publish articles with such low scientific or technological merit.

Here are some quotes from that article:

"If we ever got serious about building big storage, there will be choices other than lead-acid. ...

This post does not proclaim that there is no way to build adequate storage to accommodate a fully-renewable energy infrastructure. A distributed grid helps, and an armada of gas-fired peak-load plants would offset the need for full storage. Storage can be augmented by pumped hydro, compressed air, flywheels, other battery technologies, etc.

Rather, the lesson is that we must work within serious constraints to meet future demands."

Your criticisms are entirely overstated.

But that's exactly what the article does.

No it doesn't. I've read 2 of the 5 source materials referenced in the article (only one contains a link), and the author mischaracterizes the original source material. Concerning "yellow" alarm level, the cause is still under investigation, and may have been initiated by scheduling conflicts, very uncertain weather patterns, or the failure of a substation (here). The second places major blame on "permitting delays" in transmission upgrades, and not "new market tendencies" over the last several years (here).

The author appears to have a very significant axe to grind. His professional background is listed at the top of the article, and appears to be partially quoted directly from the "Renewable Energy Foundation" website, where Paul-Frederik Bach is listed as a Technical Advisor. The organization, founded by Noel Edmonds, argues against wind farm expansion (wiki), has a misleading name ("they actually exist to undermine Renewable Energy") and is an "anti-wind lobbying organization" (according to two prominent renewable energy and industry trade representatives). Their list of Latest News items (May 31, 2012) includes the following: how climate policies in UK will make "65% of UK Households Worse Off," raising alarm over Wind Farm Noise Assessments, approval of offshore wind farms (despite local opposition), why efficiency measures will lead to higher costs and be bad for households and businesses, and some fluff on biofuels and Scotland's Renewable Energy targets.

So … adding to the concern about the quality of the article, I'd also like to ask as that TOD do a better job vetting authors (since using the site as a dissemination node for industry generated distraction should not be accepted or encouraged by TOD editors and members).

I just want to note that, while it does appear that the author might well have "a horse in this race", the article did provoke what I think is a useful debate. I have now come to the conclusion that, once the correct infrastructure planning is done and the planning is carried out, the German grid should be fine in the long run. Also it seems pretty obvious to me that the stress on the grid was more a result of the hasty shutdown of the German nuclear fleet than the intermittentcy of renewables.

I will concede that at first blush it would appear that the author, based on the introduction, does not have n axe to grind so yeah, it would have been nice to know the information you provided while reading the article. That might have made it clear that part of author's intent was to spread FUD.

Also by ventilating this topic, I have gained some insight as to what might be necessary to support large amounts of renewables on the grid of a small island nation such as mine,

Alan from the islands

Hi, I've been a lurker at TOD for a while and I think I might finally contribute my 2 Eurocents.

After reading about it here, I picked up a copy of The Control of Oil (1978), which is about the cartel that controlled Middle Eastern oil for decades, and the futile attempts of the US government to break it up. Still a fascinating read, and apparently, the Americans are not the only ones who can play that game:


Official electricity costs in Germany in cents/kwh. Blue is households, red is large customers.

A little recent history: a few years ago, Germany deregulated its electricity markets to encourage competition and drive down prices. This fell into the competence of minister of the economy Werner Müller, a former manager at RWE. After deregulation, four energy giants (RWE, Vattenfall, EnBW, EON - well, EON mostly) swallowed most of the smaller competitors (against strong objections by the anti-trust authority) and captured about 75% of the electricity market.

Quiz question #1: just by looking at the graphs, can you tell in which year that happened?

Quiz question #2: who quit his low-paying cabinet post in 2002 and almost immediately became CEO of Ruhrkohle AG (a 100.000-employee subsidiary of EON)? BTW, that was a few years before the chancellor who brought him in quit politics and became a highly-paid lobbyist for Gazprom.

Quiz question #3: which four companies were officially accused of massive price fixing by the German anti-trust authority in 2007?

Quiz question #4: what happened as a result of that?

Brilliant contribution!

All the engineering types here at TOD sometimes forget that human vices (gluttony, greed, envy, pride, etc.) are as important as purely technological factors in determining our energy infrastructure.


