German solar energy plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour – equal to 20 nuclear power plants at full capacity – through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.
The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.
They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind energy, solar power and biomass.
Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts o f solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs.
“Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity,” Allnoch told.
“Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over.” The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.
Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources.
Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible.
The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide. The 22 GW per hour figure is up from about 14 GW per hour a year ago.
Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.
“This shows Germany is capable of meeting a large share of its electricity needs with solar power,” Allnoch said. “It also shows Germany can do with fewer coal-burning power plants, gas-burning plants and nuclear plants.”
Allnoch said the data is based on information from the European Energy Exchange (EEX), a bourse based in Leipzig. The incentives through the state-mandated “feed-in-tariff” (FIT) are not without controversy, however. The FIT is the lifeblood for the industry until photovoltaic prices fall further to levels similar for conventional power production.