If there is anything that I can say about the German power grid, it is that power outages have been very rare since I’ve been here. But lately the ones that do occur seem to be doing so far more frequently, and there’s been a lot of talk about grid operators having to constantly intervene to prevent blackouts – something they rarely had to do 10 years ago.
Today T-Online news site here reports that areas near Cologne, Germany blacked out over the Easter weekend. Amusement park Phantasialand lost power three times – in 24 hours!
T-Online writes of “power chaos” as electricity went out for 45 minutes on Sunday and blacked out twice yesterday.
The cause of the outages is being attributed to “technical faults” and a “power supply error”. Parts of the Cologne area, for example the city of Bruhl where the power utility is located, also lost power.
There’s no indication that the erratic green energies such as wind and sun are behind the Easter weekend blackout. My guess is that in this case they are not because the weather conditions were quite stable and saw no spikes of any kind. Yet German blackouts seem to be occurring more frequently as the capacity of sun and wind increases.
Blackouts beoming more common
In 2005 a late November snowstorm across northern Germany caused power transmission towers to collapse under the weight of snow and ice, knocking out power for hours and even days in some regions.
In November 2006 a large part of Western Europe was blacked out as power giant E.on miscalculated on how to handle 10,000 megawatts of wind energy flowing through the power grid. The English Wikipedia page fails to mention anything about the wind energy.
In November 2012 the power in parts of Munich went out due to “a defective line”. Also read more here. Later a city utility spokesman said, “It is suspected to be a power spike that somehow got through.”
Last year again in Munich during the busy Friday morning rush hour the power for 20,000 households went out because of a blown transformer station.
Germany’s power supply has become far more erratic and uncontrollable lately. The power chart for the last two weeks shows the tremendous power spikes that Germany’s power grid had to endure during recent stormy weather.
The above chart shows a major and sudden power spike occurring on March 29 and a super spike that went off the chart on March 31 when a massive 76 gigawatts of wind power got uncontrollably fed in at 1 p.m. How the grid operators went about handling this may be the topic of a later post.
One thing is clear: the situation on Germany’s power grid has gotten far more unstable. German center-left/green weekly Die Zeit here conducted an interview with power expert Frank Umbach. When asked the question of how reliable the German power grid is, Umbach told Die Zeit:
The situation has gotten considerably worse. […] All risk assessments on supply stability show a worsening.”
Moreover Umbach tells Die Zeit that Germany narrowly missed “widespread outages” three times since the country shut down 8 nuclear power plants in 2011 and increased dependency on wind and solar power.