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Germany meeting the challenges of intermittent renewable energy

flag_germanyWe can let fission fizzle out in a renewable world, New Scientist, 20 May 2013 by Jochen Flasbarth“……One of the most pressing challenges of a 100 per cent renewable world is how best to use energy sources that by their very nature do not run constantly. Your average German wind turbine operates for 1600 hours of the year. Equally, there are times when wind turbines or solar panels produce too much electricity. How to store this excess? This can be done conventionally by pumping water to fill a reservoir during the day, and using it to produce hydroelectric power at night.

More sophisticated is power-to-gas: carbon dioxide and water are combined in a series of steps to produce methane. Renewables will supply the electricity and the methane can be fed into the gas network to heat homes, fuel cars or generate electricity. The technology has yet to mature. But firms such asAudi are trying to get it off the ground commercially.

Another challenge is to transport power from the wind-rich north to the more populous southern and central Germany. That will mean building hundreds of kilometres of new power lines. Opposition is predicted. But this could be tackled by offering locals a financial share in mid-scale, private solar power installations or wind farms.

A quick word on prices: the financial support for renewables has taken some flak. Critics argue that ladling out money for solar panels has overheated the market and created too much capacity at too high a price. But this can be dealt with. Cuts to payments to panel owners for the electricity they generate, the feed-in tariff, have been made, more will follow. To put things in perspective: under the present system the average German is expected to pay €5 a month towards the feed-in tariff. This is a sound investment in clean technology, protecting us from the spiralling prices of conventional energy.

In a recent study we showed that in 2030, renewable electricity on average will cost 7.6 cents per kilowatt hour; electricity from gas or coal-fired power plants will probably be 9 cents. Onshore wind turbines already match prices of some fossil fuels…… http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21829170.200-we-can-let-fission-fizzle-out-in-a-renewable-world.html

May 27, 2013 - Posted by | Germany, renewable

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