This artical is fundimentally flawed. The author provides eidence that the grid is having problems that were for the most part not present a year ago. However he offers no evidence proving wind and PV are the cause. In fact looking at figure 1 I am left with 2 questions:

1 Why didn't this show up 5 years ago when an already substantual amount of wind had already been installed?
2. What has changed in the last year that is sressing the grid so much.

The answer I believe is the sudden and complet shutdown of all German nuclear reactors in only 1 year. In 2010 nuclear supplied 22% of there power needs. NOw that is gone. The only thing the grid operator can do is to run all of there gas and coal power plants as hard as possible and import power. Wind and in comparison on supplied about 10% of Germany's power in 2010.

While I agree with many of the comments about efficiency, energy storage, and distributed grids, they cannot be implemented in only one year. The grid operators have known for years that changes would have to be made to accomodate all the new renewable power. They probably even have some project in the planning stage or now under construction. However none of there plans included the meltdown of 3 reactors in Japan and the resulting shutdown of all of there reactors.

Given the big changes that have happened in the last year I am a little surprised that they have managed to to keep the lights on.

Wait, you mean the grid is stressed because of the 8GW of missing base-load generation he mentions in the first sentence?

Yeah, Steve, I guess you missed this part:

With a steep growth of power generation from photovoltaic (PV) and wind power and with 8 GW base load capacity suddenly taken out of service the situation in Germany has developed into a nightmare for system operators.

It's still fair enough to say that some things can be hidden in plain sight.

Bush basically said right out loud "What people need to hear loud and clear is that we're running out of energy in America" (2004?) .. not that his actions seemed to follow this thought to MY logical conclusions. But he did say it.

The sentence you quote will be read very differently depending on whether you're expecting to have a discussion on the perils of Wind or the Perils of Fission.. and even direct statements to the contrary might get skimmed over as a reader looks for the points they are eager to hit.

Wait, you mean the grid is stressed because of the 8GW of missing base-load generation he mentions in the first sentence?

It's noteworthy that the source of the missing 8GW and the reason it went missing are unmentioned, isn't it? The first sentence puts the blame explicitly on renewables but leaves the reader to figure out what the other half of the problem is due to. It leaves the impression that the writer is primarily anti-renewables, and secondarily anti-nuke (because if he were pro-nuke he would explicitly lament nuke de-commisioning). And that leads implicitly, by process of elimination, to the conclusion that he is pro-FF.

I think you may be bringing something to the text ...

You will notice that he specifically mentions nuclear in the context of severe grid impacts in Southern Germany, and also renewable support for the areas impacted by loss of gen.

He seems a lot like a grid geek, not a FF partisan.

This morning the four German system operators have published a joint grid development plan (in German). This is in accordance with German law and EU Directive 2009/72.
3 scenarios have been analyzed. The installed capacity of RES is assume to grow from 55 GW in 2010 to the following levels:

  • Scenario A: 93.5 GW
  • Scenario B: 126.6 GW
  • Scenario C: 150 GW

The new plan is available here:

"We choose to do these things because they are hard"

Indeed. Germany has succeeded in building quite the renewable energy generation system. It got a bit out of control when they still had large subsidies available and the PV prices suddenly dropped like a rock. Now they've got a somewhat unstable grid. Let's see them solve the problem and show the rest of the world that it can be done. Here in California, we will certainly need to learn from what they come up with.

In Germany, due to cheap afternoon solar power, pumped hydro operators have been running on two cycles a day, not just the normal one at night. Essentially, this means that you’re doubling the potential of existing pumped hydro infrastructure.

(original source in german)

I believe a lot of the problems with intermittency from solar panel electricity production could be solved by making it mandatory for grid tied systems to have a battery backup that is sufficient to delivery the day-time energy throughout the time where the sun does not shine during a 24 hour period.

This way the solar based systems could almost be considered a base-load system and only with variancy over 1 whole day, but probably with long periods of even production.

uggh... that's a terrible suggestion, IMHO.

First, that would be mandating roughly a doubling of the cost to the customer who decides to install solar, with no additional benefit to them. That alone would simply kill the solar market as it currently exists, in all countries.

