As Germany moves to phase out coal power, more focus is being placed on relying on wind energy to fill in the gap.
Recently German business daily Handelsblatt here reported that despite the country adding more wind energy capacity, “the latest figures show that only a little wind power is available at any time.”
According to the German BWE wind energy group, 29,900 wind turbines are currently operating in the country with a total capcity of 56,000 megawatts. Wind energy makes up 18.8% of the country’s power supply.
But the Handelsblatt reports there are “glaring weaknesses” and that wind turbines cannot be relied on to deliver steady power when it’s needed.
According to Oliver Then, Managing Director of the VGB PowerTech Association, citing recent research results which the Handelsblatt has obtained: “The actual production figures show that the readily available wind power capacity in Germany is less than one percent of installed capacity.”
Back up absolutely necessary
According to the Handelsblatt, VGB PowerTech evaluated 2016 data from a number of European countries, and reports that the message is clear:
Even if the expansion of wind power progresses rapidly, there will always have to be back-up capacity, for example in the form of fossil power plants.”
VGB Director Oliver Then says that as more and more green energies get fed in, the less gas and fossil fuels plants operate, and thus making them no longer profitable. Yet they remain absolutely essential to keep the grid stable.
Can rely on neighboring countries?
Proponents of green energies who support a rapid fossil fuel phaseout insist that it can be done, and that Germany would only need to rely increasingly on a power supply from neighboring countries. When the wind is not blowing in Germany, power could be imported from another country where the wind is blowing.
But VGB Director Oliver Then says the data do not support this claim in any way, adding, “Power production is strongly synchronous over great distances.”
This means that if wind lacks in Germany, it often lacks in Poland as well and so neighbors cannot be relied on to provide electricity.
Pump storage not feasible
Pump storage as a way to store energy is also not feasible says Then, saying it would need to be increased 1000 fold, which would entail enormous costs. Then notes that periods of no wind extending two weeks are not uncommon in Germany.