Germany can now produce half its energy from solar

47

By Science Alert Staff

 

New data reveals that Germany broke a record at the start of June by generating half its energy from solar power, demonstrating the country’s impressive renewable energy capabilities.

Research from the Fraunhofer ISE research institute showed that German solar panels generated a record 24.24 GW of electricity between 1pm and 2pm on Friday, June 6th. And on Monday June 9th, a public holiday, solar power production peaked at 23.1 GW, which was 50.6 percent of total electricity demand.

Tobias Rothacher, an expert for renewable energies at Germany Trade & Invest, told The Local: “I think we could break a new record every two to three months now. We are installing more and more PVs [solar panels].”

Germany has had success with solar by encouraging citizens to install panels on their roof tops, rather than focussing on building large-scale solar farms. In fact, 90 percent of Germany’s solar panels are on individuals’ roofs.

47 COMMENTS

    • The way to go almost anywhere

      Solar panels are expensive. If I understand correctly, Germans tax themselves to fund a subsidy. Even then, citizens below middle class cannot afford the panels, but do have to pay the tax. Subsidies are slated to decrease, as the funds are to be diverted.

      • Expensive compared to what? The cost of damage caused by global warming will dwarf any difference in price between solar and fossil.

        AIUI, there is not a tax (which would actually be better, because done right it would be income-based and not have the problem you mention) but a cost to the power companies, which rather than absorbing themselves, they pass on to the consumer, regardless of income. However, that cost can reduce over time as solar panels get cheaper.

        Merkel is planning to cut subsidies and has already done so, you’ll be glad to hear.

        • PERSON Jun 24, 2014 at 2:31 am

          Expensive compared to what? The cost of damage caused by global warming will dwarf any difference in price between solar and fossil.

          The myth put about by the carbon fuel industries, is that renewables are heavily subsidised in comparison to carbon fuels.

          http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/01/usa-solar-subsidies-idUSL1E8G15RD20120501

          The subsidies to renewable energy systems are dwarfed by the huge subsidies to the fossil fuel industries which are hidden and protected by their sponsored political stooges.

          http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/

          In the United States, credible estimates of annual fossil fuel subsidies range from $14 billion to $52 billion annually, while even efforts to remove small portions of those subsidies have been defeated in Congress,

          That is even before the cost of environmental damage is fed into the calculations.

        • If carbon abatement to stave off climate change is your goal (rather than the typical far left-wing ‘rich people are all evil’ stance), then how would an income-based tax make a difference in the long run when 50-80% of the population possibly don’t get taxed? What then happens to the ‘green movement’ if there is an economic downturn and more people drop below the ‘green tax’ threshold – do those that are left within the tax brackets have to pick up the tab for everyone else? (because they must be ‘rich’ and evil so can therefore afford it)

          If all socio-economic classes aren’t encouraged to be more efficient with their power use (which is the “stick” part of making power more expensive), then that kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

      • Actually about $3500 for 5.5kw. Pay off period of that will be in only 5years or so then you have another 25years or more of power from them for nothing. When electric car become more affordable then you won’t need grid power at all instead in most situations. Even if Germany is subsidising this with tax dollars this effectively equals infrastructure. They could instead spend that money on coal fired power stations and hitch their citizens to ongoing costs. They have worked out something our politicians in this country haven’t. You will pay them off and in short order and then they will not have to spend extra money on continuing to supply that power. The next time those panels need to be replaced they will be cheap as chips, meanwhile Down under we just keep digging the black crap out of the ground and lighting it up.

          • Hi Bonnie,

            There is a town a couple of hours West of where I live, I went out with some other science teachers to do some in-servicing of their local high school teachers, we stayed the night and chatted the locals about the impact of the mine. For one it is basically a massive open cut mine so the habitat and farmland that existed are now just a hole in the ground. We do do a fairly good job in Australia of restoring the land now compared to decades ago however, we have are having concerns about the rush to produce as much coal seam gas as they can get. We’ve had benzine contamination of ground water. One of the offending companies Cougar didn’t notify anyone of the reading for months – this is what you get when governments allow companies to self regulate. As Australia is so dry this is a massive potential impact on our bore water which much of our farmland relies on. It is covering such an extensive area of the Darling Downs for example that if these problems continue it will put a big question mark on our produce. In the town meanwhile rental prices have quadrupled (due to having to house so many workers) making it impossible for locals to afford to live in their own town and their kids are forced to leave. Local businesses are shutting down because they cannot afford to pay say a store hand sufficient money to pay the rent. When they have finished digging their holes they’ll fill the back in but the town will be essentially a ruin. Not pretty. Still I’m sure someone is making an obscene profit.

