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Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the now-imagine-if-solar-and-nuclear-worked-together dept.

Power 461

assertation (1255714) writes with this interesting tidbit from Reuters about the state of solar power in Germany: German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour — equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity — through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said. The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

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And soon controlled by The Nest (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315371)

Technology has been impinging on far too many aspects of our lives, and one place where you have to be careful is the automated home. Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I prefer physical controls over virtual ones. This is especially true when it comes to turning off the lights in the kitchen.

My home doesn't need automation. If there was a robot that would straighten out my office and vacuum rugs and dust and re-arrange the bookshelves, then I'd be all in. As long as the device wasn't hooked to the Internet to be reprogrammed by some misanthropic engineer who would find it amusing to have the robot trash the house.

There is no such robot and none on the horizon, nor any free lunches, not even at Google.

Opinions The Internet is part of the problem. In the case of home automation, it is particularly frightening. You know that once an automation system is established and can be operated remotely online, then someone will hack the system and make a lot of people miserable.

Ever since Google bought Nest, this is the first thing I think of.

This week at Google I/O, the company might brag about Nest, and show some fakakta Web interface to turn off lights you may have left on. These devices will be hooked to Google Central so your habits can be studied. Thus you can be delivered targeted advertising.

You all know what targeted advertising is, right? It's those genius ads that show up all over the place trying to sell you a product you already bought. Yeah, those ads.

I have toyed with various attempts at home automation since before the X10 standard. It's always been about spending dollars to save pennies. The Nest Thermostat is a classic example. It is indeed a cool product that is nothing more than a remotely programmable on-off switch that costs $250. If China decided to produce the same thing, it would be $20.

The idea is that you can program it and it can learn and it can maximize energy and save money and save the environment and on and on. It's also cool looking and shows that you are a conspicuous consumer for owning one. Only geeks will program them to any extreme and the real amount of money saved will be nil. At the end of the day it's just another over-priced, cool-looking gizmo for bored geeks who will claim they actually "love" the device.

This is just the beginning for Google, though. The real target is the full home automation market, which does indeed exist. It targets large unmanageable McMansions found in the suburbs of Dallas and Atlanta. You know, the palatial multi-story homes built in a subdivision on postage stamp sized lots. You generally fly over them while landing at the airport and wonder who in their right minds would buy a place like this.

Answer: home automation suckers.

Home automation has been around since 1975 yet has never become a mass market phenomenon. Frankly, this is because it is a pain in the arse. Companies like Google, whose executives live in a dream world of their own creation, tend to drift into thinking that everyone wants this crap.

My home automation is more average and typical of the American public. It consists of yelling, "Hey, it's freezing in here, can someone turn on the heater?" That usually results in the other end of the transaction yelling, "Get up and turn it on yourself!"

This is real voice command and generally better understood than anything Google will develop. Other commands include. "Can't anyone turn off any lights in this house?" "Who left the water boiling on the stove?" "The dog needs food!" and the classic, "Did anyone get the mail?"

This is real home automation.

The real problem with all this Nest malarkey will come once these systems are on the net-the so-called "Internet of things." Once they start getting hacked there will be no stopping it. Nobody will be bothering to update the devices to block unwanted access-until they come home in the middle of summer with all the heaters on full blast, the lights flashing on and off, and the coffee pot on fire.

This is exactly where this all leads. And it only evolves to this because people are too lazy to get up and turn off some lights or set a thermostat.

A Damn Fine Statement (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#47315799)

"If there was a robot that would straighten out my office and vacuum rugs and dust and re-arrange the bookshelves"

It's ironic, the only thing holding this up is the power supply.

Re:A Damn Fine Statement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47316157)

LOL really? How naively optimistic!

Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (5, Informative)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 4 months ago | (#47315385)

I've seen headlines elsewhere that just say "Germany Now Gets Half Its Power from Solar". "Now" is misleading in that context.

This is a noteworthy milestone, and a good sign, but let's not exaggerate it.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (2)

Motard (1553251) | about 4 months ago | (#47315501)

What does 22GW look like? If all of the collectors and ancillary equipment were in the same place, how many acres would the facility be?

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (5, Funny)

BobNET (119675) | about 4 months ago | (#47315639)

What does 22GW look like?

About 18.2 De Loreans.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315693)

Can you provide a citation that gigawatts and jiggawatts are the same thing?

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (3, Informative)

raburton (1281780) | about 4 months ago | (#47315867)

yes - http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.co... [nytimes.com]
(via wikipedia)

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 4 months ago | (#47315945)

Which is cheaper?

For looks I'd prefer the De Loreans.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#47315699)

What does 22GW look like?

About 18 of these [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (2, Informative)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 4 months ago | (#47315735)

In the US, on average, 61,6 acres.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (4, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 4 months ago | (#47315529)

Is it a good sign? Why? It is my understanding that Germany has passed the point where solar makes any sense.

Solar tends to be expensive in relation to other electrical sources. The only reason why German has so much solar is because of expensive subsides from the government - which I would argue could be spent better on improving the efficiencies on the user side..

Also, adding more solar won't cut down on C02 emissions. Solar power is variable and in Germany is backstopped by coal power plants. Coal power plants in standby mode still chomp though a fair bit of coal, so adding more solar is not going to help there.

Of course, all of what I am saying is based on how things are today. I hope and believe that tomorrow's technology will address these issues. But for today..

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315701)

"Expensive" is very different from "too expensive". Some countries (probably most of them other than America) value things other than money. Things like "not risking dying from radiation sickness" and "not poisoning the world for future generations" are often high on that list.

