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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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  • Re:midnight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:42PM (#40123031)

    What percentage is generated at midnight?

    Midnight isn't the problem; power consumption is quite low then, and only drops more as the clock continues, only to start climbing well after dawn. Power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure has to be built for peak, and that's the problem. Fortunately, a lot of the peak load is during daylight hours. A lot of it is also in the evening as well, but it's not about finding a magic bullet, it's about helping cut back on (not eliminate) the need to use coal or nuclear power.

  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:51PM (#40123117)

    Why does everyone think that renewable energy sources will be the first technology ever that works completely the first time, solving all the problems right out of the gate? Nothing else has ever worked that way. You have to start somewhere...meeting a significant part of the needed generation part of the time is the first step to doing it much of the time. And then comes most of the time, and then maybe, heaven forbid, all of the time. Not all phones are VOIP yet either; that doesn't mean that VOIP is a failure as a technology. They haven't started blowing up their CTs and other fossil-based generation facilities just yet...

  • Re:midnight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pentium100 ( 1240090 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @04:59PM (#40123175)

    Working hours correlate well with sunlight in the summer, but winter is different - short days (less than 8 hours during winter solstice in my country (more north from Germany)) not much light during the days and everybody using more power (lighting) make solar power not practical in winter.

  • You are half right. There are three types of solar power. You have PV panels which, as you say, provide whatever power is available from the sun at that instant and have no storage. Then you have solar thermal which can run all night because is stores energy in molten salt. Finally you have solar heating for water and buildings, which stores energy in said water or building.

    You also have to remember that cooling is a major use of electricity in many countries. Since temperature is strongly correlated with light levels solar PV is actually ideal for covering peak demand in many places.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:26PM (#40123357) Journal
    you have storage. What is needed is to push electric cars that plug-in and give back. To really do that, they should have capacitors, not batteries.

    In addition, a very smart move is to have cheap batteries and thermal storage. With thermal storage, you can change excess electricity into heat (alabit at a loss of efficiency), and then convert again back to electricity as needed. The real advantage is that Natural Gas (including coal converted to methane) can be burned on those days when AE and the storage does not meet demands. In fact, the ideal situation is if you have days in which you KNOW ahead of time that it will likely need extra energy (such as hot days to run ACs), you heat the thermal at night and use that as well as the NG.
  • Re:December (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:32PM (#40123391)

    That's when the wind mills might come in handy...
    Nothing like a good storm to turn them blades...

  • Re:midnight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:34PM (#40123405) Homepage Journal

    Actually France has been struggling to meet peak demand with nuclear in recent years due to the hot summers we have been enjoying. Nuclear plants need to dump a lot of heat and when the ambient temperature gets too high they either have to drop to idle mode or dump hot water into lakes and streams, killing off the local wildlife and generally trashing the environment.

    Of course this flaw does not mean nuclear is useless. I'm not a nuke-you-mentalist who writes off every other technology because it isn't perfect. However, this does highlight solar PV's strength - you get the most power when you need it.

  • Re:midnight (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:44PM (#40123471)

    However, this does highlight solar PV's strength - you get the most power when you need it.

    People have to remember that many parts of the world (Germany, especially) actually uses *more* energy in the winter (and it's more important that it be available - AC for the most part is a modern convenience, but heat it necessary to survive), it's just not traditionally via electricity generation. Natural gas and heating oil are also non-renewable hydrocarbon-based energy sources. A long term solution to power needs to replace *all* form of non-renewable, CO2-generating energy...

  • Re:midnight (Score:4, Insightful)

    by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @05:45PM (#40123481)

    Working hours correlate well with sunlight in the summer, but winter is different - short days (less than 8 hours during winter solstice in my country (more north from Germany)) not much light during the days and everybody using more power (lighting) make solar power not practical in winter.

    Very true. Here in Canada, people often rave about how we could be using solar power; they just don't get it. Solar power is not an efficient solution in Canada, wind power makes far more sense.

