German Renewable Energy Keeps Blacking Out! Supply Often Less Than 2% Of Wintertime Demand

My last post featured a commentary by renewable energy expert Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt, who forcefully conveyed the folly of Germany’s mad rush into renewable energy, and the country’s hysterical obsession with its suicidal fast-track shutdown of its stable base-electric-power generation.

What follows are German electrical power supply charts that clearly illustrate in no uncertain terms Prof. Vahrenholt’s points. To show just how unreliable wind and sun really are, the first chart shows Germany’s power production, broken down according to the respective sources, over the last 3 and half days:

Agora last 3 days

Power generation Germany vs date/time. Source:
Dark blue – conventional power (fossil and nuclear)
Medium blue – wind
Yellow – solar
Green – biomass

Note how there has been a virtual blackout by sun and wind since December 3 as Germany’s weather has been dismally gray and windless over the period. Such conditions are not uncommon in Europe and can persist for 2 weeks or more.

Note how there are times when sun and wind combined were less tha 2% of the needed supply. Unfortunately, power utilities simply cannot call Mother Nature up and place orders for power days in advance. They have to just take what Mother Nature sends, whether they want it or not, and German law says they have to pay for it even when they do not feed it in.

Supply havoc for no benefit

What follows next is a chart depicting Germany’s power supply from each energy source over an entire year (sorry about the suboptimal quality of the graphics).

Agora 1 year jpeg

Here we see that especially in the summertime both wind and sun can make a major contribution. But once again their wildly fluctuating supply creates havoc and problems that far outweigh any “benefit” the theoretical, imperceptible 0.02 or so degrees of less warming the planet might see over the next 30 years.

Large-scale exodus of Germany-based industry looms

And when the sun does shine and the wind blows many conventional power plants have to be throttled down to near idle, but can never be shut down because they have to be ready to fire up again as soon as the sun and wind diminish. This means these conventional power plants often run very inefficiently and highly uneconomically. So it’s little wonder E.ON is ditching the loss-making business of forced part-time power plant operation and going to renewable energies where profit is guaranteed by government mandated subsidies.

And with a power supply that is becoming exceedingly unstable and exorbitantly expensive, energy intensive industries are gearing to move operations, and the thousands of jobs they provide, out of Germany and over to foreign locations where electricity is affordable and reliable.

Large-scale storage technology still pie-in-the-sky

And does one see the pump storage (Pumpenspeicher) contribution in the above chart whenever the sun and wind go AWOL?

Of course we don’t. That’s because there is none to speak of in Germany. Yet, this is one of the main solutions that the government energy masterminds propose in order to compensate for windless and sunless periods. It still has not sunk into their heads that this amount of pump storage capacity is a technical impossibility in Germany, even with massive terra-altering. Never mind the economic unfeasibility of the idea.

The question remains: After Germany shuts down its remaining nuclear power and coal-fire plants, what will the country do when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow?

That question has yet to be answered.


32 responses to “German Renewable Energy Keeps Blacking Out! Supply Often Less Than 232 Of Wintertime Demand”

  1. Frederick Colbourne

    Economic suicide anyone?

  2. Stephen Richards

    Long before all their major industries have left they will wake up and change direction. The problem will be during the transition back to nuclear and fossils driven power. That will be a period of great industrial stress both from the power supply and the workers.

    1. DirkH

      *NO* industry leaves (besides the American-owned, like Government Motors in Bochum). They will rather storm the Bundestag with chainsaws.

      (In practice, they work a little bit more subtle.)

      Germany has two power factions: The banksters who are just fine with the Petrodollar, the Euro and the NATO/Atlantikbrücke puppet politicians; and the industrialists who are *NOT ENTIRELY SATISFIED* with the warmongering against Russia – as more than 3000 German companies work in Russia.

      They want blood. And quick.

      1. DirkH

        And of course, I said Russia, that’s where 40% of our gas comes from, it all fits through the Northstream pipeline, and that’s what keeps the lights on, that and lignite and a little bit of Australian/US import coal.

        1. Jeff

          I’m a tad worried about the one they just “cancelled”, and their change in strategy (if the mainscream media is to be believed at all)…

          Seems we’re going from blackout to “greenout”, in circles, as it were.
          To paraphrase an irritating bumper sticker, no nukes is bad news….
          There has to be a solution including nuclear.

          Also wondering what happened to that “cold fusion” that the Italian fellow was working on…

          Sigh…the only thing more depressing than the grey weather right now is the greens…

          1. DirkH

            Southstream was mostly important for Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria.

