Having rejected nuclear power, Germany has embraced renewables to produce its electricity. Pouring hundreds of billions of euros into subsidies for wind and solar power, Germany's electricity cost is now among the highest in Europe. Germany's 23,000 wind turbines and millions of solar panels have a touted maximum capacity of 31 GW, equivalent to a quarter of Germany's average electricity demand, but renewables' actual output has averaged only about 5 GW. Makeup power (mostly from coal plants) must provide up to 29 GW on demand and scale output to meet renewables' deficit. The wind industry's emphasis on "capacity" obscures the fact that actual renewable power output is always much lower than 100 per cent of rated capacity. Actual output of a wind turbine varies with the cube of the wind speed, so when the wind speed drops to one-half, the power output drops to one-eighth.
Two major problems arise with such dependence upon renewables. First, it's difficult to maintain a constant, reliable electrical power supply, when fluctuating renewable output must be carefully balanced by conventional back-up power stations. Second, to maintain back-up power requires on-line fossil-fuel power plants to idle inefficiently and expensively on standby to compensate the variable output from renewables. This operation mode leads to elevated greenhouse emissions.
Nevertheless, subsidies are provided by Angela Merkel's government to achieve a goal of 35 percent of electricity from renewables with 43 percent of this share from solar. The power grid is increasingly at risk due to power transients. When power to a Hamburg aluminum factory failed, the plant shut down resulting in serious damage. To prevent such damage, energy-intensive German industries must now install their own power generators or leave Germany. German renewable energy suppliers have legal priority to produce power, so conventional power stations must operate unprofitably or cease operation. To prevent this, the German government threatens enacting laws to force fossil plants to operate at a loss if necessary.
Germany's drive for electrical power based upon renewables is turning into a disaster and Germany will not remain the economic force in Europe. Other nations considering a similar electrical power policy should watch Germany.
Gary M. Sandquist Salt Lake City
Gary M. Sandquist
Salt Lake City