What follows is a comment written at FaceBook by alternative energy critic Wolfgang Neumann on the plight of Germany’s “Energiewende” (national transition to renewable energy) and a documentary on German television: Energiewende at a dead end. What follows is the translation (with slight editing):
Energiewende – at a dead end
By Wolfgang Neumann
The world has never witnessed anything like it before: An industrial country giving up nuclear power and switches over to wind, water and solar. It almost sounds like a miracle – but it’s not going to be one because physics will prevent it from being so. Also power does not flow from everywhere where power is written on it! Indeed the ‘Energiewende’ proponents have yet to realize that the ‘gifts from the sky’ sun and wind are actually only very temperamentally available – they fluctuating as the engineers say. It appears the ‘Energiewende’ is running into a dead end!
The necessary offshore wind parks are located far away from the consumers. Those who speak of a “decentralized” power supply but yet install approximately 35,000 MW of offshore wind turbines in an area of the North Sea without first thinking about how to bring the power onshore to the consumers have surely misunderstood the meaning of ‘DECENTRAL’!
The potential for hydropower in Germany is as good as exhausted and so there not much is happening. Photovoltaic systems have little significance in the wintertime – too unproductive! Grid expansion as a whole is just not making any progress because individual states and the federal government are constantly bickering. And although for years they have been working feverishly on storage technology for alternative energies (AE), there has been no real technical or economic progress up to now. So far it’s all been mostly wishful thinking and little reality!
True that over the last decades the power supply companies took advantage of their monopoly position, played with marked cards and have not allowed anyone to get a look at their hand. And now it turns out that sun and wind are not for free after all and power conversion systems are costly! Now we see that wind turbine and solar system operators have learned quickly from the large power companies: They too are not allowing anyone to get a look at their cards and are circling the wagons: Don’t answer thorny questions, e.g. about operating and maintenance costs of wind turbines and solar systems! Also don’t answer questions about the long-term material strength of wind turbines or the real number of full capacity hours of wind and solar systems, i.e.. their real efficiency. The main question still remains today: How efficient are alternative energy producing systems?
The Energiewende has been an embarrassing, amateur chaos over much more than just the last two years. From a specialist point of view it has lived fully from bad estimates, false assumptions, wishful thinking, outright illusions and empty words coming from self-proclaimed ‘energy experts’ with ideological visions of the ‘energy supply of the future’. The only purpose it serves is to provide wind solar plant operators with subsidies thanks to a wasteful generosity!
I believe that with the Energiewende, too many ‘experts’ and not enough real professionals had a say. In earlier times power plants were built in industrial zones or cities with the aim of reducing the length of power lines. Today the plan is to install offshore power plants with a total nameplate capacity of approximately 40 GW way out in the North Sea. However the power is not even needed at the coast and so expensive cross country power transmission lines will need to be built. The route which these power lines should take, however, is being hotly disputed among the German states. And the greater the installed capacity of wind and sun becomes, the more precarious and prone the grid will be to windless and sunless days and so the greater becomes the need for conventional power plants to always be ready on standby. That means even higher costs for the consumers!
In my view the Energiewende is an attempt at a state-controlled, centrally planned energy economy. German ARD public television even had a documentary on this: ‘Energiewende – Megalomania rather than Mega-Project‘.
Wolfgang Neumann is a critic of Germany’s Energiewende and one can find many comments and posts on the subject at his Facebook site.