            I looked – capacity of NorthStream is exactly sufficient for all gas Germany receives from Russia, capacity-wise.

            BTW, Turkey will now act as the intermediary and feed the gas into the transadriatic pipeline that ends in Greece. So Southern Europe will pay more. Bulgaria? They got some fresh NATO fighter squadrons, I guess that might have been a factor in Putin’s decision. Maybe their president wasn’t keen on an assassination and caved to NATO/EU commission.

  3. Curious George

    After Germany shuts down its remaining nuclear power and coal-fire plants, what will the country do? It will build new coal-fired plants. It has started already.

  4. John F. Hultquist

    You write: “. . . energy intensive industries are gearing to move operations, and the thousands of jobs they provide, out of Germany . . .

    In case anyone needs an example:

    from May, 2014
    MOSES LAKE — By early next year, drawn by the cheap and renewable hydroelectricity of Eastern Washington, this state will have “the largest carbon-fiber plant on Earth,” a German executive leading the project said Friday.

    I think these are the Lat/Long from Google Earth:
    47.20952, -119.286044

    1. Jeff

      Ouch…that’s gotta hurt. If Merkel is a Physics/Chemistry Ph.D., the significance of that project and the carbon-fiber product(s) won’t be lost on her. The related industries, might, however…from innovation to consternation…thanks, Greens…

    2. DirkH

      John: That’s SGL Carbon, they announced that in 2010 already. There’s nothing more energy intensive than making carbon fibres, so naturally you’d do that in Iceland or Washington but not so much in Germany if you want to produce bulk.

      Also, situation for aluminum smelters and copper affineries looks dicey in Germany.

      But that’s about it.

  5. Josh

    Dr. Gunther Keil warned of these problems in a report released at the end of 2011. Technically speaking, the points he raised seem rather obvious and yet appear to be lost on the government and a Greens-leaning middle class.

  6. Kees Vanderpool

    On the top graph, the 75 GW line is just about the installed nameplate capacity of wind+solar, neatly illustrating the pitiful amount of GWhours generated by all these windmills and PV installations. The last few days were particularly bad but by no means an exception.

    Looking at the hard numbers of Frauenhofer IWES over the past few years, even the most obtuse of greenlings should realize by now that wind+solar is not the way to go.
    Industrial scale storage is a pipe dream. Even if it were available, the number of W+S installations to generate the terawatt-hours to supply current demand + windless/sunless days/nights would be astronomical.

    My bet: nuclear power plants will not be turned off as planned and lignite/coal will be used for electricity generation for a long time to come. ‘E-OFF’ may turn out to be an excellent investment.

    1. DirkH

      “even the most obtuse of greenlings should realize by now that wind+solar is not the way to go.”

      For months now the Greens concentrate on demanding limitless immigration of North African refugees. They have extricated themselves from any energy or environment debate, and are not a player in that field anymore. Their remaining voters have no interest in energy but in destroying society. Green energy was one of the weapons. Now, as the main bloc parties SPD + CDU have outgreened the Greens in that regard, the Greens attack society on the immigration front.

  7. mwhite

    Things will probably not change until “the green leaning middle class” start feeling the pain. The government will start to blame the power companies but finaly they’ll have to descide, coal or no coal. And where are those shale gas fields?

    1. DirkH

      Greens are reduced to their core clientele of about 7 %. These are mostly teachers, social workers etc mostly in state pay.

      They are therefore isolated from reality, the market economy, rationality, and have a closed Frankfurt School type Weltanschauung. They will not be swayed by considerations so profane as how energy can actually be produced.

      1. mwhite

        They may have something to say when there is no power to charge their Iphones and electric cars.

        Another thought – if the industrial flight leads to a big reduction in tax revenue will the German government borrow more than is good for Germany or will there be cuts affecting those who are isolated from reality?

        1. DirkH

          “if the industrial flight leads to a big reduction in tax revenue will the German government”

          It is easier to exchange the government than to move a thousand factories.

          “will the German government borrow more than is good for Germany”

          The top politicians might be drugged blackmailed NATO marionettes but the Bundestag and Bundesrat have legislated the Schuldenbremse, an absolut edict to enforce a balanced budget.

          So NO they WON’T because they CAN’T. NATO cannot blackmail and assassinate 1000+ MP’s and Bundesrat members.

