Most readers will be aware that I have been on vacation for two weeks. Many thanks to Roger Andrews for keeping the blog running and everything under control in my absence. I will have a big post on Earth’s wandering magnetic field in the next day or two, but before that I wanted to share some experiences from last week that I spent in Bavaria, southern Germany.
It has been about 25 years since I last travelled through rural Germany. With the Energiewende I was expecting to find a rural landscape desolated by wind mills and solar farms. Quite the opposite! We drove about 1000 kms through southern Bavaria and the Bavarian Alps and in that time we saw only 1 wind turbine, and that was just outside off Munich airport. I am aware that further north there are forests of wind turbines, but the Bavarians have by and large protected their beautiful rural landscape from the ravages of the Energiewende. There is a lesson for Alex Salmond to learn here.
The Bavarian Alps. No wind turbines here!
Of course the wind resource is focussed in northern Germany and the solar resource in the south and there were indeed thousands of very large roof top solar arrays. But I only saw a single, rather small, ground based solar farm. Bavarian architecture has very large roofs, many of which are covered in solar panel arrays that are much larger than those deployed in the UK. Bavaria has a high density rural population, with many small towns and villages and it was notable that very large solar arrays are deployed on commercial buildings – farms buildings, shops, public buildings, industrial buildings etc – in addition to houses. I cannot say that the solar arrays detracted significantly from the natural and architectural beauty of this area.
Large solar arrays covering the roofs of Bavarian farm houses and farm buildings.
In Roger’s post of yesterday there was an interesting discussion about Germany (and the rest of Europe) plugging into the Scandinavian hydro electric battery. Norway and Sweden do not have significant pumped hydro but do have very large conventional hydro systems (Norway 84 TWh and Sweden 33TWh storage, HT to Lars Evensen). Hugh Sharman indicated that Scandinavia has 1 GW connection to Holland, 2 GW to Denmark and will shortly have 1.6 GW connection to Germany. Lars Evensen suggested that Norway could provide up to 10 GW of balancing capacity and Sweden 7 GW. Of this 17 GW, 4.6 GW are already allocated to Holland, Denmark and Germany. That leaves a possible 11.4 GW of balancing capacity remaining which I suspect is biased to the high side. This figure needs to be compared with German peak demand of over 70 GW and UK peak demand over 55 GW. Scandinavian hydro can never be more than a minor partial solution to the problem of balancing European renewable energy.
This raises the question why Germany is looking to Scandinavia to provide balancing services while in the South they own a fair chunk of The Alps. On our travels last week we saw little to no evidence of conventional or pumped hydro schemes – just beautiful Alpine scenery. Southern Bavaria struck me as one of the most prosperous areas on Earth and I was told that many wealthy Germans chose to live there. It strikes me that the Bavarians are placing a higher price on preserving natural beauty than on achieving independence from fossil fuels, which is incidentally a value I respect and admire.
The Bavarians struck me as genuinely Green, that is they have an affinity with and care for nature. There were, however, a couple of stark contrasts to the Energiewende. Electric roof heaters in beer gardens are not exactly in the spirit of negawatts. And on our way back to Munich airport on Friday evening, traffic leaving Munich for the weekend was standing still in what amounted to a 30 km long traffic jam. And I don’t recall seeing a single Toyota Prius or any other electric car but many top of the range Mercedes Benz, BMWs, Audis and Porsches. In this part of Germany, the population still has a long way to go before they abandon fossil fuels.
Electric roof heaters in a beer garden provided comfort on a cool evening but are not exactly consistent with the energy saving mantra.
The queue of standing traffic leaving Munich on Friday evening stretched for about 30 kms.