I'm actually quite pro-nuclear, but I'm even more for safer, renewable sources. Nuclear is a stopgap, and if we can push enough research to improve alternative technologies (which is starting to happen "thanks" to things like Fukushima) and just leapfrog it that would be great. Even if it's expensive.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (5, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 4 months ago | (#47315933)

No, expensive is expensive when there are cheaper and better options available.

If I can cut a ton of carbon emissions by switching to solar for a $40 subsidy or by adding insulation to an attic for $20 why chose the more expensive option? Why not opt for more wind power or more efficient appliances? I have found that many Greens focus on feel good actions instead of focusing on the cold hard results. Actions (and money) is spent on nice sounding projects with mushy ill-defined goals and measurements.

In particular, why spend money subsidizing solar if adding more solar is not going to reduce carbon emissions or other issues with coal? Now you are just burring money for no good reasons. In Germany's case, it implies that money needs to be spent in other areas such as upgrading the power grid to efficiently use the solar and wind power that they already currently have.

This is one of the reasons why I advocate a carbon tax. Or, if you have a different concern, tax & regulate that.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315981)

It's a stop gap in the sense that it's there until somebody makes fusion power practical. But, the bottom line here is that you need something to provide base production of electricity. Right now, you've got coal, hydroelectric, natural gas and a few others that are viable now. Hydroelectric is great if you happen to have the luxury of damming up rivers, the others all have a greater impact on the environment than nuclear does.

Also, you're not very pro-nuclear if you're suggesting that the risk of dieing from radiation sickness is large for anybody that doesn't actually work at the reactor. It's certainly much lower than the risk of dieing from the results of coal plants. Coal plant emissions killed more people during the first half 20th century than Nuclear has in total.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (3, Informative)

Layzej (1976930) | about 4 months ago | (#47316137)

In Germany citizens and co-ops own about half of the solar capacity. So it is the average tax payer who both pays for and benefits from the subsides. It represents a real democratization of the energy market. "Not only has energy production in Germany been pried from the hands of the “Big Four,” namely the four utility giants that had dominated the German energy market, but it is now also radically decentralized." - http://climatecrocks.com/2014/... [climatecrocks.com]

It is amazing what they have achieved. Especially in the face of doubters who predicted rolling brown outs that never materialized. The next revolution needs to come in storage. I'm optimistic.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315575)

In a follow up story, Germany experiences country-wide blackouts from the hours of 8pm and 6am.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (2)

gnick (1211984) | about 4 months ago | (#47315739)

Simply solved: Just ban people from turning on their lights when it's dark.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (2)

remus.cursaru (1423703) | about 4 months ago | (#47315583)

"Now" is misleading when the article is 2 years old?

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (2)

aliquis (678370) | about 4 months ago | (#47316017)

"Now" is misleading when the article is 2 years old?

lol :D

Oh well, more recently they hit 74% with all renewable energy combined:
http://thinkprogress.org/clima... [thinkprogress.org]

Maybe the 50% is correct for this year or other pages have just picked up the hype and not checked the sources or noticed the dates either.
http://www.thelocal.de/2014061... [thelocal.de]
http://www.forbes.com/sites/qu... [forbes.com]

Did I Fucking Love Science got it wrong?
http://www.iflscience.com/tech... [iflscience.com]

More 2012:
http://www.marketwatch.com/sto... [marketwatch.com]
I can't see a year here:
http://theweek.com/speedreads/... [theweek.com]

Anyway, even if it has happened recently too it's less impressive when it has already been done more than 2 years ago..

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#47316217)

lol :D

Oh well, more recently they hit 74% with all renewable energy combined: http://thinkprogress.org/clima... [thinkprogress.org]

Maybe the 50% is correct for this year or other pages have just picked up the hype and not checked the sources or noticed the dates either.

This includes wind, the slashdot article is only talking solar. I am less impressed by so called achievement of briefly generating a large percentage of the country's demand at a period of very low demand after spending hundreds of billions of euros than you are. That they are even spending more to build coal plants to make up for the unreliability is even less impressive when one looks at the actual goal of reducing carbon. I suppose if momentary bursts of power output were the goal, it would be a rousing success story.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (4, Informative)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#47315607)

produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour — equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity

And for the entire week, those same solar cells produced the equivalent of about 3 or 4 nuclear stations. For a week in mid-winter, it is more like the equivalent of 2 nuclear stations. Luckily, they have their new coal plants that are cranked up when the solar is not producing for a large portion of the day.

As of 2011, Germany had already spent over 100 billion Euros subsidizing solar. This level of subsidization could easily produce over 20 nuclear plants and would basically end the further need for carbon free electrical energy spending, while offsetting much more carbon in a shorter period of time. Not to mention the vast economic benefits to the country from supplying a majority of the plant components versus buying from Asia. But, Germany will continue to spend even more, sending vast sums of money to Asia in efforts to just 'keep up', while their electricity prices continue to skyrocket, resulting in higher costs for business and manufacturing.

Apart from the low lattitude band of land where the solar conditions are optimal, a combination of wind, gas, and nuclear is the most effective and practical approach to significantly reduce carbon emmissions. If you are one who is against nuclear no matter what, then wind and gas are the next best option. In all cases, energy efficiency improvement investment is signfiicantly undervalued in terms of carbon reduction return. Alas, many will still prefer the green badge of solar honor over the practical solutions.