        2. Lawrie Ayres

          One would hope so. The trouble with leftists here in Australia is that like their German comrades they are employed in the non- productive sector; academics, teachers (who don’t teach maths nor English but do teach climate change and other leftist propaganda) and various other parasites who live off the taxpayer. The productive sector is finding it ever harder to stay in business and are either shifting to China or India or partnering with companies in those countries. We are fast becoming a nation of coffee shops and shoddy art galleries.

  8. German Renewable Energy Keeps Blacking Out | Petrossa's Blog

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  9. Jeff Todd

    I think E-On are hedging their bets by splitting in two (renewable and conventional); should subsidies suddenly end or the eco-madness increase, then neither company will pull the other down. I reckon more will follow this model simply to survive.

  10. John F. Hultquist

    A general comment, but also sort of a reply to Dirk at 1:20

    Regarding BMW & SGL: Yes, the initial work was in 2010 – and there are a few hundred jobs here. Not thousands.
    There has already been one expansion. This article is from 2014 and about the 2nd expansion. I do not see where the initial raw material is sourced but Mitsubishi supplies the polyacrylonitrile (? from petroleum, natural gas), Columbia River Dams provide electricity, product goes to Seattle by truck, then to Germany by ship, and some of the finished cars will be shipped back to the US. This suggests the cost of electricity is important in the planning. There is no reason for BMW/SGL to be in central Washington other than the electricity. The German economists will have detailed spreadsheets projected well into the future with the assumption that the gap in cost of electricity will remain. “Will remain” is the important thing. The E.ON announcement of a few days ago seems, also, to suggest long term planning based on struggles and costs in Germany’s electrical systems.
    A footnote: Washington’s inexpensive hydro power and the aluminum industry grew interdependently from the 1940s. About 30 years ago that stalled and the industry declined. Now the cloud-server “farms” of internet related companies are taking advantage of that power, including Microsoft, Dell, Yahoo, and others. Interestingly, the companies have installed diesel generators for “emergency” backup electrical power. This has created issues not foreseen when the companies arrived.

    1. DirkH

      “That is when Microsoft threatened to waste tremendous amounts of power by simply running giant heaters for no purpose, according to utility officials who said they were briefed on the matter by Microsoft, unless the penalty was largely forgiven. The idea was to burn the power fast enough to move closer to the forecast before year’s end. ”

      I like how the writer of the article is totally insulted by this perfectly rational thinking of Microsoft. If the law gives a perverse incentive, it’s the fault of the law.

    2. DirkH

      One of the ironies is that the extremely energy-intensive fabrication of carbon fibers is what is needed to build the desired lightweight car bodies for the future electric car fleet – which need to be very lightweight so one can drop an ultra heavy Lithium battery into them… I like all of this. It’s so amusingly crazy.

      1. John F. Hultquist

        Agreed. Got popcorn . . .?

  11. Doug Proctor

    The eco-green might suggest that the graph of renewables only shows that there isn’t enough (gross) of them, that if the amount were pushed up the variability would stay the same, but the bottom-end would be in an acceptable range. That is certainly consistent with the arguments I have heard.

    I suspect, however, that the top and bottom end would increase as well, the internal variability. That the top would be 100% useful, but intermittently it would drop to zero.

    A plot of variability around a mean would tell the tale, i.e. 3X to nil would show up. The amount of faceplate capacity would be irrelevant when the amount coming off is zero.

    1. John F. Hultquist

      You write: “top would be 100% useful” … and so on.
      Aye, there’s the rub.
      How does an economy provide for base load? No investor owned company can keep coal, gas, or nukes on standby just in case they are needed. Thus, E.ON splits and lets those baseload functions deteriorate. Regular investors find better places to get a return. Then base load units are nationalized – tax payers become owners and operate at a loss. Good plan!

  12. Streetcred

    Solar and wind generators should be required to feed in constant energy to the grid … make it their responsibility to ensure that they have the generation mix to guarantee supply and pre-determined levels.