Second, until solar reaches a certain level of penetration, that storage is simply not necessary to safeguard grid stability. In the German case, they are reaching a point where they have to start thinking about it, but that is after installing GW of PV with the help of subsidies. So it is really not helpful, if you want to encourage solar, to make this a requirement off the bat. And then, when the time comes that it starts to become relevant, and the requirement might begin to make sense, it is exceedingly unfair to require new installations to shoulder the new financial outlay, or to place new requirements on existing installations that were purchased according to certain investment parameters.

Third, storage onsite at every grid-tied installation isn't necessarily the cheapest or most energy efficient way to achieve the storage needed.

And finally, the amount of storage required won't be the same as that which "is sufficient to delivery the day-time energy throughout the time where the sun does not shine during a 24 hour period." IOW, even the goal of converting solar to 'baseload' isn't necessary, even if it were cheap and easy.

It is an extreme suggestion. Something that could be imposed as a backdoor way to kill off solar. I do expect, that as penetration grows new facilities may be incentivized to provide some ancillary grid services (or get a lower FIT rate perhaps). I suspect the grid operators would be interested in frequency and voltage support -possible even reacting to counter phase problem (too reactive a grid load). But any storage would likely to be to cover short time imbalanes, such as the ramp time of a gas turbine generator. High frequency on/off of PV in partly cloudy weather is an issue, and even smoothing out the variations by even a few seconds might help a lot.

But any storage would likely to be to cover short time imbalanes, such as the ramp time of a gas turbine generator.

This is an important point, at least for the next decade or two. It's something that would be good to hear more about; analysis of how much storage is required to smooth ramping.

(Of course, there's still an assumption of FF generators here. If we really want to lower carbon emissions while maintaining electric grids in the long term, we'll need more and more storage over time.)

I disagree - at least for the danish market.

The payback time for a solar installation is only about 5 years. A payback time of 10 years is, of course, not as interesting. But then I also disagree with your notion that it will double the price of the installation.

A 6KW installed solarcell system cost approx. 100.000 Kr in Denmark (cheapest i have found). The battery park should be about 2/3rds of the daily production average production from mid of spring to mid og autumn. Lets assume it is in the ballpark of 6 hours of productive time. So about 25 KWh needs to be stored. The price of a deep cycle battery is about 1000 DKR which stores about 1500Wh or 1.5KWh. This amount to an increased cost of approx 17000DKR. Or about 1/6th of the installation price.

So why whould a price increase of lets say approx 20% kill anything? This will increase the payback time from 5 to 6 years. Or no change at all in my opinion.

Also I disagree that the person installing the battery park or similar energy storage do not get anything out of it. It certainly provides backup power in those cases where theres a power net failure (either locally, sectional or regional). While these happen rarely in Denmark they have and probably will increase in numbers over time due to bad weather for example and possibly deteriorating quality of the hardware.

Lets see some qualified complaints to my "off the top of my head after 30 hours of straight work" figures...

Besides the batteries, you also need more complex electronics. A different inverter, a charge controller, etc.

But the batteries you cite I assume are lead-acid batteries. They only last a few hundred cycles. So you'll have to be buying new batteries every 3 or so years.

If you look up the prices of grid-tied versus off-grid systems, you'll see the off-grid systems cost 30% to 40% more. Plus you'll have to maintain the system and buy new batteries every few years. That is much more hassle than most people want to deal with. Grid-tied systems are great because they are so maintenance-free. They are basically just plug & play systems with home-owner not needing to do anything.

'Buy new batteries' s/b 'recycle the batteries'.

A change of perception can be useful.


Recycling of lead-acid batteries has indeed been a great ecological success story. However, you don't get any money for turning in your old dead battery.

Hmmmm, we get 100-200 pesos here for a standard car battery, I'll have to check what the current rate is though as it could be up or down on that.


EDIT: 150 pesos today.

Yeah, NAOM, I got $22 each for my old L-16s at scrap. Lead prices have increased since then. It more than paid for the shipping (actually fuel, since I picked them up in TN) and the new connectors for my new system.

"But the batteries you cite I assume are lead-acid batteries. They only last a few hundred cycles. So you'll have to be buying new batteries every 3 or so years.

