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Power Hardware

Germany Sets New Solar Power Record 568

An anonymous reader sends this quote from a Reuters report: "German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour — equal to 20 nuclear power stations 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. ... 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."
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Germany Sets New Solar Power Record

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  • It's Just Gigawatts (Score:4, Informative)

    by Savantissimo ( 893682 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:40PM (#40123011) Journal

    It's just gigawatts, not gigawatts per hour.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:41PM (#40123021)

    That's awesome! For summer...

    I don't know how many of you have been to Germany, but it has a LONG winter, with heavy clouds going well into spring. Some places on earth it makes sense to try to fall back so heavily on solar, but Germany is not that place. They are SCREWED come the next long winter. They are either going to be paying out the nose for France's nuclear power, or having quite a lot of rolling blackouts...

  • Re:midnight (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) < minus caffeine> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:45PM (#40123047) Homepage

    0 of course. That's when they're buying power from France's nukes though. Not to forget that they're already scrambling to find some way to subsidize [] all of this, [] because it cost too much taxpayer money. [] At the end of the day, the government is going off about how it'll pay all for itself, and the public is still left wondering where all the money is coming from, while the euro is tanking, and the economy looks like shit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:49PM (#40123081)

    Sorry to disappoint you - sentences exactly like this have been spewing from the nuclear industry since the decision. Coupled with many scenarios of doom that would happen as soon as the first nuclear power generators were disconnected. Coupled with how the power price would immediately increase (it fell since then, even though the industry tried to keep it up).

    And you know what - nothing happened. Germany is happily exporting power (even to the french with all their nuclear power. Because on really hot and cold days they do not have enough capacity. Kind of funny when thinking about it ) - and there are even some gas power plants that are being abandoned because we still have too much capacity (they are not viable at the current power prices).

    So - no, we are not screwed in the next long winter, we will not be needing french nuclear power and we certainly won't be seing rolling blackouts.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:50PM (#40123093)

    A lot of people seem to intuitively like to think of energy capacity in terms of energy generated per hour, which seems to be what causes the confusion. You can use Joules per hour, but J aren't used conventionally in electricity generation; instead watt-hours, kilowatt-hours, and gigawatt-hours are used. But then if you want to talk about energy generation per unit time, you'd talk about how many gigawatt-hours per hour are being generated, GW*hr/hr. Which is of course just gigawatts. But now you have something that doesn't sound like "energy per hour" again, unless you know that a watt is a unit of power, and that power is already energy over time.

  • by mmmmbeer ( 107215 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:50PM (#40123099)

    That's why they do, indeed, build in ways of storing the energy. In fact, they do the same with every other type of power plant, so they can run at only peak efficiency. []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:50PM (#40123101)

    This winter, dispite germany having shut down nuclear reactors, it was france importing electricity from germany. Not the other way around. the french have a bigger problem with cold winters, since they are using electrical heating excessively

    Link regarding france importing electricity from germany:

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:50PM (#40123107)
  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:55PM (#40123145)

    Actually, there is such a thing as GW/hr. Look at your electric bill...the measurement unit used there is kWh, or "kilowatt hour." One thousand of those is a GWh, or gigawatt hour. But that's a measure akin to volume; what is being discussed here is more like flow, so it's not accurate to call it that. Unless they're monkeying with the math...saying that a car reached "300 miles" in speed, letting us insert the "per hour" in our minds when in reality it went 15 MPH for 20 hours. More likely, they're just getting the terms slightly confused.

  • December (Score:5, Informative)

    by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:03PM (#40123203)

    Talk to me in December when the sun is low on the horizon and there is a a major storm passing through Germany. How is that different than the quoted article?
    1. Sun being lower produces less solar power.
    2. Storms block most of the sun decreasing output of solar power plants
    3. Snow accumulation can completely stop solar power production.
    4. Winter causes higher demand for electrical heat.
    5. Darker skies cause more use of lighting.

