German Grid Aching Under (Too Much) Solar Power
BERLIN - The German electricity grid faces instability because of too much solar power, an expert said.
Thanks to a generous feed-in tariff, the installation of rooftop
solar panels and large-scale photovoltaic plants has exploded in
Stephan Kohler, chairman of the DENA agency, an energy adviser to the
government, has warned that the green boom could turn into a disaster
for Germany's aging power grid.
"The network is facing a congestion due to solar power," Kohler told
the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. "That's why the expansion of solar power
has to be cut back quickly and drastically."
Experts have long called for an overhaul of the European power grid
to integrate the fluctuating renewable energy sources such as solar and
Experts forecast between 8 gigawatts and 10 GW of solar power
capacity to be installed this year -- the equivalent of roughly 10 large
coal-fired power plants. In 2009, only 4 GW were installed.
Well aware that the industry is maturing more quickly than
anticipated, Berlin this year agreed to reduce subsidies for rooftop
panels by 16 percent.
The decision helped the German industry to a first-half sales boom,
as private customers ordered panels in droves to beat feed-in-tariff
reductions set for this summer.
Strong sales have continued until now, however, with experts
forecasting a similarly strong 2011 when it comes to new installations.
If the current trends continue, Germany would have a solar power
capacity of nearly 50 GW by 2013.
"That would be a catastrophe for the grids," Kohler said, urging the
German government to cap the installation of new solar panels at 1 GW
per year. "Then we could reach the manageable benchmark of 30 GW in
2020," he said.
The German government through the Renewable Energy Law, or EEG,
regulates the feed-in-tariff aimed at boosting power production from
renewable energy sources. Paid by German taxpayers via their electricity
bill and guaranteed for 20 years, the levies vary from 21 cents per
kilowatt-hour for offshore wind turbines to 46 cents per kw/h for
roof-mounted solar panels.
Berlin has vowed to gradually reduce subsidies but EEG-related costs
will nevertheless rise significantly over the coming years, experts have
The German consumer association VZBV claims that the solar panels
installed in 2010 will result in additional costs of $36 billion during
the next 20 years.
The German government has so far not voiced plans to limit solar
power installations; an overhaul of the EEG isn't planned until 2012.