        • So where does your power come from when the sun isn’t shining on your roof panels? Battery storage systems are still too expensive to have one in every house, and you would need a much bigger solar system to generate power for both your day-time use and storage for night-time. What if you live in Germany where there is precious little sun for a good portion of the year?

          The real environmental cost (not just ‘carbon’) of that many batteries being produced and then rolled over / recycled would be considerable I’d wager.

          Solar (and wind) systems still need to be backed up with conventional generators such as coal, gas or nuclear. While gas generators have a relatively quick start time, coal takes a much longer time to build up to the point where it provides base load so these power plants need to be running all the time regardless of how much solar or wind you have in the system. This being the case, power consumers will still need to continue paying for conventional power generation regardless of how much solar or wind there is around for the foreseeable future.

          Don’t take this as a beat-up on solar – I bought a 5kW system a few years ago for my house in Sydney when they were closer to $20k before China started dumping panels on the market. I can tell you right now that this system does not cover the power requirements for my average household (2 adults 1 kid), and I missed the overly generous feed-in tariffs that used to be around. I get 6.6c/kWh generated NET – most of this is generated while I’m at work and unable to actually use the power for household tasks.

  1. Meanwhile the Australian Government wants to cut funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, to create: “…$1.3 billion in savings [which] will go towards repairing the budget and funding policy priorities”. If the Germans can do it despite their lousy climate, why can’t we?

    • Simon Crase Jun 23, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      Meanwhile the Australian Government wants to cut funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, to create: “…$1.3 billion in savings [which] will go towards repairing the budget and funding policy priorities”. If the Germans can do it despite their lousy climate, why can’t we?

      With all its sun-baked desert, Australia has huge potential for solar thermal parabolic trough and power-tower-helistat 24/7 heat-storage turbine generators.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemasolar_Thermosolar_Plant

      http://www.gizmag.com/california-first-molten-salt-solar-power-plant/17298/

      In a Rankine cycle, the sunlight heats this molten salt to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (537.8 degrees Celsius) before it flows through to a thermal storage tank where the company says it maintains 98 percent thermal efficiency. When needed, it is pumped to a steam generator to produce steam and drive a standard turbine to generate electricity. SolarReserve says the Rice Solar Energy Project has the ability to collect and store enough thermal energy each morning to operate at full power all afternoon and for up to eight hours after sunset.

  2. Actually, when I was in Germany the last time in 2010, I saw big solar panel farms in Bavaria, especially along the highways. I almost thought the farmers had given up on growing food! However, the government has been cutting back on subsidies and feed-in rates since then. As a result, the solar industry has collapsed with many bankruptcies, and many investors, big and small, lost their shirts. Perhaps the rooftop subsidies were not cut as severely. The current solar feed-in rate per kW in Germany is around 11 cents, rather meager when compared to Japan where the government pays 30 cents per kW.

  3. “German solar panels generated a record 24.24 GW of electricity between
    1pm and 2pm on Friday, June 6th.”

    The specificity of this is a reminder of the obvious fact that there are only so many hours in a day when the sun is at it’s peak, and also that cloudy skies easily render it inefficient.

  4. Strangely unscientific headline. So Germany was able to produce half the electricity used between 1 and 2 pm from the sun at that time.that wouldn’t work for the ret of the day (and certainly not the night,) And that in a country whose landscape is blighted by massive solar panels ruining the skyline.

  5. Interestingly, the Danes generate 30 percent of power from renewables with half the subsidy as a proportion of GDP. The article implies this is because they make heavier use of wind generation. I wonder if it’s that or other things that differ, or perhaps something in their situation. Denmark is very flat, I think, and a much smaller country (5.6m vs 81.9m people). It also has a much lower average population density, but that doesn’t fully describe how the population is distributed.

  6. In the last few months I have come across 4 potential solutions to the inevitable weather and daily cycle of wind and solar:-

    1) Vanadium batteries, for short term efficient storage of low voltage solar.

    2) Liquified air storage from the grid.

    3) Liquid metal batteries.

    4) “Smart grid”, where users have access to the fluctuating demand/price via the internet, and adjust usage accordingly. For years there have been night storage heaters in the UK which use off-peak demand. Now that idea can be extended to all sorts of systems. For instance, air conditioning where a building can be cooled during the day, and the system shut down during peak demand 16:00 to 21:00, and the thermal momentum of the building keeps the building temperature within bounds until the next day. Such systems also applies to domestic heating and refrigeration.