This article spells it out as well, albiet with over-use of negative adjectives. The facts are correct;

In 2012 Germany had one third of the world's solar panels, and at one point these panels generated over half of Germany's electricity demand. This is how things are normally put. But it as rather like talking about a third rate golfer and only referring to the time he almost won the US Masters. Yes, Germany got 50% of its electricity from solar one afternoon. Throughout the year it only produced 5%. The 5% is what really matters. The 50% gets all the headlines.

And solar is an awful source of energy in a country as cloudy and as far north as Germany. Electricity has to be available when we want it. Germans, like many Europeans, most want the stuff around 6 pm on a cold Winter evening. This is an incredibly reliable peak in demand. Yet, the electricity supplied by Germany's solar panels at 6 pm on a cold December is also incredibly reliable: zero

http://theenergycollective.com... [theenergycollective.com]

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315819)

Around here, in the peak Winter, the Sun is fully set around 4pm. Germany is more North than here, so solar power must be mostly useless during the Winter if they have a 6pm peak usage.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (1)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#47315947)

To be fair, that also depends on your longitude within your time zone. Just going from one end to the other of a typical time zone is an hour's difference on any day of the year, and can be worse if time zones are extended too far from their central longitude. I've lived mostly at the same longitude most of my life, in the center of a time zone. The one year when I lived half a time zone east, I was surprised how early the sun came up, even with it only being a half hour difference.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315891)

"And for the entire week, those same solar cells produced the equivalent of about 3 or 4 nuclear stations. For a week in mid-winter, it is more like the equivalent of 2 nuclear stations."

PV energy in mid winter is no where near the 50% you mention. Last winter nov, dec, jan are about 10% of the production may,jun, jul and that was without any snow covering the cells.

BTW I'm not living in Germany and installed my PV without any subsidy incentive, it just makes sense to install them even at a latitude of Berlin, even with current kWh prices if you have the money to spare.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (2, Insightful)

ZeroPly (881915) | about 4 months ago | (#47315915)

We have more than enough people telling us how difficult things are and how we shouldn't try - yours is just another voice in that cacophony.

What we need are people who tell us how to make it work. Nuclear plants might be necessary for a very long time, but they should be secondary to renewable sources.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#47316125)

If we develop great leaps in energy storage technology, the game changes and we can shift largely to wind. We can and should continue to work on such things, be we can't depend on those happening when we have nothing on the table right now that suggests success is likely any time soon.

A balance of ther right sources makes sense. There will always be differing opiniond on where to strike that balance and how much we should be willing to pay. But I think its pretty clear which sources make the most sense to choose from.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47316005)

Germany took the bold step to actually pump some money into renewables - good for them. When demand for coal outstrips supply by a large margin we're going to be up shit creek without a paddle, paying through the ass for some burny rocks from abroad. When that happens Germany is going to be laughing at us because we were too busy regulating solar out of business and buying all the aforementioned burny rocks from abroad.

It's one thing to not be stupid and buy into overhyped renewables, it's another thing to legislate and lobby against them because Mr Coal paid for your politician. Solar panels seem stupid right up to the point the power goes out...then they seem really neat.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | about 4 months ago | (#47316211)

a combination of wind, gas, and nuclear is the most effective and practical approach to significantly reduce carbon emmissions

Wind and nuclear I understand, but how does gas significantly reduce carbon emmissions? Isn't it still burning stuff and thus producing CO2? How is gas better than coal in this respect?

I've got a 4x10^26 Watt fusion reactor, bitch! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 4 months ago | (#47315615)

Surely the fine summary should read "The German government decided to abandon nuclear fission power".
Sounds like they're finally starting to figure out how to make fusion work economically.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 4 months ago | (#47315645)

"Now" is misleading in that context.

More than just misleading unless the headline was written at the moment it was true. 50% for a few moments when the sun was at its peak is great, don't mean to rain on the solar parade, so to speak. But if it was 50% for a few minutes on a cloudless day in Summer when the Sun was at its highest in the sky... then the stories are lacking a critical piece of information to judge the overall progress towards greener energy... Like what is the actual percentage of power over a realistic period of time? So, what was the percentage over the past month or last month for instance?

All I've heard so far is that they have primarily replaced nuclear power with coal which is a terrible situation for the environment and health. And it appears that Merkel is basically covering up the fact that the knee jerk reaction to eliminate nuclear power has been an environmental disaster with very real negative health, environmental and Climate change effects all to eliminate an energy source with very little risk and a huge environmental benefit compared to all other energy sources.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315861)

These headlines come up every now and then and it's worth a face palm every time.

Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about 4 months ago | (#47315883)

But America with it's Southwest could achieve this goal fairly easily compared to Germany.

Winter is coming (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315399)

Would be more impressive in February.

Re:Winter is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315507)

Taken seriously, fair point. That is where they are going. Year 2025, 100% of power taken from solar and excess stored for night use using multiple strategies. Billions of euros saved on energy consumption used to build country on stilts to avoid global sea level rise disaster.

Re:Winter is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315537)

Winter means less sun but more wind. Germany also has a large number of wind power generators.

Re:Winter is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315603)

sauerkraut means more wind too!

Re:Winter is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315885)

Stop, you're making me hungry for some Kielbasa and Brats.

Re:Winter is coming (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 4 months ago | (#47315899)

but more methane emissions

Re:Winter is coming (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47315547)

Is there a point to this post, exactly? I mean, I get the capacity variation is both a real concern and a common kind of FUD regarding solar, but this data point isn't about that.

