In depth: The real story behind Germany’s 22GW solar record

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The hottest news in the solar industry in the past week was the 22.4 GW of peak capacity output from solar PV installations in Germany last week, the equivalent of 20 large nuclear or fossil fuel plants, and which accounted for around 30 per cent of the country’s capacity on Friday, and half on the following day, a Saturday, when a similar amount of energy was produced.

An analysis in CleanTechnica points out that while those figures made the headlines, the really significant number was the 189.24GWh of electricity produced on the Friday, which accounted for nearly 14 per cent of total electricity consumption in Europe’s most industrialised nation and largest economy.

As the article points out, this is actually not a rare event.

“For the last couple of weeks, the output of PV solar peaked within an inch of the 20 GW line several times, and it never peaked very low throughout the month. The lowest peak load was 8 GW, while the average peak load of PV solar was 16 GW,” the article says. “So, it seems that solar is not as unreliable as conventional wisdom and media outlets often lead people to believe. Because I can tell you that we didn’t have 4 weeks straight of sunshine here in Germany, that’s for sure.

“Looking at the daily power production during the first 4 weeks of May makes this even more obvious. While it is not a constant increase day by day, the weekly output is increasing steadily as we are heading towards mid-summer. During the first week of May, solar energy produced about 780 GWh of electric power; and, at the end of the month, during the record-breaking week, it amounted to 1,096 GWh or 1.1 TWh. Those were enough GWhs to meet almost 12% of the total power needs in Germany that week!

So, what does this mean for the future? Especially considering the fact that there is enough suitable roof space left to increase solar capacity by up to 5-10 times without many problems. The author suggests there are two significant developments taking place which will revolutionize the energy system in a rapid and unprecedented way. The first is the fact that the renewable energy system beats the conventional energy system in terms of prices already. The second  is what is happening in energy storage right now.

We suggest you read the article in full to find out more. And this, from The Guardian, is an excellent piece on Germany’s energy revolution.  

  • Such exciting stuff! Unfortunately the second link in the article is dead, though. Think you could fix that up for us? Thanks!

    • Giles Parkinson

      Fixed now!

  • Beat Odermatt

    In Australia we should have at least twice as much as Germany, considering the amount of the sunshine we receive. Many try to undermine solar power because it “cannot be stored”. Instead of highlighting the advantages of solar power (the energy is delivered free over a distance of 150 Million Kilometres) opponents to progress point out that solar electricity “cannot be stored”. I am sure somebody will tell us how they “store” electricity generated using coal or gas?