German Power 2013

The latest summary presentation from Prof. Bruno Burger of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems arrived in my in box today courtesy of Willem Post and Hugh Sharman. It is a gigantic pdf with 263 slides. I have selected just 7 slides and provide minimal commentary here to illustrate how the Energiewende is going in Germany. Hugh made this observation:

The reality remains that, according to these statistics, the capacity factor of wind and PV in Germany is ummmm…pretty awful

Solar PV capacity GW 35.651
Solar PV production TWh 29.7
Capacity Factor 9.5%

Wind capacity GW 32.513
Wind production TWh 47.2
Capacity Factor 16.6%

Such low capacity factors, especially for solar, may actually push the energy return on invested (ERoEI) to below unity. In other words, more energy may be used to manufacture, install and maintain the units than they ever produce.

Slide 5 Electricity production 2013. Total production is 479.4 TWh. Wind = 9.85%, Solar = 6.60%, Hydro = 3.21%.

Slide 7 Change from 2012 to 2013. Natural gas was the big loser in 2013. Considering that the whole purpose of the Energiewende is to cut CO2 emissions, this is a very strange development since burning coal produces roughly twice as much CO2 per unit of electricity production.

Slide 34 Daily production of solar. Solar production is heavily skewed to the summer months, almost non-existent in the winter months. The maximum daily summer production is 100 times greater than the minimum winter production.

Slide 35 Daily production wind. Wind is highly variable but skewed towards the winter months. Maximum daily production is roughly 100 times minimum daily production.

Slide 37 Daily production of wind and solar. The negative correlation between wind and solar production across a 12 month period goes some way towards smoothing the gross supply but does little to nothing to smooth the variability wind introduces to the system.

Slide 44 Actual generation from gas, coal and nuclear. It is hard coal and gas that is doing most of the load balancing work in Germany.

Slide 51 Export-import balance. With total maximum demand running at about 70 GW, importing and exporting electricity at a rate of ± 10 GW has become an important load balancing tool. Germany may only continue to do this for so long as neighbours (Sweden, Holland and Czech Republic) are willing and / or able to accept the winter wind surpluses.

Missing from the presentation is an analysis of costs. I would like to know what the total direct cost of this experiment has been so far. And what costs are being born by the fossil fuel producers? What is the energy efficiency penalty paid by hard coal plant that is ramped up and down on a regular basis?

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23 Responses to German Power 2013

  1. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, compared to the earlier version that I saw and commented on one of your previous threads there appears to be something missing, although overall the Solar and Wind is about the same.
    What happened to their Biomass output, or is it now called “Run of River”?
    Considering the investment and Maintenance costs their returns on Renewables don’t look too healthy.

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      Mr Osborn, well spotted!

      It looks as if the great Bruno Burger has omitted “biomass” completely from the 2013 review! Run-of-the-river is hydro of course and always will be!


      • According to BP biomass supplied 47.8 TWh of Germany’s electricity in 2013, more than solar (30.0 TWh) and almost as much as wind (53.4 TWh). Yet we never seem to hear anything about it. Curious.

      • Roberto says:

        Biomasse is correctly included in the graphs for 2014.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I was aware that biomass was missing. Its very odd, 263 detailed charts but a whole chunk of the generating system is forgotten. Is biomass perhaps co-fired with coal (brown coal is not far off bio-mass as it is) and included with the coal stats?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Totally off topic (I may ban myself) but this may take folks minds off WW III

        A fissure eruption has started in Iceland

      • A C Osborn says:

        This is what I wrote about the original paper
        One of the Commenters called “BarkingAtTreehuggers” points to a paper about 2014 German power production which has some interesting information. The paper is here

        What is of interest is how much investment has been made in Solar and Wind Energy, (no actual values given), but total Capicity is, along with the power generated.
        The breakdown is as follows
        Installed Capacity
        Nuclear = 12.068Gw (probably not being used)
        Brown Coal = 21.247Gw
        Hard Coal = 26.340Gw
        Gas = 28.241Gw
        Wind = 33.688Gw
        Solar = 36.858Gw
        Hydro = 5.607Gw
        Biomass = 7.537Gw
        So we have
        FF Total = 87.896Gw
        Renewable = 83.69Gw
        Solar & Wind only = 70.546Gw
        Biomass & Hydro = 13.144Gw


        Wind + Solar = 45TWh at 17% of total production
        Hydro + Biomass = 36TWh at 14% of total production
        FF = 184TWh at 69% of total production

        As we know preference is given to Renewables in Germany so we have
        Solar + Wind with 41% of installed capacity producing only 17% of generation
        Whereas Biomass + Hydro with only 8% of installed capacity producing 14% of generation
        And that leaves the non preferrential FFs with 51% of installed capacity producing 69% of generation probably without the use of Nuclear.