It's about how rapidly a changeover in energy production to sustainable can occur. Germany was one of the world's biggest nuclear energy producers(France being the leader of that pack), and they've gone from that to one of the biggest solar producers in only a year or so.

With a really large economy, without losing much GDP. The point that's being demonstrated is that a power infrastructure changeover can be done without sacrificing being a first world nation along the way.

Thank you for that. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315801)

And what really gets me is that while other countries (even China!) are moving forward and actually doing something about non-fossil fuel energy, we are having this asinine debate here in the US and infighting about Green Energy.

So, in the not too distant future, the rest of the industrialized world will be powered significantly by sustainable, clean and much cheaper energy (costs WILL come down below fossil), we in the US will be backwards and bitching and moaning about how the rest of the World is kicking our asses yet again.

There is this portion of society that is so afraid of change that they are holding us back. Fossil fuel, although cheap now, will go up in price and continue to do so - there is no doubt what so ever. It's also old fashioned, inefficient and polluting. We as a culture love new technology and we never hesitate to glom onto the new - except when it comes to energy.

I think part of it is the ceaseless propaganda from very rich and powerful people whose wealth is dependent on us being backwards.

Re:Thank you for that. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47315869)

Not to be disagreeable, but the US is investing in more renewables. Not a ton, but some.

Re:Thank you for that. (2)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 4 months ago | (#47316135)

You think the US is doing nothing about alternative energy? You're not paying attention then. But from a pragmatic view, for now, the traditional methods of power generation still have priority because demands must be met and only oil/coal/nuclear can meet them in a sustainable manner. You can believe that when the oil wells begin to show signs of running dry, the energy companies will bust a move. They'll go nuts looking for other ways to provide energy. Yes, they're driven by profit, that's kinda what businesses do. But if solar/wind/geothermal can make them money too, they'll embrace them wholeheartedly, and they'll have the resources and motivation to catch up, if needed. I don't see us getting left behind in anything. This headline was misleading in what solar can actually provide, it was little more than a PR stunt. It'll be a long way off before truly green, sustainable energy is a reality. Placing current technology in large scale scenarios isn't likely to prove very useful, the tech still needs to mature.

Re:Winter is coming (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 4 months ago | (#47315813)

Because you want to get the most bang for your buck. I can sympathize because I am in the same boat.

I live in the northern latitudes. In the winter I have high energy demands (some electrical heating) and very short periods of daylight. Assuming the storage issue was solved, I would still need to build a huge array that I would use for only 3 months of the year. During the summer 90% of the array would be idle. I am in a specialized case, but for the more general case in my area the numbers would be somewhere in the 50% to 75% range.

Solar power has large upfront costs so this is extremely wasteful in northern climates.

As for Germany being a large economy, what is your point? I have seen estimates that going aggressively green will cut 1 to 2 % off of GNP growth per year. In an era of 2 to 3% growth that is a huge cut.

Re:Winter is coming (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#47315829)

With a really large economy, without losing much GDP.

Let's not get hasty with the judgments here. GDP can be gamed in a variety of ways, such as the broken window fallacy. Just because GDP hasn't yet declined significantly doesn't mean that the underlying economy is healthy. This may well work out for Germany, but I'd like to see some more years put in first.

Re:Winter is coming (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47315897)

How is permanently cutting out a trade dependency a broken window fallacy? That's practically the definition of economic investment. I'm not trying to articulate a "creates jobs" argument here.

Re:Winter is coming (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#47316023)

How is permanently cutting out a trade dependency a broken window fallacy?

Which hasn't actually happened, let us note. Germany remains dependent on nuclear power, it's just nuclear power from France now. They also remain dependent on natural gas from Russia and coal power from Eastern Europe. Buying relatively expensive energy from elsewhere and then selling them extremely low priced renewable in return isn't what I'd consider a good trade.

And they made this happen at the cost of doubling the price of electricity in Germany. Germany might pull it off, but I don't think they will.

Re:Winter is coming (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47316035)

No, but peak of 50% is pretty damn good progress on that kind of thing. We're talking about huge improvements in short time frames.

100% renewable is a pipe-dream. 50% consistent and 75% reliable peak seems reasonable within a decade with this kind of progress.

Re:Winter is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315857)

It's funny you say concern about capacity variation of solar power falls into FUD, but then fail to realize that closing nuclear power plants is only because of FUD coming from completely irrational people. Closing coal power plants for solar power plants is the intelligent thing to do, closing nuclear power plants for solar power plants is plain dumb.

Re:Winter is coming (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47315949)

I'm not anti-nuclear, but I am pro-solar. More investment in solar promotes more research in cheaper solar, promotes more solar. All very tidy.

Shutting down every nuclear power plant in the world would have tragic consequences: no more radiographic medical treatments, the loss of ability to breed plutonium for things like rovers, ice breakers, aircraft carriers, and yeah, bombs, no ability to create a number of specialized scientific instruments.

No one actually wants that, unless they're unaware of the consequences.

Re:Winter is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47316199)

You're missing the point. The headline makes it sound like 50% replacement is close. It's not. Averaged out over the year it is only a few percent (5.3% of electricity in 2013), because nighttime and winter aren't good solar production times. And that's only electricity generation, not the full set of power demands (e.g., fuel for vehicles and fuel for heating).

It's kind of like saying for a few seconds you were a 100% vegetarian when you ate the parsley garnish off the top of your steak.

It's progress, but not yet a fundamental change like the "50%" headline implies.