    But Germany reaching their goal of solar providing for 1/3 of their power would be an impressive feat. There are plenty of countries that have far more solar potential then Germany. If they can do it, then other countries like Spain should be able to do even more.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @06:04PM (#40123613)

    People should also pay attention to the effect of energy prices: Germany has high electricity prices. If electricity is used for heat, it's in low-energy (well-insulated) houses and with heat pumps. France has cheap electricity. The pressure to use the electricity efficiently isn't there, so the French have much less insulated houses and resistive electric heating, which is less efficient than heat pumps, is ubiquitous. In cold winters, France has energy shortages, in spite of the numerous nuclear power plants. Their cheap electricity policy has caused a very seasonal energy need, for which nuclear power is far from ideal. To meet peak demand, they have to build so much capacity that they end up having to sell the surplus very cheaply most of the time.

  • Re:midnight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashrio ( 2584709 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @06:19PM (#40123723)
    Subsidized you say?

    Wait until we start 'subsidizing' the decommissioning of all those nuclear-waste producers...

    For that money we could have reached 100% solar coverage. From the Sahara.

  • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @06:20PM (#40123729)

    Sort of.
    I'd rather say, Americans have got a strong commitment to the appearance of freedom, and thus, to implement most real world policies they have to jump through so many hoops that the resulting freedom is actually less than with a straight forward solution and costs more. And people are actually proud of that. I'd call it the "freedom theatre", akin to "security theatre".

    "Ra ra" is not an argument, by the way, because by this logic USSR was certainly the best place to live (hint: it wasn't, even though there were some good things).

  • Re:midnight (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Knuckles ( 8964 ) <knuckles@d a n t i> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @06:32PM (#40123809)

    Absolutely. Not even the Greenpeace numbers fully account for that. Plus Germany still has no final storage facility for nuclear waste, and the previous attempts at storage (Assen, Gorleben) ended in costly failure. Who knows what an actual final facility might cost over time.

  • Re:midnight (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) < minus caffeine> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:39PM (#40124313) Homepage

    Wait did you just quote Greenpeace? The same group that opposes any form of nuclear power whatsoever? Ah I thought you did. Now remind me that even with these subsidies how much the power in germany works out to via nuclear? I'm sure it'll be somewhere in the 0.06-0.012c/KWH range, and solar will be in the 0.40-0.90c/KWH range. I mean in Greece it hit an earth shattering $1.20/KWH for just wind, solar did hit 0.80c/KWH.

  • Re:midnight (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @08:04PM (#40124481) Journal

    but even Saudi Arabia wants to build nuclear power stations

    They also want their women to wear black blankets over their head in a sunny, hot climate, so I'm not sure what "Saudi Arabia wants" is worth considering.

    Personally, I find what "German wants" more compelling than what "Saudi Arabia wants".

  • by JOrgePeixoto ( 853808 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:34PM (#40125387) Journal

    There is more freedom in Germany than in the US of A. Like drinking beer in public

    I am not actually American. Is drinking beer in public illegal? I have never heard of that.

    Having sex at 14

    Doesn't compare. The freedom to express one's ideas is far more important than the claimed right of young teens to have sex.

    , saying "shit" in public

    Perfectly legal in the US.

    being naked in public

    Again, doesn't compare. The freedom to express one's ideas is far more important than the claimed right of showing off one's genitals.

    being free of religion.

    By which you mean, having the government restrict religious freedom.

  • by Internetuser1248 ( 1787630 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:45PM (#40125445)

    So how much is it when it is raining or cloudy?

    It seems like 90% of this thread is arguing either for or against the notion that we shouldn't use solar power because it isn't always available. Rather than just mindlessly shouting about the relative price and reliability of solar vs. nuclear and the statistics about what times of day and times of year we have peak power usage, can we just examine this premise for a short moment?