        What could possibly be wrong with that picture Investment wise I wonder.

      • Is biomass perhaps co-fired with coal? I believe it is, as I remember usually in a 10%/90% ratio, but right now I can’t find the link I got this info from.

        However, Germany now limits the expansion of biomass capacity to 100MW/year. Clearly it hasn’t been performing up to expectations.

        • A C Osborn says:

          “Clearly it hasn’t been performing up to expectations. ”
          Sorry that is not at all obvious from the statisics that he presented before, in fact Biomass and Hydro far out-performed Solar/Wind when based on it’s percentage of installed capacity.

    • Lars Evensen says:

      Biomass generation is found on this site:

      It says in German that for now you can only load data from up to one month at a time, I tried but it only shows for a week at a time.
      Anyway the graphs show that biomass works as base load at around 4,9 GW. That cannot be totally accurate since clearly there must be some ramping up and down for these power stations too, whether they are co-firing or separate.

      There are also good graphs for import/export to/from various countries.

  2. Glen Mcmillian says:

    I wonder how the capacity factors would look if the Germans were living in the great state of Texas where the wind and solar resource is substantially better.

    I suspect they would be at least double what they are in Germany.

    IT is unfortunate that of all the western countries with a substantial industrial base the one with arguably one of the worst wind and solar resources happens to be the one that has made the greatest effort to make the switch to renewables.

    However much electrical energy the Germans do get from their wind and solar investment is at least that much they won’t have to generate with imported fuels.For what it is worth I will predict that they will be permitting new nukes in ten to fifteen years…..As will a lot of other western countries that are forced to import fuel.

    Of course ten to fifteen years before making the decision plus construction time means that nobody is going to be turning on the heat and lights using any new nuclear capacity anytime soon.

    Lets not forget the Germans make a substantial part of their living exporting high quality and high tech consumer and industrial goods.

    Unless the Chinese manage to take over the industry they can expect to earn substantial foreign exchange for a long time to come exporting their expertise.

    Personally I think the big boys who manage big business in western countries have been caught with their pants down in terms of the fast growth of Chinese industrial export capacity.Free trade isn’t all it is cracked up to be unless you happen to be lucky enough to make your own living doing something else other than manufacturing.

    We have lost most of our local industry over the last couple of decades to cheaper overseas labor. Middle aged people who used to earn decent incomes in textiles and furniture here are mostly flipping burgers and on welfare now.

    I may be wrong but I think it would have been much better to keep those industries here than not. Cheap clothes and cheap furniture are one thing. Paying for a third of the workforce to live on welfare or to work at low wage jobs more or less permanently is another altogether.

    Good for China of course.Not so good for Germany or the US or any country trying to export to make ends meet in competition with them.

  3. clivebest says:

    It is interesting that the slide of ‘real production’ ( the instantaneous peak power demand per day in GW) is only ever shown for fossil fuels + nuclear. This is because more than half of the total wind energy generated is at night when they don’t need it. Plotting wind power would show random spikes.

    For this reason it doesn’t matter how many turbines are installed, because you can never close a single fossil plant. That is because there always will be a few days per year with ‘zero’ instantaneous power from wind.

    • roberto says:

      What is also interesting is the graph on page 43, “Power Solar versus Wind”, which shows hourly data where everybody can see that more than 65 GW of PV+Wind generate more than 35 real GWs only for few hours during the whole year.
      Also page 52 is interesting, Import/Export from/to France… which goes against the legend that “german PV keeps French lights on”… I’ve heard this said from Michael Dittmar at a recent visit to CERN for presenting a book… Michael Dittmar is a well-known anti-nuclear activist.