Re:Winter is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315587)

I don't know what it's like in Germany, but in the US it is summer that has the highest demand for electricity (air conditioning, fans, etc.). The decrease in demand in winter is probably greater than the decrease in sunlight.

That said, Germany may be different. If they use a lot of electric heaters, for example, their winter demand may be quite significant.

dom

Re:Winter is coming (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 4 months ago | (#47315727)

I don't know what it's like in Germany, but in the US it is summer that has the highest demand for electricity (air conditioning, fans, etc.). The decrease in demand in winter is probably greater than the decrease in sunlight.

That said, Germany may be different. If they use a lot of electric heaters, for example, their winter demand may be quite significant.

dom

Surprisingly, there are significant power demands in the winter when electricity is used for heating, and if you are dumping fossil fuels like yesterdays newspaper guess what gets used to heat stuff?

Here in Texas, obviously the hot summer evenings are when we have our peak demand, but we have some significant spikes in demand on those cold nights in January/February too.

Re: Winter is coming (1)

k2r (255754) | about 4 months ago | (#47315971)

> significant power demands in the winter when electricity is used for heating

In Germany almost nobody is using electricity for heating because it's stupid.
And the houses are often well insulated.

Re:Winter is coming (2)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 4 months ago | (#47315833)

It's summer in February, you insensitive clod!

(At least in my hemisphere.)

Gigawatts per hour (4, Insightful)

AvitarX (172628) | about 4 months ago | (#47315409)

Amazing, in 24 hours it'll be 528 gigawatts, amazing ramp up of production.

Re:Gigawatts per hour (1)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#47315975)

But how much will it be in 12 hours?

What happens at night? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315413)

When the blackhole cometh?

More sunlight (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315417)

Yeah, but everybody knows they get more sunlight than the U.S... fox news said so ;)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYDVdqWOXxY

@foxyloxy

Re:More sunlight (2)

Motard (1553251) | about 4 months ago | (#47315483)

Behold the power of Angela Merkel's sunny disposition.

Re:More sunlight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315571)

Sunny disposition? [ictimaipalatka.com]

A step... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315427)

In a the right direction. We do not need nuclear energy to power anything, we just have to make solar and wind farms.

Re:A step... (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 4 months ago | (#47315959)

You would think so, but that's usually not the case. The problem is that there are only so many viable spots for solar and wind. They're great as a source of supplementary power, but they're simply not viable everywhere.

At the same time, there really are no valid arguments against properly funded nuclear power. By that, I mean money to upgrade the plants to use the latest technology, ensure proper maintenance, perform research into new types of plants (breeder reactors, thorium) and figure out how to use the fuel as much as possible before storing it in a responsible location (there was nothing wrong with Yucca Mountain).

That's the problem with plants like the one in Fukushima - they're old, they haven't been properly maintained because no one wants to pay for it, and in many cases are operating well past their expected lifecycle when they should've been decommissioned years ago in favor of more modern plants.

BUT SOLAR DOESN'T WORK! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315447)

Blargh blargh blargh! (foot stomp foot stomp) Solar doesn't work it's a libtard commie plot to take my freedom! (foot stomp) Climate change is liberal Muslim socialist hoax! (foot stomp) Thanks Al Gore! (stomp stomp stomp) I bet these Obummer lovers want to take my lectercity so they can power their Segways to buy booze and liquor with their EBT cards (kick kick kick)

Game Over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315479)

The German government is currently choking the solar industry as hard as they can. Installed panel area is going to go from nearly exponential growth to an almost complete standstill. The power industry has successfully turned the public against the people who installed solar panels on their roofs by blaming the rising electricity costs entirely on the renewable power subsidies. People who produce their own electricity will soon have to pay a tax on that electricity as well, not just on the additional electricity they get from the grid.

Ok, then we'll use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315521)

and stay indoors and play and work from May through August, on sunny days. When it rains, we'll just go and play outside.
Oh, wait.

Gigawatts per hour (4, Insightful)

enriquevagu (1026480) | about 4 months ago | (#47315523)

Note that gigawatts are power units; gigawattshour are energy units and gigawatts per hour is wrong and misleading. I would expect that the editor would correct such basic mistakes, even tough they come from the linked article.

Re:Gigawatts per hour (1)

Crayz9000 (2783019) | about 4 months ago | (#47315637)

I wish I had mod points to upvote parent. It was almost like the copy writer had just finished watching TNG "True Q" where Data proclaimed that the Enterprise was generating 12.75 billion gigawatts per second, and thought that was a factual representation of energy units.

Re:Gigawatts per hour (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47316159)

Mixing up power and energy is a very common mistake among journalists and writers in general, in fact I think I'd go as far as to say that in news articles I see this wrong more often than I see it right!

Most interesting part... (5, Interesting)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 4 months ago | (#47315545)

The most interesting part about Germany's Solar deployment is that they have almost no utility scale deployments. Almost every deployed panel is on the roof of a building of a privately owned residence or business.

This is contrast to the US were better than 50% of the deployed panels are utility scale deployments. Fact is if everyone deployed panels on their homes and businesses south facing roof's we'd have more power than we could ever use. Germany is proof of that.

Re:Most interesting part... (5, Interesting)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 months ago | (#47315775)

Might have something to do with the ridiculous pricing in the US. Every licensed installer in my state charges 6-10x the wholesale panel price and will only do a fixed bid install that is about 4x the T+M labor cost. To get any of the government subsidies you must use a licensed installer. In effect I can put up the 100 or so pannels to meet my current needs for 30k including skilled labor yet the cheapest installer it looking for 100+ with the government programs taking it back down to 80 meaning they are making 70+k on whats quoted as a 2 day job with a 5 man crew.