    As for German solar, given the current problems in Ukraine, I hope people realise Russia is a petro-state and Europe is dependent on imported oil and gas.

  7. As for German solar, given the current problems in Ukraine, I hope people realise Russia is a petro-state and Europe is dependent on imported oil and gas.

    Many people do not know, that France already has 75% nuclear electrical generation, while Norway produces 98–99% of its
    electricity from hydroelectric sources.

    Scotland could produce many times its present needs from tidal power, even before adding in its already substantial wind power generators to the calculations.
    Spain is rapidly developing solar thermal systems.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Spain

    In 2008 the Spanish government committed to achieving a target of 12 percent of primary energy from renewable energy by 2010 and by 2020 expects the installed solar generating capacity of 10,000 megawatts (MW).

    Meanwhile, other countries are way ahead of the carbon addicts!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Brazil
    Renewable energy in Brazil accounted for more than 85.4% of the domestically produced electricity used in Brazil,

  8. This is an add in the Arazona Cregslist for solar but when the installer gives you a bid he takes the price of $14,500 and adds on the Federal and State tax credit so the cost to you comes up to about $23,500. For the 8K system.
    Get an 8k SOLAR system (32, 250 watt panels) with a complete 20 year warranty, monitoring system, power production guarantee, and free installation for $14,500 OUT THE DOOR, or a $130 Monthly payment

  9. Something is wrong with the math. If you take the 24GW generated, divide by the 5.5KW for $3500 that Reckless Monkey gives and you get at total cost of $15 trillion… I doubt very much that the Germans have spent this amount. Even if you reduce by an order of magnitude to 1.5 Trillion, it is an incredibly unbelievable number. I think there is some key info missing regarding the GW generated.

    • Why?

      If 2 million households spent $7,500 each on a solar installation that gives a total of $15 trillion. The population of Germany is slightly under 82 million, so assuming 4 people per households that means 10% of the population have solar on their roof. Given that this has been going on for at least a decade, the figures are in the right ball park.

      • 2,000,000 x 7500 = $15,000,000,000 or $15 billion.

        I just read in Der Spiegel today that the coalition government in Germany is going to sock it to anyone with a solar system generating more than 10 kW. Anyone who gets their own electricity through any renewable energy system will now have to pay a “fee” of 2.5 cents per kW to help reduce the high electricity rates for the rest of the population. The 10 kW limit should spare most homes with rooftop solar systems, however. It just sounds like the German government is nibbling here and nibbling there. Before too long there won’t be any financial incentives for solar anymore.

    • Hi Edmond,
      I just pulled that off the quotes we were given recently. That is Australian Dollars for context. We are shortly putting some up, we’re just about finished paying off our solar hot water which has cut our power bill by over one third. Personally photovoltaic while a solution for me is probably not the cheapest way of doing it as a whole country. As Alan has already mentioned you need a mix of alternative energy supplies from wind wave and solar thermal, probably with some gas turbines to help fluctuating energy demands on the few days when all the factors stop power from being distributed throughout.

      Many photovoltaic farms are popping up around rural areas that surround my town. These track the Sun so would achieve more efficiency than standard house top units. I look at it in the same terms as my house I suffer a mortgage because it is cheaper in the long run. Photovoltaic pay is now so short (even without government incentives) that it makes sense to do so and save what I can. Within the year cheaper battery packs (currently the deep cycle batteries are bulky and fairly costly) are going to be marketed here that will make some home storage possible as well. At this stage I’m better off buying 3KW panels with capacity to add more latter. If I don’t then I’ll just be paying for more coal fired power stations to be build with all the infrastructure through my power bills. Even if I didn’t accept the facts of global warming it just makes more sense to do so.

      • A rooftop PV system is on my list of investments being considered; and I’m in “sunny” England. I think gas and oil prices will rise above inflation over the next 10-20 years, and PV systems will fall in price with research and economies of scale. At some point it will be worthwhile even without Govt. subsidies, which the Govt. f–k around with every few months, so appear to be even less stable than the stock market.

        “Save the Planet” and “Make money” Yay!