      • Also page 52 is interesting, Import/Export from/to France… which goes against the legend that “german PV keeps French lights on”

        Looking through the Fraunhofer data it’s indeed difficult to see where that claim comes from, but there’s no question that a large proportion of Germany’s PV generation gets exported somewhere during the summer months:

  4. A C Osborn says:

    This is what happens when you go really big with Solar.
    Analysis finds California ‘solar’ plant reduces CO2 emissions at a cost of $1,800 per ton.

  5. Ludwig Hofmann says:

    Hello, When I see these discussions, I just wonder if you have really read the slides from the ISE. (I guess Glen had). And can you really compare that with the US development? Of course Germany has just began the last 20 years to change form oil and gas (and from nuke) to a renewabel energy production, but we really began on an industrial scale. Now the electricity industry tries a lot to stop that development, they use all political tricks you can imagine, because electricity produced at home is now a competitor. look into the slides, they loose money. Germany now has to sell its electricity overproduction. And PV pricess still are falling. Also now companies like VW and Audi beginn to produce hydrogen from electricity (wind energy is cheap), and want to produce methan and also will try to produce liquid fuel. (small pilot plants work). I guess we will need another 20 years but then hopefully we dont need gas and oil and no plutonium or thorium anymore. Not to that extent. So energy driven wars should become history.

    lets see.

    greetings from Augsburg, Germany


    • Euan Mearns says:

      (wind energy is cheap)

      Ludwig, I’m interested to know where you get the notion that wind energy is cheap? The available data shows onshore wind to be twice and offshore wind 3 times as expensive as conventional fossil fuel generation. And that is without adding the cost of addressing intermittency.

      Making hydrogen and using it in a fuel cell you lose about 70% of the initial electrical energy. So you take the most expensive electricity ever invented and waste 70% of it – good luck with that as a model for prosperity.

  6. Math Geurts says:

    Far from the Equator, as in Europe, a high contribution of solar to the power production will remain always difficult.
    Even the model used by the not renewable hostile group of Claudia Kemfert predicts not more than about 10% in 2050 for the EU28,

    See: figure 4 on page 17:

    There remains a lot of hopium around photovoltaics in Germany, even after almost all solar factories have been closed.

    • roberto says:

      Interesting, thanks!… I think the last sentence of the conclusions says it all:

      “This comes at the price of rising power prices which contain demand growth.”

      … which is strange, because the green dogma says that “REN are (going to be) soooooo cheap!… after all wind and sunlight cost nothing!”…


  7. roberto says:


    “Also now companies like VW and Audi beginn to produce hydrogen from electricity (wind energy is cheap), and want to produce methan and also will try to produce liquid fuel.”

    Yeah!… right!… so, let’s see… you take a 20% conversion efficiency of wind (I’m exaggerating, it is lower now)… and compound it with a ~70% efficiency to convert the electricity to H2 or CH4 via some photo-chemical reaction… and then you multiply this for the conversion efficiency of the thermal engine in the car (30% or so)…
    … the overall efficiency of the process is 0.2 x 0.7 x 0.3 = 0.042 … i.e. 4.2%!

    Fantastic ENERGIEWENDE!… please rush a copy to me immediately! 🙂


    • Euan Mearns says:

      “Vorsprung durch Technik”

      It of course does make sense to store surplus wind power in the battery of an electric car.

      • roberto says:

        Of course it does!… I am sure that you too, like me, would literally LOVE to go to some place with your e-car, park it, connect it to the (not so) smart grid’s plug, and when you finally come back to drive home find it with the on-board battery with no power, ’cause someone else, on the (not so) smart grid had taken all the juice out of your 20kEuro Li-ion battery.
        Welcome to “the world upside down”, courtesy of GreenWash Inc.


        • Euan Mearns says:

          But it doesn’t have to be V2G (vehicle to grid). But there is a host of these sustainable options I would quite like to have that just don’t seem to be available. But I shouldn’t start two, nay three sentences in a row with but 😉 E.G. a Passive Hus with solar hot water heating at under £100,000, AC + DC power and appliances to match, and a two seater all electric run around for about £10,000 with range of 100 miles, and a heater to keep me warm in winter.

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