We need to put a stop to the installer language on the government subsidies, simply having the various trade inspectors sign off seems ample proof, but that is a whole different discussion.

Re:Most interesting part... (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | about 4 months ago | (#47315951)

Read the other comments before posting, it will save us all some time. All that Germany proved is that in ideal conditions on one afternoon solar contributed significantly to their energy supply. Solar only contributed 5% of their total power over the year. That is hardly proof that such a methodology can scale as you suggest.

Re:Most interesting part... (1)

Catbeller (118204) | about 4 months ago | (#47316075)

American incomes have been stagnant, or declining in real purchasing power for thirty years. That hasn't not happened in Germany, which allows unions to exist - and operate properly.
A large number of the American middle class are months away from losing their homes, given a health cost issue or a job loss, a situation that doesn't happen often in Germany.
We are adopting private solar plants at a slower rate primarily because a chunk of our middle class can't afford it, not with the hell that they've been taking since the "free marketers" took over. Germany's people are more secure and more prosperous, because they've made fewer ideological decisions about income distribution.
Germany ain't perfect, but it's middle class is richer than ours. It's that simple.

Re:Most interesting part... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 months ago | (#47316161)

The most interesting part about Germany's Solar deployment is that they have almost no utility scale deployments. Almost every deployed panel is on the roof of a building of a privately owned residence or business.

Probably has to do with the form Germany's subsidies takes.

we'd have more power than we could ever use. Germany is proof of that.

Yeah, like we'd ever use more than 640k of memory... If the power is there we'll use it. To make aluminum, power our new EVs, etc...

Still, we have a pretty good example in Hawaii. Due to most of their electricity being oil generated and predominately sunny(but not too hot) weather relatively close to the equator they've actually managed to get to the point where they could have a day where they bust 100% at this point. It's reached the point that you need permission from the electricity company to get a hookup.

Still, let's do some figuring. Leaving Business and Industrial customers out of it for now.
The average US household uses 10,837 kWh [eia.gov] a year, or 903 kWh/month.
A 300 watt solar panel [wholesalesolar.com] takes up about 21 square feet and costs $263, though final install cost will be $1.50-$2/watt.

Each panel can be expected to produce about 789 kWh/year, ideally placed. Competing against 10 cent electricity, payoff would be about 8 years. Note: I'm using average cases here. I almost bought solar panels for my house, given that I have a nice south-facing roof. On the other hand, I live in Alaska. Even with our relatively expensive electricity I couldn't make it make sense due to substantially LOWER power production than I'm figuring and higher costs(even doing most of the work myself).

Anyways, getting back on topic, that means that each homeowner would need to install 14 panels, on average, to cover their energy needs, assuming they have a retired Model-S battery or something to provide stability.

Some interesting calculations I've made in the past:

  1. A retired Tesla Model S battery with 70% capacity remaining repurposed as a giant UPS will provide the average household 2 days worth of electricity
  2. The average household would use ~50% more electricity if they replaced their vehicles with EVs(note: 2 days of electricity in an outage from your old battery doesn't include charging your current EV)
  3. Start busting 20% of your total energy(and Germany is only at 5%) from solar power and it makes more sense to charge EVs during the day
  4. It would take approximately 200 1GW nuclear plants to make the USA carbon neutral for electricity. Again, lots of batteries would be handy...

that was 2 years ago... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315549)

Great editing job /.! The article is more than 2 years old...

bad headline - most of Germany's power not electri (4, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about 4 months ago | (#47315553)

It wasn't nearly half of the POWER used in Germany at that moment. It was, for a moment, about half of the public ELECTRIC grid, in a country where electric is unpopular because it's becoming outrageously expensive. Most of the power used in Germany is not from the public electricity grid.

Here's a thought experiment:
Germany could shut off all of their generators, so there is no electricity on the public grid.
They could then attach a single 9-volt battery to the grid, so the only power on the grid would be a few watts from that little battery. The headline could then be:
100% of German electricity provided by one 9-volt battery!

What Germany has actually done is simply a less extreme case of the thought experiment. They've shut down generators, so less power is available. It's not that solar is providing the needed power, the power simply isn't available like it used to be. By supply and demand, as well as tariffs, electricity has become far more expensive, so people have turned more and more to other sources of energy. You won't see a lot of people driving electric cars in Germany because the cost to charge them makes it prohibitive.

Re:bad headline - most of Germany's power not elec (2)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 months ago | (#47315963)

Strangely those other sources probably pollute far far more than the fission power plants they are replacing.

most of Germany's power not electric ? (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 4 months ago | (#47316103)

"It wasn't nearly half of the POWER used in Germany at that moment. It was, for a moment, about half of the public ELECTRIC grid, in a country where electric is unpopular because it's becoming outrageously expensive. Most of the power used in Germany is not from the public electricity grid."

Do people have their own household generators running on natural gas or something? I could understand that power for heating could mostly come from gas, but presumably that is only needed in the winter? ( Does Germany even have winter? I think Fahrenheit (the guy who invented the temperature scale) was German and he seemed to think that 0F was as cold as you could get, so I guess they don't have a real winter there.)

Inefficient much (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 months ago | (#47315593)

Solar is good for alleviating peek load if the weather is right. It needs a storage component to deal with base load and generally be useful. It baffles me that the generally rational and stoic Germans are headed down the road of PV. It amounts to a feel good policy coupled with a hedge on the middle class and above electricity prices (as they own homes and can get the funding to install it). Mandated grid buyback effectively fleeces everybody else via higher rates as they still need to have enough peek capacity to cover peek power when solar is not producing meaning their capx does not go down.