    • I think something is wrong with your maths! $3500 capital cost for a 5500W PV system is 64c/W. Multiply that by 24 billion watts, gives about $15 billion, not £15 trillion…

      On the other hand, the article might be overstating the significance of PV energy production. Germany’s total energy consumption is around 14 trillion MJ per year (see Energy consumption by Country), or an average of nearly 500GW, day in and day out. So a peak production of 24GW for one single hour at mid-day is not as impressive as the article suggests.

      • The top-line number should be German Electricity consumption (Electric Consumption by Country) rather than energy consumption which includes transportation fuels, heating fuels, etc. Germany consumed 617000GWh/year in 2008.

        That’s an average of about 70.4GW electric load. 24GW would be 35% of the 2008 total load.

        It’s in the right ballpark given the out-of-date total load and the individual day’s measurement in the summer rather than an average including winter.

        • My point was that PV panels are not relevant as a source of energy – or at least nowhere near as relevant as the article implies by expressing it as a percentage of electricity consumption alone. People see 50% and assume that therefore PV is viable. In fact, 2-3% seems about right.

          The article headlines PV output as 23GW out of 46GW, on a carefully chosen hour of a carefully chosen day. I bet the 23GW is calculated from an estimate of total PV panels sold, not measured. Plus it was at mid-day in mid-summer. And it was a hot public holiday, meaning overall consumption would have been extremely low. So more accurate and representative figures might be more like 10GW out of 70GW. But the elephant in the room is that total energy consumption isn’t 46GW or 70GW. It’s more like 500GW! Even the German public might not be keen to pay so many billions for a 2% improvement.

          AND that assumes that PVs provide free energy. What isn’t factored in, is the up-front energy required to obtain the raw materials, manufacture the panels, and deliver, install and maintain them. Some studies suggest that a given PV panel might not generate as much energy in its entire operational life, as is consumed in its manufacture and commissioning. Other studies have the energy payback (not to be confused with financial payback) being as low as 5 or even 3 years. Either way, it makes serious inroads into the 2% gain we were talking about.

          Unfortunately, hype is the enemy of progress. Politicians, journalists and commercial interests waste what little enthusiasm and resources there are for energy sources and efficiency, by overstating the gains and understating the costs of whatever is flavour of the year. In doing so, they breed cynicism, and divert attention from projects that have more chance of significant success.

          Without a dramatic change of technology, I believe PV is a red-herring for mainstream power generation.

          • Got to say I agree largely with what you’re saying here – whilst PV may have a role to play it does seem to be a bit of a distraction/red herring for mainstream power generation in many cases – at least based on current technology. Also, as you say, it is not by any means carbon neutral.

            Here in the UK PV is reported to have typical lifecycle emissions of around 58g CO2 per kWh (which makes it one of the ‘dirtiest’ of the renewable energy generation methods). For context, this is obviously way better than conventional coal (800g CO2 per kWh) or conventional gas (400g CO2 per kWh), but has the recent focus on subsidies for PV actually inhibited the development of more useful low carbon mainstream generation technologies by eating up their potential subsidies and attracting potential investors based on quicker short term financial gains?

            For example carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies are reported to be able to remove 85-90% of CO2 emissions from coal and gas fired power stations. The technology seems to be there to do this, at least here in the UK where we have an abundance of depleted oil and gas fields and associated infrastructure which will enable us to dispose of the scrubbed CO2 relatively easily. However the economics for this are not favourable at the moment so development has been stalling.

            Given the potential impact on CO2 emissions, widespread use and development of CCS technology looks like it could bring the dirty old coal and gas fired electricity down to comparable CO2 emissions levels to current PV technology, again at least here in the UK. In a single stroke that could get rid of all of the associated energy storage/unreliable weather/inability to deal with peak loads concerns surrounding PV (and wind) generation here in the UK with similar lifecycle CO2 emissions to ‘renewable’ PV generation (and some forms of biomass generation).

            CCS technology could also have an additional benefit. If the economics become more favourable due to adoption/development and provision of infrastructure by the big coal and gas generators, could smaller scale generators then piggy back on the infrastructure/technology to make CCS economically viable for them as well?

            Low carbon ‘conventional’ biomass power stations here in the UK tend to be small scale and have a typical range of lifecycle CO2 emissions from around 25 to 80g CO2 per kWh. Attach a CCS plant to them and they’ll have minus CO2 lifecycle emissions reportedly up to around -400g CO2 per kWh. This would probably represent the only currently viable electricity generation method which actually extracts CO2 from the atmosphere.