  13. Robert curry

    As far as electric CARS go, much of the BATTERY WEIGHT is offset by the savings incurred by eliminating the very heavy fossil fueled ENGINE, torque converter/clutch and multi speed TRANSMISSION, since the similarly performing ELECTRIC drivetrain, in addition to vastly greater efficiency, needs no transmission or clutch, and similar horsepower is readily obtained from a MUCH LIGHTER, and smaller, motor! Acceleration of electric cars can be astounding, as evidenced by the “Performance Version” of the new, 2014 TESLA 4 door, 4 wheel drive sedan, at only THREE SECONDS for zero to 60 mph, a feat very FEW if any cars in, or below, its price range can match! Battery pricing is todays major stumbling block, both for electric vehicles and energy storage, but as the time goes by, battery performance AND pricing is slowly changing for the better! Present top performing cars have range in the 150-250 mile category, at realistic USA highway speeds, but future vehicles can be expected to break the 300 mile barrier, with better batteries! Most of us cannot make our own fuel for gasoline/diesel at home, but wind and solar give the opportunity to “Make your own vehicle fuel” to many homeowners! EVENTUALLY, vehicles may have batteries permitting great enough storage capacity, that the VEHICLES can be integrated into natural power solar/wind systems as buffers and storage banks, by owners programming them to permit a portion of battery capacity to be utilized in such a manner!

    1. DirkH

      “can be integrated into natural power solar/wind systems as buffers and storage banks, by owners programming them to permit a portion of battery capacity to be utilized in such a manner!”

      Ah, adorable. Listen, kid: A kWh that you pump into a Li-Ion battery, to later get it out again, costs you about 1 Euro (or 1.25 USD); taking the number of charging cycles of the Li-Ion battery into account – they don’t last forever. Whether you paid 5 cent or 25 cent for the kWh in the first place – or, I don’t know, about 20 cent if you made it with your own PV installation (which you paid for, and that cost pays for a limited production over a limited number of years), is in fact a minor cost factor.

      *NO* electric car owner will waste his battery’s lifetime just to help the grid along – so you will AGAIN have to pay him for it with tax payer money – ANOTHER destructive effect on the economy.

      And that’s what you want because your teacher told you that capitalism needs to be destroyed.

    2. Arsten

      It’s true. Electric cars replacing combustion engines would be grand, as it’s a lot easier and more efficient to get electricity moved around than liquid fuel. But the problem getting there is multifold:

      * How do you convert from pretty much 100% private sector businesses of all sizes that run the huge number of fuel stations to a heavily regulated electricity system without horrible consequences on the economy? Very slowly and at the rate the market can bear.

      * How do you negate the deleterious environmental effects of lithium ion battery production? We don’t really have much better technology on tap for future release, the best I’ve seen is on the order of 2-7% with a few infant technologies with WAGs in the 25% range (which probably won’t pan out. Technology in research is never as good as what they say to get grant money.)

      * Where will the extra energy to fuel all of these cars come from? We will get SOME (not much) from solar — but solar doesn’t make sense outside of areas that are subjected to a majority of sun. Wind has niche areas that it’s useful — and those aren’t the areas most of them get stuck into. You may not realize how much electricity we would need. In the US, alone, we burn roughly 134.51 billion gallons of gas a year and 40 billion gallons of diesel a year. If you convert that to electrical content (33.4 kWh/gallon gas), that’s 4.49 Trillion kWh of electricity a year in gas and 1.18 Trillion kWh of electricity a year in diesel (29.39 kWh/gallon). For reference, our generation capacity (including S/W nameplates) was 4.1 Trillion kWh in 2012. We can’t even cover the electrical needs of our cars assuming we use nothing for anything else.

      There are a lot of other issues, too, including the construction and mining industries being too-far from power as a common situation. Electrically run vehicles will be good when we can get there, but they are a long way off simply because of the realites of the situation.

      1. Lawrie Ayres

        Thank you for a profound explanation of the electrical needs of a car fleet. You have put it in perspective.

  14. jmdesp

    The trouble with pumped storage in Germany is actually far from only being that there’s not enough of it, it’s *also* that renewables actually make it uneconomic. There was several projects for new units, they have been canceled, the existing units have a hard time making money.
    How is this possible ? Well, if you look carefully actually the overproduction from renewable is usually a short peak of very strong production, and then a much longer period of underproduction. This is actually very hard to store efficiently in pumped storage, you’d need a high capacity to store the full amount of the peak, and then a very large storage to keep it long enough. In real life, there’s not enough capacity to store everything, and the amount stored is quickly emptied, leading to a long, unproductive wait for another production peak.
    Also it’s highly unpredictable both when the peak will come and how long it will last. So it’s hard to take the decision to fill the reservoir at the right moment, when price will be lowest. Comparatively nuclear is regular as a clockwork. Every night there would be too much power, and every noon and early evening not enough. It’s massively easier for pumped storage to earn money with nuclear than with renewable.

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