Do not get me wrong if I had a good location for the panels I would have them up, trading a couple hundred buck electricity bill for a cheaper bank loan for 15 years is a good bet. I would effectively have a fixed electricity rate assuming my average production meets or exceeds my average use and that nobody changes the laws allowing for net meetings and forced buyback. Over that 15-20 year life-span it's reasonable to assume my electrical demand will go down via increased efficiency and automation with the only obvious demand increase being a switch to an all electric or plug in hybrid vehicle.

Re:Inefficient much (1)

Uecker (1842596) | about 4 months ago | (#47316003)

As you correctly point out solar is good for peak load. Nuclear has the opposite problem: it is only good for base load while demand changes a lot during the day. So you would need a storage component as well if you want to power everything with nuclear.

But you you can mix energy sources. Solar + wind is relatively stable in Germany and instead of having storage, you can ramp down other energy sources and save fuel (hydropower, biomass, gas, coal). You can also export and import electricity and average production over a large area.

With respect to solar subventions: It is much to pay the subventions via energy prices than with general taxes (as has been done with nuclear) to avoid the rebound effect.

So, yes, I think the German way is very rational. (I am a German physicist living in California - which BTW is not too different with having almost no nuclear anymore and going green.)

Not half of power, half of electricity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315621)

All of these headlines report half of all electricity, not half of all energy. And that is annually around 12-15% of total energy use. Germany got around 8% of energy from solar. Briefly.

Solar is a neat idea, but it is hardly sustainable and not as a replacement for coal (the major energy source in Germany) and oil. Not yet at least.

I wrote a long blog-post, where I actually run the numbers for sustainable energy, including solar and wind, and the outlook is very bleak. Only around 5% of the world energy consumption comes from sustainable sources, primarily hydroelectric plants. Further adding burning down forests ("biomass") as sustainable, increases that to almost 17%. If you want to eat the whole thing, it's at https://westergaard.eu/2014/05/the-sustainable-energy-scam-and-the-lack-of-perspective/

All in all, this is quaint, but counter to actually solving global warming. Solar and wind do not work. Hydro sort-of does, but only nuclear and fracking actually make a serious dent in CO2 emissions.

Re:Not half of power, half of electricity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47316065)

All in all, this is quaint, but counter to actually solving global warming. Solar and wind do not work. Hydro sort-of does, but only nuclear and fracking actually make a serious dent in CO2 emissions.

Dang AC, are you asking for it. Where what you say makes sense to some of us, you are going to be crucified by the global warming alarmists and their minions. Wish I had mod points today...

So behind in technology. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#47315627)

I don't know why they are making such a big deal about 22 Gigawatts briefly. Is it really worth bragging in this day and age? In 2014? It is on the record someone generated 1.21 Gigwatts briefly at 10:04 PM November 5, 1955 using some home made contraptions, extension cords and a lightning conductor, in Hill Valley California. By Moore's law, we should be generating so much more than mere 22 Gigawatts.

After Fukushima? (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#47315647)

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

I didn't realize Germany was in Tsunami territory.

No such thing as gigawatts per hour (2)

bertd (53884) | about 4 months ago | (#47315649)

Unbelievably lame. There is no such unit as a "gigawatt per hour".

You can't even be sure what this means, if anything.

Re:No such thing as gigawatts per hour (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315859)

The article summary is wrong, but you go too far by saying "There is no such unit". A "gigawatt per hour" is a legitimate unit for the rate of change of power with respect to time.

They would be 100% but the 50 point fusion plant (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 4 months ago | (#47315651)

was pushed back to the bottom of the stack by the 31 triple coal plant that powers six cities.

Economically impossible! Government is bad! (1, Insightful)

Catbeller (118204) | about 4 months ago | (#47315671)

It seems Germany is leading the way in showing, by example, that every bit of American futzing about solar power and unions is, to put it down hard, a load of cultish crap designed to make rich people much richer.
They are an economic powerhouse with strong exports, a union-based worker's economy, and now they've shown you can run 50% of an industrial economy off the power of the sun, in something less than ten-twenty years. WHILE they absorbed a pauperized East Germany after the Soviets finally gave up. Oh yep - they innovate like mad. With health care for everyone.
Randites, avoiding the No True Scottman fallacy, examine why you are wrong on this. Seriously, before your wreck us beyond repair.

Re:Economically impossible! Government is bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315855)

Sure, there is no reason why it wouldn't be possible to power even the entire grid from solar when the sun is hining given enough investment. The problem is when the sun is not shining. Germany's CO2 emissions actually went up after the energiewende despite reduced power consumption due to rising prices. We should really start to invest in research in power storage technology rather than more green sources. Or, of course, a green source that delivers continuous power.

Re:Economically impossible! Government is bad! (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 months ago | (#47316069)

The green sources that delivers continuous power is fission/fusion. Granted this does not mean using 60+ year old reactor designs better suited to make weapons grade materials. It also means using the massive amount of heat generated to do something useful.

