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Graph of the Day: Wind, solar provide half Germany’s energy output

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Today’s Graph of the Day will tell a story that will be repeated more regularly in coming months and years – the growing impact of solar and wind energy in countries such as Germany.

This comes from Sunday (March 24) and shows that in the middle of the day, more than half of Germany’s electricity output came from wind and solar. Two things are striking – one is the amount of solar capacity produced on a day in early spring, with nearly 20GW at its peak. The second is the consistent contribution of wind energy, which accounted for more than 25 per cent of the overall output throughout the day.

Imagine, then, what will happen when Germany doubles the amount of wind and solar production, as it plans to do within the next decade. On days like this, there will simply be no room for fossil fuel production – the so-called “base load”. Any coal or gas fired generation that remains will need to be capable of being switched on and off on demand. The base load/peakload model will be turned on its head – to be replaced by dispatchable and non dispatchable generation. Fossil fuels will be required just to fill in the gaps.

Re graph: The yellow bit is solar production, the light green is wind, and the grey is “conventional” – which includes coal, gas and nuclear, as well as  biomass and hydro.

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 8.35.24 AM

The original graph can be found here. Notice, too, the difference between what was delivered by wind and solar, and what was planned (graph below). There’s little difference. For all the talk about “intermittent” renewables, their output is actually quite predictable – more so than swings in demand ever were.

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 8.49.49 AM

 

   

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  • John P

    Giles, your graphs are really very informative, when and only when, you include the graph legend so we can tell what is what. With today’s graph of the day it is not difficult to figure out, but I did have to go the source link (the EEX Transparency Platform)to find the legend.

    Graphs without legends are not very helpful, and I am seeing them more and more in Renew Economy articles. Please accept this as a minor criticism of an otherwise wonderfully informative website.

    Maybe it is a problem with the way they are imported into Renew Economy articles?

    • Giles Parkinson

      HI John
      Appreciate your email, but what exactly is it that you can see on original that you can’t see on this one? And, just in case, what internet system you using?

      • John P

        The information which is missing is the legend which shows which colour on the graph represents each of the available power sources i.e conventional, wind and solar. The legend is at the bottom of the graph on the EEX link, but does not appear below the graph in the RE post.

        I am running W7 on a Toshiba laptop and using IE Version 10. Hope this helps.

        • Giles Parkinson

          OK. All colours there in mine (Mac and Safari) – will get some advice from tech people. Hope not too many others suffering similar problems.

          • Giles – I’m on Mac and Safari too – the colours are there on the bar graph, but not the legend as John describes.

            (On the EEX site the legend is a separate image linked here:
            http://www.transparency.eex.com/document/4479/en_prod2.png)

            Cool graph – a country with half the wind and half the sun of Australia produces 50% of their energy with wind and solar. Hmm, perhaps then a country with twice the wind and twice the sun of Germany could produce 100% of their energy?

          • Scott Harrigan

            We can see the colors. What we can’t see is the LEGEND which tells us that yellow is solar, green is wind, and grey is conventional. That is on the other website. Without that information, we don’t know what the chart is telling us. I am on a Mac with Safari and I do not see the legend that tells us what the colors mean. Hope that clears it up.

          • Jonathan Maddox

            Giles, the *legend* (conventional=grey, wind=green, and solar=yellow) was not part of the .png images you posted. On the EEX website the legend is provided in a table below the image.

          • Giles Parkinson

            Ah, OK. Sorry about that folks, my brain has been playing tricks. I’ve figured it out and included a legend.
            Apologies again, but i think this proves there is hope for the future – even when someone can’t see something which is so obvious (me, in this case), there is hope he/she can come round with some patient explanation!

        • Chris Squire

          I also still can’t see the legend, running Chrome under Mac OSX.