            At the large scale, combined coal/gas and biomass power station systems with CCS could therefore have lower or equivalent overall CO2 impact to many current ‘renewable’ energy sources. Furthermore if the CCS technology became cheap enough after mainstream adoption by the big power stations for smaller scale biomass generators to use it as well, they would then have the potential to be wholly carbon-negative over their lifecycle.

            Like you say, you have to wonder at times if PV is diverting attention/money from other projects that have more chance of significant success and greater overall benefits in the long term.

  10. Europe did have a scheme of installing a “super grid” of superconducting cables and extending it to North Africa and the Middle East. That way the Libyans could sell their sunshine to cloudy Norway, and Norway could sell their night hydro to Egypt. I think the Euro meltdown and the Arab spring killed it.

    If “big oil” can construct oil pipelines hundreds to thousands of miles long, I think we should get on with a “super grid”. One cable was going to cross the Med from Italy to Libya. Why not a trans Eurasia cable from Madrid to Beijing? Extend across the Bering Strait into North America? Add south spurs to South Africa and South America, and an undersea cable to Australia and the summer sun would never set on the system. It would cost zillions, but what have big oil spent on gas and oil pipelines that will only last for 50-100 years until the oil/gas fields run out?

  11. There is good news on the cost of solar cells.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27987827

    Researchers have developed a new manufacturing method which could bring down the cost of making a type of solar cell.

    A team at Liverpool University has found a way of replacing the toxic element in the process with a material found in bath salts.

    ..

    “There is enough sunlight that falls on the Earth every hour to generate enough electricity for the planet for a year,” he said.

    “The way solar is progressing it will just be a matter of time before it becomes competitive with fossil fuels and eventually replace them.”

    The scientists say that this could have a “massive, unexpected cost benefit”.

    The research has been published in the Journal Nature and unveiled at the ESOF conference in Copenhagen.

  12. Steve_M – For example carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies are reported to be able to remove 85-90% of CO2 emissions from coal and gas fired power stations. The technology seems to be there to do this, at least here in the UK where we have an abundance of depleted oil and gas fields and associated infrastructure which will enable us to dispose of the scrubbed CO2 relatively easily. However the economics for this are not favourable at the moment so development has been stalling.

    Carbon capture projects have been on new purpose built stations with easy access to old oil wells where the CO2 pressure squeezes out a little more oil. They are at best a short term stop-gap, and at worst, a carbon industry pretext for political prevarication on the development of tidal, wind, solar and nuclear power.

    Like you say, you have to wonder at times if PV is diverting attention/money from other projects that have more chance of significant success and greater overall benefits in the long term.

    It really is not an “either or” scenario. We urgently need to close the carbon burning polluting systems and replace them with a diversity of sustainable means of energy generation. – along with reducing waste.

    There are considerable safety and environmental risks in pumping CO2 underground at pressure. CO2 geological leakage is well known for suffocating people, animals and marine life. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/ocean-acidification/liittschwager-photography – see pictures 2 and 3.

    Pollution does not go away when it is pushed out of sight!

    • Hello Alan

      Carbon capture projects have been on new purpose built stations with easy access to old oil wells where the CO2 pressure squeezes out a little more oil. They are at best a short term stop-gap, and at worst, a carbon industry pretext for political prevarication on the development of tidal, wind, solar and nuclear power.

      You have confused CO2 injection during oil/gas production with CCS associated with power stations and high CO2 producing heavy industry – these are two completely different things. Associated gas produced with oil and natural gas in the subsurface often has a natural CO2 component – this is sometimes separated and re-injected back into the subsurface during production to help maintain the reservoir pressure and enhance efficiency of hydrocarbon recovery. This has nothing to do with CCS with regard to power generation. Read up a bit on CCS, you’d probably like the idea if you have a good think about it and the positives it may bring, at least whilst we wean ourselves off fossil fuels (which realistically whether you like it or not will take some time).

      There are considerable safety and environmental risks in pumping CO2 underground at pressure. CO2 geological leakage is well known for suffocating people, animals and marine life. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/ocean-acidification/liittschwager-photography – see pictures 2 and 3.
      Pollution does not go away when it is pushed out of sight!

      The article you link to is about increased CO2 in the atmosphere entering the oceans and has nothing to do with humans pumping CO2 into the ground – which would in fact help to stop the CO2 entering the oceans. CO2 leakage killing animals is most commonly a geohazard in volcanic regions above a degassing magma chamber and is not really relevant at all in this debate – the low density/buoyancy of the hot magma creates fractures above it into which gasses (and the magma itself during eruptions) can propagate to the surface. If you inject CO2 into a depleted gas reservoir, don’t you think that there would have to be an effective top seal and geological structure to have actually entrapped the gas that had been produced in the first place?