There are many myths being circulated about life with batteries. I know of properly sized, well maintained banks of L-16s that are going strong after 12 years. We recently stress-tested a set of cheap 6 volt golfcart batteries (from Sam's Club) that are still at about 80% of their rated capacity after 6 years. Another set of large 2 volt forklift cells I know of (the same type as I'm using) is now in it's 13th year and going strong. That said, I know folk's that can kill a battery set (or a car, for that matter) in a couple of years.

My last battery set lasted longer than the last central heating/air conditioning system we had installed (in our old grid-weenie home). They both cost about the same, though we spent far more maintaining and repairing the AC system over it's lifetime.

A properly sized/installed lead acid battery set with an automatic watering system is low maintenance. Also, desuphators extend life, as well as periodic equalization (which can be automated).

For about 3X the cost, one could opt for a set of NiFe batteries that last decades.

Are you using them as an off-grid system or a grid-tied back-up? If you are deep-cycling them, that is amazing longevity.

Off grid, rarely cycled more than 10-20%, never more than 50%.

"that is amazing longevity."

Good batteries, good management, accepting that we can't do everything any time we want. It's hard to imagine these days, eh? ...but it also means never sitting in the dark (unless we choose to). On bright, sunny, cool days like today, we can do alot, and still bring the batteries up to full charge.

Yeah, I concur with jaggedben. That would kill the solar market. They should start by scaling back the incentives . . . which they have done. They need to work on finding complementary systems such as wind systems in certain locations, pumped hydro storage (which is much more cost-effective than small batteries for PV systems), natural gas peakers, etc.

We should not make batteries in households/communities mandatory but we should support them. Pump storage etc. requires (expensive) HV transmisiion lines, batteries are local and remove the need for some of the HV transmission lines, they avoid some expensive transmission problems.

With increasing prices for electricity, decreasing FITs and advances in battery technology (LiFePO4) it is only a matter of time when batteries are the most cost efficient solution, i.e. for 8 months of the year you cover almost 100% of your energy damnd with own production. A typical household (4 Persons) with heat pump for hot water would need around 7-10 kWh storage capacity.

An analog to PV charged home batteries is the subsidised installation of rainwater tanks to reduce the need for piped water. So far the cost sharing formula is tentative as in this example. With batteries it is not clear whether the optimum capacity per house is 10 kwh, 30 kwh or 100 kwh. Ideally a home should generate and store enough PV to cover a run of several overcast dark days in winter. Otherwise the centralised generators on the grid cannot be seriously downsized. On the other hand if there is more summer residential PV than needed that is a waste of capital. It would take a fairly smart grid to manage which is yet more cost. That's why I think we'll always need big dumb dinosaur power stations. So far all attempts to solve this problem like Desertec seem seriously flawed.

Correct, but if you check the daily demand profile of a typical family of 4 persons - both parents work and computer, oven, TV run in the evening - and assume a 5-7 kWp PV you have to store at least 5 kWp, so the rule of thumb 0.5 - 1 kWh per installed kWp PV is for me a very good starting point. Your goal is to optimize your production/consumption ratio within a time span of 24 hours, not longer. :-)

For long time storage, i.e. very low number of loading cycles, batteries are too expensive, here we need something else like methan, hydrogen, so forget your 100 Kwh. :-)

Using the rainwater tank analogy, no one expects rainwater tanks to enable dams to be dismantled, or reduce the diameter of water pipes, or to store all of the water needs of a home for weeks or months between rain events. The rainwater tanks reduce total piped water consumption. Similarly PV can directly reduce grid electricity demand during periods of sunshine. Adding even a small amount of storage say 6kWh to a household that uses 30kWh/day could reduce both peak export to the grid at mid-day and reduce household demand during the evening grid peak demand. There would still be the need for the same generating capacity(for widespread cloudy days) but less of the FF or biofuel or hydro would be consumed on a long term basis.
In Eastern Australia without any storage, PV capacity could not exceed summer daytime demand (30GW ) but with 5Million households having 6kWh storage or 5M EVs able to absorb 6kWh during mid-day would enable about 40GW PV capacity to be fully used.

UK and Iceland sign agreement

One point is to explore an electrical interconnection between the two nations.

Iceland not only supply renewable power (quite a bit actually - "summer" only hydro and wind are entirely undeveloped - but also accept 1 GW of renewables by holding back their hydro, if the hydro power plant turbines are expanded.