    We have a plentiful energy source which is sometimes (regularly) available to us. You are saying we shouldn't use it? Really? Your basis for that argument is that we can't use it all the time. This means we should never use it? I feel I must politely disagree with you there. Would you advise farmers not to grow seasonal vegetables because they cant grow them in winter? Would you advise people in a desert not to collect rainwater because it doesn't fall much in the desert? Would you advise me not to socialise with my friends because sometimes they have to work?

    The article is about how an industrialised nation has demonstrated that it is economically and industrially feasible to harvest significant amounts of energy from the sun. Anyone want to talk about that? No? Well I do. I think this is great news. Good work everyone involved. Hopefully we can look forward to power bills going down in the future but what is money compared to the future habitability of the world? If a country like Germany can do this with the climate they have, this bodes very well for equatorial countries. Germany also has significant amounts of wind power, which also works at night and during the winter. Perhaps it would have been a better idea to start shutting down the coal plants first and the nuclear ones after. That debate on that has raged on this site for many pages, I myself am unsure about the answer. I want to see both phased out. Another important question is: How can we generate more clean, fuel independent energy? More solar farms and wind farms seem like a good idea. Geothermal and hydroelectric are nice for base load although hydro can be affected by weather as well. Osmotic power [] seems like an interesting variant, and Tesla's old idea of generating power from temperature gradients in the ocean seems worth a second look and maybe one day between the earths atmosphere and space, generation of electricity that is fuelled directly by global warming and works as a direct counter to it. I am getting too far into the possible future though now. The scientists have been doing good work though so far with solar and wind and I have every confidence in their abilities. Let's enjoy the good news for once, shilling for the nuclear power industry can wait till the next thread, and the next, and the next...

  • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @11:32PM (#40125733)
    Germany is not Texas. Much less AC in Europe in general.
  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @02:05AM (#40126463)

    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.

    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.

    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.

  • We've been trolled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wrook ( 134116 ) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @02:34AM (#40126559) Homepage

    Let's enjoy the good news for once, shilling for the nuclear power industry can wait till the next thread, and the next, and the next...

    I could have replied to one of a hundred threads here, but I happen to agree with 99% of what you say so this is probably a good place to complain without being seen as a whatever-shill. As intelligent as your reply was, it ended with just that implication. If you don't agree, then you are a shill. I happen to agree, so let's get that out of the way right now.

    The summary quoted a Reuter's article as saying:

    German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour — equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity

    They don't go so far as to say it, but a very reasonable thing that someone may conclude from this is that 20 nuclear power stations are no longer necessary. Well, no matter how much I like renewable energy, I know that is wrong. You know that is wrong. But your average Joe Blow reading a newspaper sees that and *really does* think, "Wow, we can generate that much power. We don't need nuclear! Hurray!"

    When you see others posting and saying, "Oh but what happens when the sun isn't shining." quite a few of them are intelligent people. They are responding to the implication that we no longer need 20 nuclear power plants.

    They are being trolled. And they fell for it. On the opposite side, who *actually* believes that if we have, say, 30% base load generation from nuclear that we can simply switch them off because we had a day where we generated 30% of our need from solar? OK, there are some pretty ignorant people in the world, but I submit that they are rare around here. Nobody really believes that. So we get all huffy when people imply that we do.

    And here's the saddest part: We've got one side calling the other essentially ignorant, tree-hugging bafoons and in response we call them evil, earth hating shills. All because some asshole at Reuters decided to troll the world in order to get eyeballs. I have seen some incredibly informative and insightful conversations on Slashdot. There are some incredibly smart people around here. But it is all nullified because we just bicker about... Solar providing 100% of our energy needs??? (Almost) Nobody believes that.

    Maybe someone thinks nuclear is a good option for base load generation. Maybe someone thinks that we should prioritize research and development in other potential energy sources. There are points for and against each side. Reasonable people can argue about this. Each side can learn something useful from the other. But responding to these trolls just kills any ability to have a reasonable discussion. Calling the other side names does the same. Even imagining that there *is* another side is kind of crazy. We may differ on what method we prefer, but aren't we all interested in having electricity?

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"