      We urgently need to close the carbon burning polluting systems and replace them with a diversity of sustainable means of energy generation. – along with reducing waste.

      And the only way to do this is with wind/solar/tidal power generation etc? Again – read up a bit on CCS and think about facts such as it might lead to electricity generation that’s actually CO2 negative and the benefits that might bring. Also look at the projected energy uses for the UK over the next 20 years – why would anyone want to deny a technology that could actually make a significant difference to CO2 emissions?

      • @ Steve_M – Read up a bit on CCS, you’d probably like the idea if you have a good think about it and the positives it may bring, at least whilst we wean ourselves off fossil fuels (which realistically whether you like it or not will take some time).

        I have done so, but obviously quoted specific examples as I cannot cover all aspects in a brief comment. As I pointed out, the carbonaceous Luddites, will use this any any other cherry-picked issues to promote prevarication while they continue to sell carbon for burning.

        The article you link to is about increased CO2 in the atmosphere entering the oceans and has nothing to do with humans pumping CO2 into the ground – which would in fact help to stop the CO2 entering the oceans. CO2 leakage killing animals is most commonly a geohazard in volcanic regions above a degassing magma chamber and is not really relevant at all in this debate

        I am well aware that the examples I gave were from volcanic sources, but CO2 gas at pressure underground can leak from any source, and has the same effect on humans and sea-life regardless of the source.

        which would in fact help to stop the CO2 entering the oceans.

        Burying CO2 from biomass combustion, or indeed burying biomass, would reduce the CO2 quantity from the atmospheric cycle, but that is many times negated by the continued extraction and burning of fossil carbon. Quite simply, the fossil carbon needs to stay in the ground. There are viable sustainable alternatives readily available for development, but these vary according to local circumstances and geography.

        California has massive solar potential. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_thermal_energy#Molten_salt_storage

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_thermal_energy#Power_tower_designs

        Norway has hydroelectric power, France has nuclear, Brazil has hydro and bioethonol, Scotland could produce about ten times its present requirements from tidal power – and then more from wind. India is also developing tidal power – http://www.offshorewind.biz/2012/02/01/atlantis-to-install-tidal-power-farm-in-gujarat-india/, while China is investing in hydroelectric, solar and thorium nuclear. http://www.itheo.org/thorium-energy-conference-2012

        The U.S. has had a working thorium technology since 1945, but the project was cancelled by the Nixon administration in 1969 because it lacked military applications. We would have no problem with nuclear proliferation if we simply allowed Iran and other countries to build LFTRs. http://richarddawkins.net/2014/05/fusion-fission-and-fossil-fuels/

        BTW: Your earlier figures on the carbon-footprint of photovoltaic cells / panels, are dependent on carbon fuels being used for their production and transport. These fuels can of course be replaced by renewable sources of energy as these are brought on-line.

        • I have done so, but obviously quoted specific examples as I cannot cover all aspects in a brief comment. As I pointed out, the carbonaceous Luddites, will use this any any other cherry-picked issues to promote prevarication while they continue to sell carbon for burning.

          CCS is a realistic way to reduce carbon emissions and I really can’t understand why anyone would be so against the idea – it could realistically account for a far more significant drop in CO2 emissions over the coming few decades than many (if not all) of the renewable energy sources combined.

          Just because it doesn’t fit with your view of ‘traditional green’ technology doesn’t mean that its a sinister tool pushed by nasty old ‘big carbon’ that should be dismissed without further consideration. Your fear tactics around leakage are overplayed – as I mentioned before, if depleted oil/gas fields are used (particularly gas) there is minimal chance of leakage to surface. Basically – if the rocks were that leaky there wouldn’t have been a gas field there in the first place – there would have simply been a methane seep at the surface with no commercially exploitable accumulation of trapped gas in the subsurface. So lets not cloud the issue with unjustified smear/fear tactics.

          Like I mentioned before (which I note you haven’t addressed) – a simple glance at projected future energy use highlights the benefit of considering the CCS approach. Have a look here for the figures on projected energy use/supply up to 2035 which seem to be broadly consistent with general expectations (I’ve chosen a solar power website so you don’t cry ‘Cherry picked Carbonaceous Luddite propaganda!’). Note that overall global energy demand is projected to increase to (and in fact well beyond) 2035. Whilst the proportion of energy generated by renewables will increase, this largely accommodates the overall increase in projected total energy use, with fossil fuel usage remaining largely the same/only slightly increasing throughout this time. Fossil fuels are still expected to form the basis of most of the worlds energy supply in 2040 with a 56% projected growth in overall energy consumption between 2010-2040.