Best Hopes for Iceland, Scotland and Ireland,


I bet Iceland's rivers don't shut down during winter. There is probably still decent hydro year round.Wisconsin had much much colder winter weather, but creeks and rivers didn't shut down.

Many Icelandic rivers slow to a trickle - not enough to justify a hydroelectric plant - in the winter.

In 9 out of 10 summers, Iceland has a surplus of around 150 MW of potential hydroelectric power that is spilled. Without exports, there is no need for more summer power in Iceland.


"Wisconsin had much much colder winter weather, but creeks and rivers didn't shut down."

Having grown up there, I also know the Wisconsin river is made up a network of reservoirs to keep the river's flow balanced and reasonably constant for the papermills that used to line its banks. Big Eau Pleine, Little Eau Pleine, DuBay, Castle Rock, Petenwell, Etc.

There are 21 all together;

alas, It's hard to get much power out. It's only 46 ft high even though it impounds 23,000 acres. Output is 22 MW.

The next dam down stream is Castle Rock, and it's only 28 ft high. It's output is 15 MW. Pumped storage on the prairie is a bit of a problem.

I was along the Chippewa river, which something like 200MW total across several sites. I think it was about half the midwest's hydro. Plenty of water, but not enough drop for midwest hydro.

Just run HV DC or HV AC to the shores of Lake Michigan.


The prairie has poor prospects for pumped storage, but interesting prospects for compressed underground air storage. Granted compressed air energy storage (CAS)will never match the round-trip cycle storage-conversion efficiency of pumped water but it may still be cost-effective compared to batteries. I would think though that thermal storage in the winter and ice production in the summer would be the most interesting forms of storage for location with a heating-driven demand peaks in winter and air-conditioning-driven demand peaks in summer.

RWE plans a 200 MW Adibatic CAES facility in Germany with an estimated round trip efficiency of around 70%.

"the aimed-at overall efficiency of some 70% should approximate that of pumped-storage plants for the first time." We'll have to wait a bit longer for projected costs, but energy storage costs for conventional CAES are far lower than pumped hydro (here). The main challenge is breaking free of geological constraints. An ARPA-E funded project looks at near-isothermal compression for development of higher efficiencies (and no use of natural gas).

Is there anyone here who lives or has spent time near the mainstem Pick-Sloan project (eastern Montana, the Dakotas, and Nebraska): Ft. Peck lake, Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake? I am not at all familiar with the area, but I wonder if there are points along those reservoirs where there is a few hundred foot elevation change within a few miles of the reservoirs. I'm thinking in terms of square miles of flat farmland up on a bluff that could be bermed and lined and used for an upper reservoir for huge pumped storage within a few miles of the existing reservoirs? I'm too lazy to go look at that many topos myself, but I suspect locals, especially pilots, might have a good feel?

This biased article has certainly generated a lot of controversy. I am amazed that you all have so much time available to battle this out, back and forth!

I am also surprised in this context that so little attention has been given to Russia, the progenitor of Germany's renewable energy policy.

I hired a German engineering intern in the summer of 1996. He had grown up in East Germany, and in his early teens the Berlin Wall fell. He was old enough at the time to have a very clear impression of Soviet incompetence and malevolence.

To this day Europe's largest imports of fossil fuels come from Russia. So it was no surprise to me that the German Bundestag determined to take their energy policy into their own hands over 10 years ago. You think the sun and the wind are capricious? What if a certain Mr. Putin gets up on the wrong side of bed tomorrow morning?

We are at a turning point. Thanks to the intelligence and courage of King Hubbert, Dennis Meadows, Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere and others, humanity now understands that fossil fuels and nuclear power are finite. Every penny spent on expanding their use is plainly "good money after bad." Hunting down new "sources" of oil in the arctic or yellowcake in the outback is just that: hunting and gathering in the age of agriculture.

Once again humanity must learn to harvest energy rather than exhaust a patch of land and then move on.

So you say solar power (sun/wind/hydro/...) is intermittent. No argument. There are two ways to deal with that: wring your hands or roll up your sleeves.

Thankfully the Germans have set an example for the rest of us by rolling up their sleeves.

