Posts tagged solar
Posts tagged solar
DER SPIEGEL published an article last week that on first glimpse appeared to be about subsidizing solar electricity in Germany. It quickly morphed into a scathing indictment of Germany’s entire solar energy industry.
Solar Subsidy Sinkhole | Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun slams solar energy by focused pounding on three shortcomings:
It connects them to solar’s economics in Germany: huge subsidies, high consumer electricity prices, and the solar industry’s domestic failures.
Germany’s solar industry troubles are blamed mostly on China but missed an important factor we covered before in The Sun Rises in the East.
The opportunity is not missed to point out that members of Chancellor Merkel’s own staff are accusing solar energy to be part of the “massive money pit” associated with Germany’s transition to renewable energy.
Wait a minute. Solar energy is taking hits—in Germany?
Ja, solar is painted as a horrible Jägermeister hangover in this bit.
No rebuttals from solar advocates yet—but expect to see DER SPIEGEL scolded for publishing a “hit job” and ad hominem attacks launched against the author for writing it.
That’s the typical, hollow response mode that needs to be abandoned.
The article doesn’t seem to be full of glaring factual errors. So, rebuttals best be factual, instructive, and objective to be effective. No whining.
It is now increasingly clear that—contrary to popular belief by renewable energy advocates inside and outside of Germany—everything isn’t a hunky-dory slam dunk in Germany’s transition to renewable energy.
More than ever before, Germans are second-guessing the timing and ease of realizing what Chancellor Merkel consistently touted as huge “opportunities for exports, development, technology, and jobs” in its environmental sector.
Germany’s hasty, headstrong exit from nuclear energy exacerbated some of its transition problems too. That’s a fact proven difficult to refute.
Their lofty goals seem increasingly more difficult to attain than anticipated.
The whole world is watching Germany’s admirable wide-scale adoption of renewable energy and its efforts to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
Not any easy task—let’s learn from the missteps and from the objections.
Glück für die Deutschen.
Here are just a few excerpts to give you a sense of the article’s harsh tone.
It opens with:
The costs of subsidizing solar electricity have exceeded the 100-billion-euro mark in Germany, but poor results are jeopardizing the country’s transition to renewable energy.
The government is struggling to come up with a new concept to promote the inefficient technology in the future.
It continues to punch hard:
As is so often the case in winter, all solar panels more or less stopped generating electricity at the same time. To avert power shortages, Germany currently has to import large amounts of electricity generated at nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic. To offset the temporary loss of solar power, grid operator Tennet resorted to an emergency backup plan, powering up an old oil-fired plant in the Austrian city of Graz.
Solar energy has gone from being the great white hope, to an impediment, to a reliable energy supply. Solar farm operators and homeowners with solar panels on their roofs collected more than €8 billion ($10.2 billion) in subsidies in 2011, but the electricity they generated made up only about 3 percent of the total power supply, and that at unpredictable times.
The distribution networks are not designed to allow tens of thousands of solar panel owners to switch at will between drawing electricity from the grid and feeding power into it. Because there are almost no storage options, the excess energy has to be destroyed at substantial cost. German consumers already complain about having to pay the second-highest electricity prices in Europe.
Nuclear, wind, hydro, and biomass praised—at solar’s expense:
In fact, all German solar energy systems combined produce less electricity than two nuclear power plants. And even that number is sugarcoated, because solar energy in a relatively cloudy country like Germany has to be backed up with reserve power plants. This leads to a costly, and basically unnecessary, dual structure.
Figures indicating the peak performance of solar energy systems are easily misunderstood, a report by the German Physical Society says. “Essentially,” the report concludes, “solar energy cannot replace any additional power plants.”
In Germany, solar is by far the most inefficient technology among renewable energy sources, and yet it receives the most subsidies. Some 56 percent of all green energy subsidies go to solar systems, which produce only 21 percent of subsidized energy.
The relationships are just the reverse for wind energy. For the same cost, wind supplies at least five times as much electricity as solar, while hydroelectric power plants generate six times as much. Even biomass plants are still three times as efficient as solar.
But solar energy is good for the climate, right? Nicht so sehr.
Because of the poor electricity yield, solar energy production also saves little in the way of harmful carbon dioxide emissions, especially compared to other possible subsidization programs. To avoid a ton of CO2 emissions, one can spend €5 on insulating the roof of an old building, invest €20 in a new gas-fired power plant or sink about €500 into a new solar energy system.
The benefit to the climate is the same in all three cases. “From the standpoint of the climate, every solar system is a bad investment,” says Joachim Weimann, an environmental economist in the eastern German city of Magdeburg. Hans-Werner Sinn of the Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research calls solar energy a “waste of money at the expense of climate protection.”
For a time, it seemed that at least the German solar industry was benefiting from the generous subsidy rates. But the green economic miracle has, in the case of the solar industry, turned out to be a subsidy bubble.