          Alan – this is not cherry picked carbonaceous luddite propaganda, these are the cold hard facts about the reality of our current level of dependence on fossil fuels and future projections of energy supply/consumption. In light of this what would it take for you to reconsider your verdict on the development/use of CCS technology to potentially significantly reduce overall CO2 emissions based on future energy use predictions whilst we continue to work towards a carbon free energy supply on a realistic timeframe?

          BTW: I know the carbon footprint for PV is based on current production, but bearing in mind where most of them are made and figure 5 in this report, I don’t think their carbon footprint will reduce significantly any time soon, given that that particular country is projected to consume more coal through 2040 than the rest of the world combined.

          • @ Steve – BTW: I know the carbon footprint for PV is based on current production, but bearing in mind where most of them are made and figure 5 in this report, I don’t think their carbon footprint will reduce significantly any time soon, given that that particular country is projected to consume more coal through 2040 than the rest of the world combined.

            I agree that China is currently using coal based energy to produce photovoltaic panels, … but they do not have to be produced that way. China is also starting to take pollution seriously, so COULD change quite rapidly.
            http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=174497e3-6ba4-4319-b77f-2a446dcb7632

          • Steve_M – CCS is a realistic way to reduce carbon emissions and I really can’t understand why anyone would be so against the idea – it could realistically account for a far more significant drop in CO2 emissions over the coming few decades than many (if not all) of the renewable energy sources combined.

            This is just nonsense. There is no way that continued carbon burning can compete with the vast clean energy resources of solar thermal plants in desert areas, tidal turbines in coastal areas with large tides or strong currents, or the long term production of thorium nuclear electricity. Or that the very limited and as yet unproven scope of carbon capture can significantly reduce emissions, or contain the combustion products over geological time.

            Just because it doesn’t fit with your view of ‘traditional green’ technology doesn’t mean that its a sinister tool pushed by nasty old ‘big carbon’ that should be dismissed without further consideration. Your fear tactics around leakage are overplayed – as I mentioned before, if depleted oil/gas fields are used (particularly gas) there is minimal chance of leakage to surface.

            Yeah! Dream on!!

            Millions of Abandoned, Leaking Natural Gas and Oil Wells to Foul Our Future.
            There are at minimum 2.5 million abandoned oil and gas wells—none permanently capped—littering the US, and an estimated 20-30 million globally. There is no known technology for securely sealing these tens of millions of abandoned wells. Many—likely hundreds of thousands—are already hemorrhaging oil, brine and greenhouse gases into the environment. http://ecohearth.com/eco-zine/green-issues/1609-abandoned-leaking-oil-wells-natural-gas-well-leaks-disaster.html

            There is natural seepage from many oil and gas fields, even before the masses of leaks from abandoned wells are added to these.

  13. This story is interesting, but just as much for what it leaves out as for what it contains. I also address some other things I’ve noticed:

    – the title talks about Germany’s ‘energy’, when in fact it means Germany’s electricity available on its grid

    – yes, Germany can produce half its grid electricity using solar power – on particular days of the year when there’s plenty of sunlight. What really matters is energy production throughout the year

    – the exuberance for solar panels is irrational. The manufacture of these panels, which involves extraction of the relevant minerals, smelting of metals, and transportation are all highly carbon-intensive exercises
    the manufacture of photovoltaic panels involves the release of extremely potent greenhouse gases that are far more dangerous than carbon dioxide and that are already accumulating appreciably in the atmosphere

    – the monetary cost of these panels is likely to stay high. In the United States, there are increasing reports of solar panel pilfering, driving up the costs of insurance

    – the notion that we can derive most of, or even a majority of the world’s energy from solar panels, based upon the fact that enough solar energy hits the Earth every minute to power civilisation for a year, is almost certainly a fantasy and clouds the much more difficult issue of whether that energy can actually be harnessed. I submit that it can’t be, due to the cost (of the panels during initial purchase and subsequent replacement as they lose their efficiency over time, as well as the battery inverters that need to be replaced every few years at a cost of several thousands of dollars) and the limitations of the technology (efficiency losses due to overheating in desert environments, need for constant maintenance in such environments due to soiling, and of course the fact that at certain times of the year the panels yield very little power).