I like your comparison! Non-renewables is the gathering, renewables is agriculture :)

Idle Speculation - France's Future Grid

Pumped Storage - Almost none in the Pyrenees (from memory) Add at least 6 GW more (they last for centuries) and aim for higher MWh stored (enough to avoid turning nukes off on weekends).

Double HV DC lines (10 GW to 20 GW), including at least one to Norway.

EVs - Establish special rates for drivers willing to skip one or two days/nights of recharging. Higher special rates (but still lower than residential) for those that allow EdF to chose when to recharge during the day or at night.

Massive installation of solar water heaters

30 1.6 GW EPRs scattered along coast (all or most Atlantic) or inland where cooling water temperatures will not be an issue on the summer.

I will assume that EPRs can load follow 85% to 100%, with VERY slow ramping up & down (less than Areva claims)

3 1.6 GW EPRs located inland, and expected to be turned off for the summer & spring (most years)

Enough solar PV, so that on days like today, at solar noon, EPRs are at 85% and EdF pumped storage (all 10 GW) is pumping up, EVs are being charged and France is exporting a few GW to England & Switzerland.

Likewise, about 35 to 40 GW or so of wind installed.

Install close to 1 GW more of small hydro, sites abandoned decades ago as "too small" etc.

Natural gas & biomass CHPs scattered around France plus 8 to 10 GW of 60% efficient combined cycle NG plants.

About 6 GW of coal fired plants kept as strategic reserves. Most years, fired up once and run for 48 hours or so at full load and then shut down. But if natural gas or nukes have problems, these can come back in an emergency.


I am sorry that the article has given the wrong impression of my intentions, but thank you for the comments anyway. My main interest is the efficient integration of renewables. I am convinced that a redesigned infrastructure is necessary for utilising large amounts of RES instead of curtailing RES.

Denmark has a higher share of RES than Germany but curtailment is still very rare. To me the increasing curtailment of RES in Germany indicates a problem.

It was the purpose of the article to present results from 3 documents. Two of the sources, ENTSO-E (the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity) and the German Federal Grid Agency are concerned about the operational security.

According to the article a combination of the increasing RES capacity and the sudden stop of 8GW nuclear power contributed to the problems during the winter 2011/12.

The mention of a link between RES and grid problems seems to have upset several commentators. However, this connection is a clear view in both documents as it appears from quotations in the article.

Ignoring the problems may lead to increased waste of renewable energy and increased risk of power failures. But Germany has recognized the problems. Since the article was written the four German transmission system operators have jointly published a ten years grid development plan.

The grid organisations recommend grid extensions. This is one important step. However, grids can move power but they cannot regulate power. The regulating work must be done somewhere. Therefore another important step will be to add flexibility to the power system. There are numerous interesting possibilities as indicated in several comments, but that is a different story.

Paul-Frederik Bach

The two documents are available here:

Thank you very much for your post. I am involved in grid integration of renewables in California. We currently have large areas of the grid where interconnection of additional export generation is effectively precluded pending major transmission projects for stability reasons (thermal reasons are mostly being addressed by schemes to trip or curtail generation for grid contingencies). Unfortunately, such grid upgrades are very slow in coming, though not for lack of trying on the part of wires companies. One problem we face is that the interconnection of non-export self-generation projects (which is happening without transmission upgrades) will offset loads locally which are already offset regionally by existing export renewables, leading to a need to regularly curtail existing renewables pending transmission upgrades.

The President of a company that owns strips of land (usually 100'(30 m) wide), already zoned "Heavy Industrial" between most major cities in California, Arizona, etc. has said that he is willing to trade access to his land for electrical transmission lines, if the utilities will help his company become a new baseload customer.

I have already talked to the national Sierra Club and they are willing to support "expedited" EIS for these new transmission lines.

For further inquiries:

Matt Rose
BNSF Railroad,
Ft. Worth, Texas

We usually already have ROW, often with facilities already on it, the problem is being allowed to use it. As a simple example see:

Railroads are already zoned for "Heavy Industrial" in urban areas.

Some environmental groups recognize that the environmental plus of electrified RRs outweighs any aesthetic issues. Railroad ROW's are viewed as already heavily impacted and are "grandfathered'.

