Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cold snap triggers a renewables milestone

Yesterday, while we had an almost spring-like day with a high of 45°F (7°C) here in Minnesota, Europe was staggering under a nasty cold snap with temperatures as low as -25°F (-32°C).  Obviously, someone else got our winter.  While the hardest hit was the Ukraine, many countries have been blasted as the jet stream wobbles eastward spilling Arctic air into places like Spain.

The most instructive problems happened in France.  France has a lot of poorly-built housing stock that relies on electric space heaters to ward off an occasional winter chill.  They are not equipped to handle real cold.  And here is where the story gets interesting.

(From a German version of Der Spiegel—Google machine translation—my grammar cleanup)
Winter's Chill
The French need German electricity
German green power is helping France out of trouble. Despite the nuclear phaseout, German power plants are still producing more electricity than is consumed within the country—France is lucky, because her consumption is rising due to the record level cold, it is dependent on German support—which will be supplied with solar power.
Hamburg:  Germany has eight nuclear power plants, France produces most of its electricity in 59 reactors—and yet the French are dependent on German power assistance.  The reason: According to information provided by the power grid operator, by 7:00 pm on Tuesday evening, the consumption in France had climbed to more than 100 gigawatts.
This power consumption is the equivalent of more than 80 nuclear power plants and is currently almost twice as high as in Germany. In this country there are 15 million more people, yet Tuesday night  consumption was just 51 gigawatts. The main reason for this is that in France there are a lot of electric heaters.
Some of France has recently reported that is has to import more than 7,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity per hour to maintain supply.  At times German net export was more than 3000 MW per hour. 
Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) claimed the predictions of serious blackouts in the winter as a result of the energy transition had now been refuted. "The current days of bitter cold show that renewable energy contributes to security of supply and network stability."
It is interesting, said the federal environment minister, that Germany, especially in these days with a very high demand, can even export power—thanks to photovoltaic and wind energy. "We had in the last days a capacity of up to 10,000 megawatts of solar power, which corresponds to the output of ten nuclear power plants, and up to 11,000 megawatts of wind power," said Röttgen.

Energy experts warn, however, that the failure of multiple power plants because of high demand such as in France could lead to significant problems. "France with its nuclear-heavy electricity supply threatens European energy security," says the Green Party politician Hans-Josef Fell. more
I am not so sure I would be as cocky as Norbert Röttgen, but this really IS a milestone in renewable energy.  There is a LONG way to go before even the Germans can claim to be running on solar power, but in February of 2012, solar power bailed out nuclear power during a record cold snap.  And that folks, is an achievement to celebrate.

The Germans build another solar park.  This was assembled on an old military airfield.  Swords into plowshares indeed.


  1. "The Germans build another solar park. This was assembled on an old military airfield. Swords into plowshares indeed."

    --Precisely my recommendation for the Arden Hills land that is being promised instead for Zygiworld's Viking Stadium instead of wasting 400+ acres of the old ammunition plant superfund site and 700 million STATE/COUNTY TAX dollars for Zygiworld, that it be used for wind/solar farms and UofM green engineering playground for new green energy ideas.

    Oh, the humanity!

  2. "by 7:00 pm on Tuesday evening, the consumption in France had climbed to more than 100 gigawatts"

    "in February of 2012, solar power bailed out nuclear power during a record cold snap"

    Er, hello? Can you see what is wrong with this picture?

    Hint: Germany is east of France.

  3. Actually no.

    Do I think that PV electricity was being sent to France at night? No I do not. Do I think that some of the electricity came from wind turbines which is merely another manifestation of solar? I do not know that but I think it likely. Do I think that Röttgen was overstating his case when he claimed the renewables had bailed out nuclear? Probably—and I wrote as much.

    Do I have any trouble with an infant industry thumping its chest a bit? None whatsoever. Solar simply HAS to work—There. Is. No. Alternative. Anyone making actual progress in this arena gets to showboat in the end zone whenever they pass a milestone.

    1. I've read and written quite a bit in this area, but "wind turbines which is merely another manifestation of solar" is a piece of sophistry the like of which I've not seen. I doubt there'd be one person in a thousand who'd take that as the import of what was originally written.

      In any case, how a wodge of electricity which (I do not know but I think it likely) was over 90% generated by fossil fuels, NUCLEAR (Germany hasn't shut them all down yet) and possibly hydro can be seen as 'making actual progress in this arena' is beyond me. Especially in this situation, where the usual flow of electricity is now overwhelmingly in the other direction. If this highly exceptional circumstance entitles the 'solar' industry to showboat in the end zone, then nuclear has won the Superbowl fifty times over.

      Nuclear DOES work and IS the only alternative.