    – the manufacture of that many panels would also be an ecological disaster that would negate whatever nominal benefits it might bring, with not only the release of gases like N3, but also extremely toxic substances like cadmium which make the ecological and human health effects of disposal even more complicated and difficult to predict. We don’t want to be pushing solar panels in Germany if the cadmium is being dumped in Henan Province. Do we know where these solar panels in Germany were actually manufactured and how?

    – do we know whether these panels have actually displaced coal, or have they merely complemented it, such that energy use is increasing overall along with coal production? (I don’t know. I’m asking if anyone else does. I would agree, of course, that it’s also relevant that even if they’ve ‘merely’ complemented coal and if Germany is perhaps even increasing coal production, that’s still displacing coal production if the rate of growth of coal production is slowing and is being made up for using things other than coal, surely good thing by at least some measure)

    – Could solar panels effectively amount to a means of ‘green washing’ energy use by encouraging people to think that it’s environmentally ‘safe’ to use more energy so long as it’s derived from ‘green technologies’? Again, so long as people view technology as more important than use, the extraction-intensive paradigm of capitalist accumulation will be facilitated, potentially undercutting all efforts at genuine, long-term solutions.

    • Promethean Entity – the notion that we can derive most of, or even a majority of the world’s energy from solar panels, based upon the fact that enough solar energy hits the Earth every minute to power civilisation for a year, is almost certainly a fantasy and clouds the much more difficult issue of whether that energy can actually be harnessed.

      Fortunately this is a strawman postion, which those proposing alternatives to carbon burning do not make. Nobody is suggesting the photvoltaic panels are a total solution, but they do reduce demands on a grid at some times.

      I submit that it can’t be, due to the cost (of the panels during initial purchase and subsequent replacement as they lose their efficiency over time,

      They do but it can take decades.

      as well as the battery inverters that need to be replaced every few years at a cost of several thousands of dollars)

      That is so, but the durability may improve and costs reduce, with experience of development.

      and the limitations of the technology (efficiency losses due to overheating in desert environments, need for constant maintenance in such environments due to soiling,

      While there are some photovoltaic fields in deserts, molten salt solar thermal systems are the preferred sunny desert system of generation, as I mentioned earlier.

      and of course the fact that at certain times of the year the panels yield very little power).

      Actually photovoltaic panels work better at low temperatures, but cloudy conditions would limit their output. The article @OP is of course hype in cherry picking optimum output in mid-summer.

      – do we know whether these panels have actually displaced coal, or have they merely complemented it, such that energy use is increasing overall along with coal production? (I don’t know. I’m asking if anyone else does. I would agree, of course, that it’s also relevant that even if they’ve ‘merely’ complemented coal and if Germany is perhaps even increasing coal production,

      Photovoltaics will never provide a baseline grid output. To replace coal and gas generation, tidal turbines, http://atlantisresourcesltd.com/marine-power/tidal-current-power.html hydroelectric turbines, wind turbines, solar thermal turbines, geothermal, some limited waste and biomass recycling, and thorium nuclear turbine plants are needed.

      Germany is very foolishly abandoning its nuclear generation, rather than up-grading it to thorium.

      that’s still displacing coal production if the rate of growth of coal production is slowing and is being made up for using things other than coal, surely good thing by at least some measure)

      It could be, but the new technologies are not being developed fast enough. That is because of obstructive political campaigns and propagandist lies circulated in the trash-media by vested interests.

      – Could solar panels effectively amount to a means of ‘green washing’ energy use by encouraging people to think that it’s environmentally ‘safe’ to use more energy so long as it’s derived from ‘green technologies’?

      That is an important lesson to be taught.
      There are many ways of reducing energy wastage: proper insulation and heat management of buildings – with recoverable heat and ground storage, more efficient devices from light-bulbs upwards, reducing unnecessary travel, and frivolous use of energy, electrification of public transport systems – and many more.

      Again, so long as people view technology as more important than use, the extraction-intensive paradigm of capitalist accumulation will be facilitated, potentially undercutting all efforts at genuine, long-term solutions.

      For some of the long term solutions see:- http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/press-releases/2014/march/140318-mst-lm-and-atlantis-resources-ltd-harnessing-the-power-of-ocean-tides.html

      Education on the dangers of a more energetic climate and the need to reduce the expansion of both population and consumption, should be priorities.

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