          Just now, 1444 UTC Monday, solar = nil and wind = 6 % or so. Both here in Britain and Germany it is very cold as we have a strong wind from the east: 7 m/s = 25 km/h = 15 mph
          http://www.wunderground.com/maps/eu/WindSpeed.html?MR=1
          http://www.wunderground.com/q/zmw:00000.10.10389

  • Tim Buckley

    Giles
    Further to this, the increased diversity of adding offshore wind will really complement onshore wind and solar. The German target of 10 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020 maybe a year behind schedule, but with capacity utilisation factors of over 40%, this will further destabilise and marginalise the convertional generation of coal and gas fired capacity over the next five years. A very telling chart, one that the AEMC should study carefully.
    Tim Buckley – Arkx Investments

    • Mart

      “Further to this, the increased diversity of adding offshore wind will really complement onshore wind and solar.”

      Not everyone in Germany would agree with that. Many think that installing wind capacity far away from the population centres is not such a good idea. Many also suspect that the push for offshore wind is largely driven by the interests of the incumbent power oligopolies (E.ON, RWE, etc.) and not by what is best for the Energiewende. Even professional self-indulgence may play a role as this quote from a former CEO of RWE would suggest: “From the engineering point of view the offshore business is much more adventurous then the unsexy hydro power and PV technology”.

  • Craig Allen

    Why are the Germans able to keep ratcheting up solar and wind generation without their politicians succumbing to a backlash from the conventional generators as is the case in Australian? Are our politicians just more craven? Or is it a structural difference in their energy economy?

    • Richard Hayes

      “Or is it a structural difference in their energy economy?”

      It is a structural difference in the political system, that is almost universal support for “Energiewende” (energy transformation).

    • Jay Alt

      The modern expression of the precautionary principle had its origin there, from the philosopher Hans Jonas. He wrote a book that, as I understand it, had great influence on German society. The english title is ‘the importance of responsibility.’ I am not (yet) familiar with it but I suspect it was part of an effective backlash and soul-searching brought on by the destruction of the nation and the horrors of nazism.

  • Mart

    “[..] almost universal support for “Energiewende” (energy transformation)”

    Unless and until electoral opportunism is perceived to dictate otherwise. The FDP (junior coalition partner) seems willing to wreck the Energiewende if it could help them to avoid a wipe-out at the next elections. The CDU (senior coalition partner), not wanting to bleed voters to the FDP, is now quite prepared to overstate the cost of the Energiewende at the expense of Germany’s hitherto very strong renewables sector.

    Let’s also not forget that many big industrial companies are to a large extent exempt from the “EEG-Umlage” (renewable energy contribution) while most smaller companies and all households have to pay. And yet the CDU and FDP present their march against renewables as “Strompreisbremse” (electricity price brake).

    But CDU and FDP are not against all renewables. In fact they favour offshore wind despite it being one of the most expensive options, requiring major investment in high voltage transmission lines from the relatively empty north to the economic centres in the south. In this case pleasing the large energy incumbents seems a more important consideration than the kWh price for small businesses and households.

    So, yes, Germany is going through a significant transformation in the electricity sector. But, no, the direction and pace of that transformation is far from settled.

    To keep up with developments in Germany: http://www.volker-quaschning.de (in German) / http://www.renewablesinternational.net (in English).

  • John Bushell

    Re Craig Allen’s post,

    A possible answer to your question could be totally outside the energy industry. Germany Switzerland and Denmark have by far the largest reinsurance industries in the world and those organisations have been blowing in politicians ears (and providing public documents) for many years.

    I suggest that, whilst the pollies know that worldwide action is required to effectively address global warming they are making sure that they are doing their bit, as well as preparing for the day when the reinsurers will simply say “nein” we will not insure certain highly exposed climate risks.

  • Leif Nielsen

    A Sunday is not the right day to show the real picture, I would like to see a graph for a working day in summer and winter.

  • Robert

    It is great to see this info getting out and people being excited about it.

    My only advice is to avoid such misleading headlines.

    I was searching for production and this is peak for only at a certain time. It leads the reader to believe that all energy production is at half total for the alternatives.