Feeding-In Wind Energy In April: An Expensive Game
By the European Institute for Climate and Energy (Germany)
(Translated, edited and supplemented by P Gosselin)
April is almost over and the ever more expensive German EEG Energy Feed-In Act is celebrated day after day by politicians, most of the media, and the many benefactors of receiving subsidies from the consumer.
Figure 1: Wind energy feed-in in Germany from April 1 – 25, 2013. Total installed rated capacity is 32,000 MW. Peak output reached 18,000 MW briefly on April 18. On April 25, the wind turbines practically stood still. Overall output for April reached only about a measly 15% of rated capacity. Source: EIKE reader Ralf Schuster.
These billions represent transfers from the poor to the rich. In Germany the EEG feed-in act was once viewed as a man-on-the-moon project, and was compared to the reunification of Germany – as German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier has stated time and again . The installation of wind and solar power plants continues unabated, even as resistance to landscapes littered by wind turbines continues to grow and the brakes against rapidly increasing electricity prices have failed .
Now is a good time to ask just how much energy have wind turbines contributed in Germany in April? It’s time to take a closer look.
So far up to today, 32,000 megawatts of wind turbine capacity have been installed in Germany. This amount of wind capacity is about equivalent to about 30 nuclear reactors, which environmentalists often like to mention. The fact that this is not true is known only by very few people. For this reason we would like to briefly illustrate the reality of wind energy in Germany. The true reality looks completely different.
Figure 1  above is a chart showing wind energy feed-in from all German windparks and their turbines for April so far. Recall that a total of 32 gigawatts of capacity have been installed. A peak of 17 gigawatts of power was briefly fed in on April 18, yet this was stillm a far cry from full capacity.
The total electrical energy consumption by Germany during the first 25 days was approximately 33 terawatt-hrs. That translates to an average of 55 gigawatts of power every hour. If the wind turbines had operated at 100% capacity for the entire time, they still would have only supplied 60% of Germany’s needed power. However, wind turbines rarely run near 100% rated capacity. Very often they produce only a small fraction of their rated capacity because the wind is highly variable and often does not blow very hard. On April 18 wind turbines in Germany produced their peak for the month: 17 gigawatts, but only for about 2 hours, before rapidly dropping off again to 8 GW at around midnight. On that day, all wind turbines together briefly reached 53% of their rated capacity. And that was their best day.
On most other days the performance of the wind turbines in Germany is far worse. On five days the power output reached only 4 GW, with a minimum of just over zero on April 25. During these relatively windless 5 days, the turbines operated at only 12% of their rated capacity of 32 gigawatts, which is only 7.3 % of Germany’s 55 gigawatts average hourly consumption.
Figure 2: Shows the electricity feed-in for 25 April, 2013. At about 10 a.m. wind power from turbines dropped to only 184 megawatts. Source: EEX-Leipzig.
Figure 2 clearly illustrates the completely miserable performance. Before noon, when demand for electricty reaches its peak, the feed-in by wind turbines was only at 184 megawatts, which is a puny 0.3 % of the power that is needed in Germany. Power feed-in by wind turbines on April 25 reached their maximum of only 4.8 gigawatts at midnight – power that nobody needs and perhaps it can be “sold” to a foreign market at a negative price (something that actually does occur nowadays).
This expensive, wildly fluctuating feed-in behavior of course has to be balanced out by coal, nuclear, and the ever increasingly more important gas-fired power plants. However, such power plants often find themselves running at a fraction of their capacity, i.e. at a range that is completely inefficient. When the wind blows and the sun shines, they slow right down to idle, and thus lose lots of money.
The most modern gas-fired power plant is the GUD power plant in Irrsching, which went online a year ago. It has an efficiency of about 60% when it runs near full capacity, which should be every hour of the year. But it doesn’t. To make a profit, it would need to run at least 4000 hours annually. But because renewable energy like wind and sun have priority when it comes to being feed-in into the power grid, the GUD gas plant operates only about 1600 hours per year. Therefore it is a money-loser, one that ought to be shut down. But it can’t because it always has to be on standby, ready to jump in should the wind and sun fail to deliver.
Lo and behold, poliitcians have found a solution. German Free Democrat Party (FDP) Minister Martin Zeil knows how to rescue the plant, as the daily Augsburger Allgemeinen writes:
The plant operators have announced that the plant will be shut down at least 2 years. About 100 million euros are needed to keep the power plant running said company chairman Teyssen…
…Bavaria Economics Minsister Martin Zeil declared a few days ago that Irsching V has to stay online. Otherwise grid stability and thus the electricity supply would be jeopardized. Because of this the grid operator can instruct to keep a power plant on standby, the Minister reminds. Moreover, Zeil said the state government is planning the construction of 4 new gas-fired power plants, but is unable to find an investor. Irsching V can produce almost as much electricity as a small nuclear reactor…Bavaria’s showcase power plant risks going out of business.
…continue reading at the Augsburger-Allgemeine. Keeping unprofitable plants on standby is a massive expense that will be paid by the poor consumer.
This is what Germany’s Energiewende (energy transformation to renewables) looks like to the rest of the world.
Michael Limburg EIKE, with thanks to Rolf Schuster for the charts.