For all of you record collectors out there, Germany set a new record in wind power production a few days ago. And for the record, it came after really dismal doldrums in the first third of the month. A view of the month reveals a great correlation between power from natural gas and electricity imports.
According to the visualization provided by Fraunhofer ISE, wind power production in Germany peaked at 29.49 GW at around 1 PM on Friday, December 12. The old record was around 26 GW from 5 December 2013, but the record of combined wind and PV (37.8 GW on 14 April 2014) remains untouched because there was so little sunshine on that December day. The country had around 35 GW installed at the end of Q2, meaning that these wind turbines were running at around 80 percent capacity for several days.
The chart also shows that when power failed to rise far above 1 GW on numerous days leading up to this new record, equivalent to a capacity factor of significantly less than five percent. Indeed, December got off to a sluggish start for wind power.
It seems to me that baseload still remains largely unaffected, though there is a downturn in lignite and nuclear power production near the middle of the chart around December 8, where the orange area representing natural gas dips below 40 GW. Otherwise, power from hard coal and natural gas continues to take the biggest hit. But it is worth investigating natural gas further. Let’s put in power exports first.
Here, we see a clear correlation between times of power exports and times of great power production from natural gas. Repeatedly, we read that Germany exports excess wind and solar power, though we have never had any excess renewable electricity. In this chart, for instance, wind and solar (but almost exclusively wind) never even makes up half of German power production at any one time. (Nonetheless, brace yourself for misleading reports that Germany gets half of its energy from wind.)
Instead, power trading is based on price, not physical need. At the beginning of the month, natural gas produces more than 15 GW of electricity repeatedly, and the country begins importing power. In the workweek to the right, natural gas is cut in half and drops close to 5 GW near the end.
Essentially, by the time it Germany has to ramp up its natural gas turbines, its prices are no longer lower than those in neighboring countries. Click through the day-ahead auction prices at EPEX, and you will see French, German, and Swiss peak power prices all coming in in the upper 60s around December 3, for instance.
Source: Renewables International. Reproduced with permission.