    Taking the increased usage and decreased production into account power production from solar plants could easily drop from 1/3 or requirements to 5%. Instead of touting the optimal power output on a clear sky cool day they need to look at the worst case scenario. The issue with solar power is that you can not turn it on when you need it and that will never change.

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:17PM (#40123305)
    It's premature to say what the net effect will be. There are time when Germany has a net surplus and exports to France (because Russian natural gas is more expensive than surplus German electricity). There are also times when Germany imports French power because French nukes keep cranking out the power around the clock and their economy is in the tank compared to Germany's.
  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:23PM (#40123345)

    No...because what they are talking about here is generation capacity. Generation capacity isn't measured in terms of units alone, but in terms of rate of delivery. This is important because generation and load have to stay in balance; that's a HUGE challenge with renewable resources like solar and wind, where environmental factors can cause generation to drop with little or no warning. It's also a challenge because peak load is what the grid has to be able to support; there are no significant resources available yet today (available, as opposed to merely 'invented') to smooth those peaks out. So if you're measuring joules, then this could be a 1 watt solar farm that runs for a billion hours...not very useful...or a 1 gigawatt solar farm that runs for 22 hours...a lot more useful. It's a subtle distinction but an incredibly important one. Generation capacity is all about maximum wattage capacity at any given point in time, not total watt hours delivered over time.

  • by NemoinSpace ( 1118137 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:31PM (#40123385) Journal
    I thought this was nuts till I started looking up some numbers.
    Germans are paying .23 per kwh. New Yorkers pay about .19.
    So the question is what do New Yorkers get from their tax dollars, besides goofy politicians?
    Meanwhile Floridians pay about .07/kwh. Which explains why I am glad the Germans are the "innovators" on this one.
    All in all, still pretty impressive.
  • Re:midnight (Score:5, Informative)

    by Knuckles ( 8964 ) <knuckles@d a n t i> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:32PM (#40123389)

    The German nuclear industry was subsidized by at least 80 billion EUR from 1956 to 2007 (and 3.7 billion in 2006 alone) based on extremely conservative estimates, but likely much more. A study commisioned by Greenpeace arrived at a number of 203.7 billion from 1950 to 2010. According to WP at least, []

  • by rtaylor ( 70602 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:43PM (#40123459) Homepage

    Not certain where you are but in North America (Canada too) peak electricity consumption is during the hotest summer days and typically during the afternoon to early evening (3pm to 7pm).

    20 years ago you were correct. Air Conditioning, however, completely changed that.

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:55PM (#40123549)

    No, you're completely wrong. In fact, it's difficult to even parse what you're trying to say.

    Yes, there are units called "kilowatt-hours". Really, that's just a kilowatt multiplied by an hour. The existence of such a unit has absolutely no bearing on this discussion, since we're talking about "gigawatts per hour". To put it in units more familiar to you, the phrase "miles per hour" makes perfect sense. But the phrase "mile-hours" is basically meaningless.*

    A gigawatt per hour isn't a unit of "flow". It would be more akin to a unit of acceleration. If your power plant generates 5 GW/hr, then that would mean it starts off generating nothing, and after an hour its producing 5 GW, and after 2 hours it's producing 10 GW, and so on. That's clearly not what the summary is trying to suggest.

    *Before anyone gets pedantic, yes, GW/hr and miles*hours and cubits*Rankine/Farads are all meaningful in the mathematical sense. But in the practical sense, they're meaningless.

  • Re:midnight (Score:4, Informative)

    by fritsd ( 924429 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:56PM (#40123561) Journal
    "Passivhaus" [] is a German word.
    There is still an enormous amount of "low-hanging-fruit" in energy conservation by better insulation with modern materials.

    A long term solution to power needs to replace *all* form of non-renewable, CO2-generating energy...

    Yes, agreed. And also better storage technology is needed, especially with intermittant renewables such as solar and wind.

  • Re:midnight (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThePeices ( 635180 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @06:53PM (#40123903)

    The technology is here already, molten salt thermal storage.

