Germany’s Wind Performance Was Just As Bad As Great Britain’s – Sun And Wind Are Often AWOL!

A couple of days ago we saw how wind power in Britain at one point had fallen to just a fraction of one percent in supplying national demand. The situation was hardly better in Germany.

The following chart provided by Wilfried Heck here shows Germany’s electric power consumption and the energy fed in by wind and sun for the period of 24 February to March 3rd.

Germany Power Consumption

Chart by Wilfried Heck. Date and time shown by horizontal axis, power by vertical axis.

The chart above shows the time period broken down into 656 fifteen-minute time intervals. The mean value of the total consumption (blue) is 57,595 MW. The total electrical energy consumed for the period depicted was 9,445,650 MW-hrs. However, wind and sun were only able to supply 6.22 % and 2.12 % respectively, thus yielding a total contribution of 8.34% over the entire period.

Peak demand for 2013 was 73.283 MW occurring on 24 January 2013 at 7 p.m. But at that time, the sun had long been below the horizon and was not able to contribute anything. Heck writes: “And the wind? With 31,300 MW of installed capacity, it was able to only feed in 1479.1 MW into the German grid, thus contributing a measly 2% share of the electric power supply.”

The chart clearly shows times when wind and sun energy were practical doing nothing. So when the sun doesn’t shine (which is more often than not in Germany) and when the wind isn’t blowing strongly, the country needs all the old power plants back on line. 200% capacity is needed to assure 100% supply, and this in relatively windy regions.

Moreover, when the sun does shine and/or the wind blows, conventional power plants end up operating at levels well below their optimum efficiency, and thus do very little to cut back on emissions.


26 responses to “Germany’s Wind Performance Was Just As Bad As Great Britain’s – Sun And Wind Are Often AWOL!”

  1. Juergen Uhlemann

    Sending energy from sun and wind direct into the grid will never work.

    The best case scenario is to put the energy into some form storage and use when needed and not when the sun shines or the wind blows. I believe the storage into some gas form is most likely the better solution.

    It’s all about storage or the sun and wind will cause in the end an impact that we will regret. That would be a real man made problem.

    1. DirkH

      I agree that synthesizing Methane would be the best storage. Yet I am also of the opinion that whoever wants to do that should fund it by himself and demonstrate that he has an economic solution. IF the peak fossil fuel crowd is right, his solution will automatically conquer the market.

      1. Asmilwho

        I’ve borrowed the following argument from somewhere else, but I can’t remeber where so I can’t post a link. It goes like this:

        Outside of the laboratory, industrial processes are unlikely to achieve more than 70% efficiency but let’s run with this figure.

        Now imagine an industrial process:

        1. Use “renewable” energy to create a gas and store it. Maybe you just electrolyse water.
        2. Some time later, set fire to gas and create steam
        3. Use steam to drive turbine and generate electricity

        Each of these steps runs at 70 % efficiency meaning you get out 70% x 70% x.70% = 34.3% of what you put in.

        In other words, this isn’t energy storage but rather a complicated way of heating the environment through waste heat.

        1. Juergen Uhlemann

          However, as long as people use a ton give or take (car) to transport about 100kg give or take (1 person) from A to B (<5km) this whole calculation is not very helpful.
          We waste a lot without thinking!
          One day 34.3% might be better than nothing at all.
          On the other hand, I think there is room for improvement. Just look back how much energy we got out of fuel in the past and how much we get out today.

          1. Juergen Uhlemann

            One more thing. I went into town and back (walking) to buy something and I looked at the trees.
            Q: How many years need a tree grow (energy input) to get a certain energy out?
            What’s the efficiency?

          2. DirkH

            Photosynthesis has about 7% efficiency.

          3. Bernd Felsche

            Photosynthetic efficiency is highly variable. And that efficiency is only to produce the starch, sugar and lipids in the plant; not a fuel that is for “general use”.

            Even Wonkypedia documents that it’s rather dismal. As low as 0.1% efficiency to the biofuel.

  2. BobW in NC

    Bottom line: wind and solar are NOT dependable sources of energy for wide-spread use, period. Point of use, possibly, but not otherwise.

    Not only do such data sets as the one above show this point clearly, but it only stands to reason to begin with. Neither sun nor wind are a constant, nor can they be used to meet peak demands. What astonishes me is how any thinking individual could believe that they are some sort of “manna” and salvation from fossil fuels.

    Minor point, but just curious. Am I looking at the grid load chart correctly? It almost looks as though there is a loose correlation between consumption and wind/sun feed-in supply.

    1. Mindert Eiting

      I remember one case proposed by a Dutch engineer to use windmills to pump water in one of our polders and use that bassin to generate hydroelectric power. You need polders or lakes (like batteries) to achieve this. For the remainder I am not very experienced on the subject.

      1. Bernd Felsche

        Hydro-electric only works properly with a sizeable “head” where the source of water is many metres above the turbines. Everything else is a “toy”; that consumes more energy in its construction and maintenance than what it produces — even when counting on the water not freezing in the reservoir.

        The Dutch engineer needs a new calculator. There’s a serious scale problem. The Netherlands would have to become a single polder; surrounded by dukes at least 50 metres high.

        IIRC, Germany on 100% renewable would need a pumped storage the volume of Lake Constance; raised by 1000 metres to store enough energy to fill the hole in demand left unfilled by regular lulls in wind. After you’ve dealt with the practicalities of locating somewhere suitable, you also need to figure out where you will be dumping that volume of water over 9 to 14 days.

        When it gets windy again, you also need to have enough “spare” wind power capacity and water volume to pump up the storage again … for the next lull; a week later.

        1. Mindert Eiting

          Thanks Bernd. This may be the reason the plan of our engineer was never realized (near Amsterdam in the Markerwaard of all places).

          1. DirkH

            David Mackay has numbers for hypothetical construction of pumped hydro storage to power the UK.

          2. Rich Lentz

            Perhaps they should pump the water out to sea with wind and then let it flow back in through hydro generators when they need electricity.

    2. Ed Caryl

      Of course there is a loose correlation. Consumption is high during the day when everyone is awake and active, and the sun is shining. When the wind is blowing, there is higher heat loss from buildings, so there is additional load for heating.

  3. Leo Smith

    Understand the real issues stripped of hand waving nonsense.

    1. Josh


      Thankyou very much for sharing this, it was a pleasure to read. Coming to this site always provides me with some relief – relief that there are sensible, rational people out there who are willing to challenge popular beliefs and misconceptions about climate and energy, and to lay out the facts.


  4. Francis Massen

    I guess that there are still people in Germany’s plant builder’s aware the problem with renewables; the updated numbers of the BNA (Bundesnetzagentur) on the new to be built and to be shut down power plants is very eloquent: the balance for the period 2013 to 2015 is +7.5 GW more fossil fuel using plants. See my very short comment here

  5. Mike

    In the mean time in the UK, large scale photo electric seems to be gearing up fast. I know of several sites locally where acres of good quality arible land is being given over to farming green electricity subsidies. I’d rather the solar energy continued to be harvested and stored more conventionally, by being used to grow food, that can be stored for future use, like next winter.

  6. Josh

    The drive toward a future based entirely on so-called ‘renewables’ is a pre-planned disaster for any country foolish enough to embrace it. One can only hope that reason and sanity will prevail.

  7. mwhite

    Today 6th March

    “MPs have agreed new subsidies for burning wood and plants in the UK’s power stations.”

    “An all-party scrutiny committee agreed new payments for renewable energy – including palm oil.”

    1. mwhite
  8. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That?

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