Because of this, these environmental groups appear willing to agree to a new type EIS - one that {ahem} railroads local objections to power lines.

Best Hopes for Synergy,


I apologize if any of my comments appeared to doubt your intentions.

It is FAR easier to claim a solution that to actually build it.

In Germany, I suspect that the major utilities are not very interested in the national goals - and suddenly scrapping paid for machinery that they expected to make decades more profits from was certainly not positive for them.

May I make a practical suggestion ?

Announce a program, using special meters, where any EV hooked up and recharged (on signal) with power that would otherwise go to waste, would get free electricity. the same meters could be used for demand management.

A way to promote EVs (say to the postal service) as well as private individuals.

Best Hopes,


Daniel Dobbeni's, President of ENTSO-E, Letter to Commissioner Oettinger dated April 17, 2012, (PDF warning) expresses the primary desire of ENTSO-E, a trade organization for European transmission system operators, that their industry must be deregulated. Absolutely not because it will only lead to the misbehavior of TSO's. As for his concern about, "... outdated connection conditions for distributed generation that are not being retrofitted anywhere fast enough," if there is a program and a need for retrofitting, then they need to complete the program. He is referring to Europe in general, not just Germany.

Report on Energy Supplies in Winter 2011/12: Executive Summary, Bundesnetzagentur, May 3, 2012 (PDF warning). This report does not blame renewable energy for the problems last winter. It blames:
2. "shortfall in gas supplies in February 2012"
3. "... in February 2012, exceptionally large deviations from the forecasts...." does not identify the deviations. It is too vague.
4. phase shifting is the TSO's standard method of adapting to variable supply
5. German and Austrian reserve generators were activated on more than one occasion, but there is no mention as to when or why.
6. a plea to not decommission any more existing fossil fuel or nuclear powered generators
7. Periods of large generation from renewable energy sources are driving down the price of electricity hurting the profit margins of the conventional boys. This is not the way we envisioned deregulation to a market system for selling electricity. Since we are stuck with expanding RES's, please let us manipulate the transmission system to increase our profits in the market system.
9. Only expanding the grid can relieve the problems.
10. Don't bother with the supply shortfall in natural gas because it is far more important to do our project to expand the grid.

Interconnected system operation conditions in Continental Central Europe
A briefing paper to the European Commission
, ENTSO-E, March 13, 2012, (PDF warning).
This is a more detailed document asserting that ENTSO-E wants deregulation. They want to expand the techniques of selling excess power to neighboring countries who then resell is back to them. They also want to install more phase shifting transformers. They insist on keeping the market system alive and well in their industry.

ENTSO-E has a clear agenda: deregulate, add more transmission lines and add more phase shifting transformers (PSO). I do not understand how a PSO relieves high power events. If they are altering the phase of the AC power, then it should make motors run less efficiently and increase the cost to the consumer. Basically the TSO's would be dissipating the excess energy as heat in consumer equipment while making the customers pay for it. The other method of sending the excess power to another country using a HVDC line and then sending it back on another HVDC line sounds like a scam too. It seems to be dissipating the extra power as heat in the transmission system while making the other country pay for the extra electricity while the sender pays for the smaller amount that is returned allowing for some profit. Has ENRON been reborn in Europe?

ENTSO-E needs to stop with entrenched industry advocacy and genuinely get with the renewable energy program. They should advocate flywheels, more pumped hydro, improving efficiency, demand side management and making methane from the excess energy. Making methane from CO2, water and RES electricity could mitigate both problems from last winter.

Phase shifting transformers have no effect on customer's electric motors. Their main purpose it to shift the flow of electric power over alternate paths.

Since the article was written the four German transmission system operators have jointly published a ten years grid development plan.

The four 10 year grid enhancement plans by German transmission operators were in the works long before the June 03 draft filing deadline, and were emphasized by Angela Merkel (with a timeline for approval) back in late April of 2012.

Given that grid operators are taking seriously and responding to the reliability and congestion issues that you summarize so well from the reports above, I'm curious if you still view the Renewable energy picture, planned capacity additions, and nuclear shutdown in Germany (over the long run) as "a nightmare for system operators."