Re:Economically impossible! Government is bad! (3, Insightful)

jittles (1613415) | about 4 months ago | (#47316013)

It seems Germany is leading the way in showing, by example, that every bit of American futzing about solar power and unions is, to put it down hard, a load of cultish crap designed to make rich people much richer. They are an economic powerhouse with strong exports, a union-based worker's economy, and now they've shown you can run 50% of an industrial economy off the power of the sun, in something less than ten-twenty years. WHILE they absorbed a pauperized East Germany after the Soviets finally gave up. Oh yep - they innovate like mad. With health care for everyone. Randites, avoiding the No True Scottman fallacy, examine why you are wrong on this. Seriously, before your wreck us beyond repair.

Uhh you understand that this was over a holiday weekend (3 day weekend) and that they were only briefly meeting that demand on an especially sunny afternoon? Germany has a lot of cool and cloudy weather. I spent almost a month of June 2013 in Germany and it was cloudy and cold 70% of the time.

Re:Economically impossible! Government is bad! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47316051)

They are an economic powerhouse with strong exports,

I.e., they work a lot and don't consume much, you know, like poorer people do.

A lot of those exports are also financed by loans from... wait... Germany, the whole setup being a significant contributor to the European debt crisis.

In effect, the German government and German banks are taking money from German workers so that Greece and Spain can buy stuff made by German workers, knowing that they will never be able to pay it back. Banks and corporations love it, they make lots of money. Average Germans just end up working hard and not getting much in return.

a union-based worker's economy,

True, if by "union" you mean work councils who basically do the corporations' bidding.

and now they've shown you can run 50% of an industrial economy off the power of the sun, in something less than ten-twenty years

Yes, midday in the summer, for about an hour, heavily subsidized by electricity prices that are several times what we pay.

WHILE they absorbed a pauperized East Germany

Yes, and it's still "pauperized" despite pumping huge amounts of subsidies into. It's also full of Neo-Nazis because the people living in the former East Germany are really pissed off.

With health care for everyone.

If by "health care for everyone", you mean the seventh-most expensive system in the world, a privately run system with long wait times, strict cost controls, strict limits on treatments, and an insurance mandate.

And we haven't even gotten into the real social and economic problems that Germany has.

But I'll give you this: unlike US progressives, Germans at least are fiscally responsible; they cut benefits and salaries when they can't pay for them. Try getting Democrats to agree to that.

Your ignorant "grass is greener" beliefs about Germany are no reason for us to wreck our economy in the same way European nations are wrecking theirs.

Japan (0)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 4 months ago | (#47315709)

Well, Japan was supplied of way over half its energy needs by the US, for free.

Fortunately, it was very briefly.

Ah, sunny Germany (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47315805)

Too bad the US doesn't have that much sunlight and have to rely on coal.

and paying the price too (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 4 months ago | (#47315887)

Electricity in Germany is about 3x as expensive as it is in the US. Electricity is not just what you pay at home, but it's a big component of the price of goods and services, so German consumers are paying a premium for this.

What is a gigawatt per hour? (5, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#47315901)

The units on gigawatts/hr works out to energy/time^2. I'm not even sure what that means. Rate of acceleration of energy use?

Assuming the Reuters reporter never took physics and the actual figure is 22 gigawatts, while it's an impressive amount, it's peak production. Solar has just about the worst capacity factor (ratio of average production to max peak production) of any energy source. If you look at Germany's solar statistics [wikipedia.org] , they produced 31400 GWh in 2013. The average of their 2012 and 2013 installed (peak) generating capacity was (32.643+35.948) / 2 = 34.296 GW (averaged to take into account new plants coming online through the year).

34.3 GW * 8766 hours (1 year) = 1.08 * 10^18 joules
= 300673.8 GWh of potential solar production - i.e. how much the plants could have produced if they were operating at max capacity the entire year.

So their solar capacity factor is just 31400 / 300674 = 0.1044.

Compare to U.S. average capacity factors of [eia.gov]
0.9 for nuclear
0.7 for geothermal
0.64 for coal
0.4 for hydro
0.35 for offshore wind
0.22 for onshre wind
0.145 for PV solar in the U.S. (not on chart)

So if Germany's peak solar production was equivalent to 20 nuclear plants, that means their entire installed base of solar plants has only eliminated the need for two nuclear plants. (There's some wriggle room here because they're comparing a peak load power source to a base load power source, but I'm just rolling with the comparison they made.) This is why you don't compare power production technologies based on peak production. It's like comparing the fuel efficiency of different cars only when they're going downhill - it unreasonably favors cars with low drag coefficients even if they may have inefficient engines. You should be comparing average production through the year (equivalent to peak production * capacity factor). Just like you should be comparing the average fuel efficiency of cars across all use cases.

Report is from 2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47316095)

As the posted reuters report is from May 2012 it is now over 2 years old.
As of 2014, peak solar power of more 20 Gigawatts is a pretty common occurence in the German electricity grid if the weather is sunny.
A quick look at the solar power generation data ( see
http://www.transparency.eex.com/en/Statutory%20Publication%20Requirements%20of%20the%20Transmission%20System%20Operators/Power%20generation/Actual%20solar%20power%20generation
) shows e.g. that 20 gigawatts were exceeded May 19th through May 22th 2014.

watch and learn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47316153)

watch and learn America, watch and learn, but this time not how you learnt from the Nazi's in world war 2 by completely copying the Nazi's policies of putting everyone in jail and expanding government growth since the 1950's with the FBI and CIA which are mainly republicans hobbies, and the US growth into the biggest bureaucracy the world has ever seen under the GOP..,. (you make the Stasi look like clowns in bunny suits)

  US bureaucrats shouting: GOP!!! GOP!!! GOP!!!...
I mean, 5% of the world polluting for 25% (you're a fucking wanker)

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