“Solar power could crash Germany’s grid”
That was the headline for an article posted on the website of Reed Business Information Ltd’s magazine New Scientist October 28.
The article had a familiar ring: “Subsidies have encouraged German citizens and businesses to install solar panels and sell surplus electricity to the grid at a premium. Uptake has been so rapid that solar capacity could reach 30 GW, equal to the country’s weekend power consumption, by the end of next year.”
A spokesperson for DENA, the German Energy Agency, was reported as saying, “We need to cap the installation of new panels.” The article also mentioned a warning by Stephan Koehler, the agency’s chief executive—in an October interview with the Berliner Zeitung —that at the current rates of installation PV could trigger blackouts.
New Scientist reported that the German Solar Industry Federation rejected DENA’s concerns. Its belief: Solar energy takes the pressure off high-voltage power lines because it usually is generated close to where it is used.
Whether you believe large quantities of solar power could crash a grid or you don’t is not so important. What the German experience points to are the unintended consequences of widespread renewables development without adequate preparation. The impacts of intermittent renewables on grid operations and on the health of conventional generation assets are not well known anywhere on the globe and should be studied carefully before assuming RPS goals are achievable technically and economically.
Wind. A press release on the DENA website noted that the agency has just given the green light for research into the expansion of wind energy in Germany. This is the second part of organization’s grid study to justify increasing energy supply from renewables to 30% of the kilowatt-hours sold by no later than 2025. Part 1 of the study was finalized in spring 2005.
Wind generation will be evaluated under technically difficult conditions—such as high winds, a lack of wind, and peak-load times. Grid impacts, realistic transmission distances, flexibility of conventional generation, role of energy storage, etc, all will be researched. Study assumes 20 GW of offshore wind and 28 GW of onshore wind; also, that the expansion of the EHV grid outlined in Part 1 of the study is completed in timely fashion.