    We just need to build a utility grade facility to get the engineering challenges ironed out and to measure the real world performance of a full scale system.

    Countries like Australia could be 100% solar with 24/7 electricity generation by coupling solar thermal concentrators with molten salt storage, by using some of the vast tracts of high sunshine hour desert land in the outback.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @06:59PM (#40123961)

    I'm not arguing specifically for Joules, just that in most cases when a rate is used, it's explicit: miles-per-hour, km/hr, m^3/s. Power is a somewhat odd case because a derived unit, J/s, is given its own name, W, which wraps the fact that it's a rate into the unit, "burying" the per-unit-time portion of the unit, rather than keeping it explicitly written out as in km/hr or m^3/s.

  • by Moldiver ( 1343577 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:21PM (#40124153)

    Exactly, the original german data said that on Friday, 25th in the hour between 12 and 13 the average output of solar power was 22.145 Megawatt (MW) or roughly 22GW.

    Windmill output in the same time was 4378MW. Was not a very windy day in germany. At least around Frankfurt...

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@got . n et> on Sunday May 27, 2012 @05:43PM (#40130629) Journal

    Solar power is nuclear fusion power... It is just that the reactor is really far away. The problem is one of cost effectiveness. Once solar panels are price competitive people will use them. Yet it is still an intermittent energy source so you will need some storage mechanism or backup generator increasing the system costs further.

    Just the other day, there was an article on Slashdot crowing about a fantastic breakthrough. allowing for a cheap, easy to manufacture efficient, stable thin film cell. Even now the cost for solar is below a $1 per watt and most sources predict a $0.50 per watt solar cell by next summer making solar a viable contender against coal for power generation. Add the recent breakthrough in cheap, nontoxic, high efficiency catalysts for hydrogen production and now we can easily convert that electricity to hydrogen to manage power storage. No need for backup generators, no need for anything but repurposed liquid gas storage

    Removing nuclear fission from the equation is stupid. It is cheap and plentiful, safer than most alternatives, and you either use it or lose it. All U-235 on Earth is going to decay eventually so either we use it before it decays or we will never be able to use it anymore. Solar panels are not necessarily clean. Silicon solar panels fabrication in particular uses solvents and acids in the manufacturing process which must be disposed of or recycled at a steep cost. Given that most solar panel production is currently in China I wouldn't be surprised to find out they simply dumped the toxic waste it into a nearby pond or river.

    Agreed, however, there are a lot of exciting new technologies that remove weapon production from the equation. Talk to Iran, offer them Thorium reactors with international support from the U.N. so they can have their nuclear power, and join the rest of the modern world, and we can all be safe knowing they don't intend to blow anyone up in perhaps a synagogue near by? Small reactors that are virtually run-away-proof, are going to be the preferred technology of many developing nations. They are clean, right-priced, and can be mass produced like batteries. Could it possibly get any better?

    The problem with temperature gradients in the ocean is that the temperature difference is too small for a heat engine to have decent performance. Try reading about OTEC power plants. Large and expensive infrastructure built in the ocean. Even if you use ammonia as the heat fluid the performance is crap.

    I have done the reading, and as of 2009,10 and 11, respected researcher all over the map (with a high concentration in China) are saying OTECS are the wave of the future. The problem is to place them in the tropics in places with access to deep water. Here the temperature differences between warm surface water and deep water can exceed 60F. Added benefits include getting potable fresh water, high mineral seawater for aquaculture and the potential mitigation of violent storms. So besides generating huge amounts of power, OTECs can be used to provide fresh water to coastal cities in the tropics, and dramatically expand aquaculture providing whole new renewable ocean industries as well as significant carbon sequestration. Oh there are also several interesting designs for large ships/platforms using OTECs as their power source (obviously stable or slow moving), these sea platforms could be part of a new series of habitats for both surface and subsurface ocean living and exploration. Life is complicated. Every new solution brings new problems. That said, I'm hearing opportunity knocking hard and loud. I can't imagine a single viable reason why we shouldn't be answering.

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_