It would also be helpful to get any updates regarding pending investigations by Federal Network Agency into "alarm level yellow" condition for German power grids back in March, 2012. Other contributing causes were also highlighted in initial reports: scheduling conflicts, uncertain weather patterns, and failure of substation. Have they made a determination as to the final causes yet?

Written by idyl:
Given that grid operators are taking seriously and responding to the reliability and congestion issues that you summarize so well from the reports above, I'm curious if you still view the Renewable energy picture, planned capacity additions, and nuclear shutdown in Germany (over the long run) as "a nightmare for system operators."

Bundesnetzagentur's report suggests they view the situation as an opportunity to game the transmission system for their short term profits instead of a nightmare. This plus the lack of detail about the problems last winter makes me wonder whether they are hyping the situation.

I have little doubt that Germany will need to construct a transmission line to help transfer 25 GW of offshore wind power in the north to consumers through out the country. HVDC interconnects to other countries can help mitigate the variability of wind and solar, but the governmental regulators will have to be vigilant to avoid schemes like Enron implemented.

The article is based on observations on the German grid for the winter 2011/12. The Federal Grid Agency says I its summary: “The situation in the electricity grid in the winter of 2011/2012 was severely strained.” Re-dispatch and feed-in-reduction were necessary in the EON-Netz grid for 23% of the hours during Q1 2012. That’s what I call it a nightmare. Such interventions are very rare in Denmark.

Your hypothesis seems to be that the problems have nothing to do with RES. I strongly disagree in that view. If you were right there would be no reason for the development of smart grids and other measures for RES integration and that would be a dangerous laissez faire policy.

Your hypothesis seems to be that the problems have nothing to do with RES. I strongly disagree in that view. If you were right there would be no reason for the development of smart grids and other measures for RES integration and that would be a dangerous laissez faire policy.

Every new (and large) capacity addition requires grid enhancements. Your straw man argument to the contrary has no basis in reasonable policy assessments (proposed T&D additions) or resource planning by competent engineers.

Another article in your citation list clearly identifies the main problem here: "permitting delays" and not "new market tendencies" over the last several years. If your goal is to harp on the challenges of integrating renewables, you have done a very good job. Unfortunately, you have paid much less attention to the technical solutions for overcoming these challenges (and resolving any concerns with competent and technologically reasonable engineering, resource planning, and transmission solutions).

I just signed up to be a PowerShift Atlantic volunteer. This initiative will hopefully help Nova Scotia Power, NB Power, Saint John Electric and Maritime Electric integrate additional renewable energy, principally wind, into these respective power systems via utility control of electric water heaters, thermal storage heaters and other major appliances.

To learn more, see: and


Replacing fossil fuels (and nuclear in the German and Japanese case, and other baseload dispatchable generation sources) for electric power generation with pseudorandom intermittent sources such as wind and PV (RES or RPS) is now and will increasingly cause escalating electric power costs and/or declining grid stability most particularly as those pseudorandom intermittent sources exceed spinning reserve and load shedding contingency options.

A majority of German companies said they’re concerned they’ll lose their competitive edge because of higher electricity costs linked to government plans to exit nuclear energy and power Europe’s biggest economy on renewables.
According to Dena, who conducted the study, "60 percent of the companies polled said they expected higher production costs due to rising power prices." More than 40 percent said, "Supply security would deteriorate significantly. We’re very concerned at how companies see the next 12 months of the energy overhaul. While the current mood is neutral, the future trend is clearly developing negatively." -

The eventual resolution to this quandary is to relocate PV to Geosynchronous orbit whereupon ground PV's ~30% pseudorandom capacity factor can be converted to 99.3% baseload dispatchable non-random.
We calculate that SSP would provide approximately 71 times more dispatchable baseload power compared to ground PV, using CAES(Compressed Air Energy Storage) storage(the lowest cost bulk energy storage option we see) to convert ground PV to dispatchable baseload power. That calculation, however, assumes a conservative 24 hour maximum storage, and weather forecasting can be difficult. Good CAES sites are also uncommon geologically.

In ten to twenty years this space solar PV will be available on order from Japan or China, who are aggressively pursuing the Space Solar Power option on the High Frontier.

A recent SSP presentation on Youtube:
Part 1. @ 44:27 min
Part 2. @ 10:33 min