If somebody’s crying after nuclear energy, it sure isn’t Germany: the country scored 22 GW of solar electricity per hour a week ago, the same as having 20 nuclear power stations hitting on all cylinders.
More precisely, on the afternoon of Saturday May 19th, these 22 GW met 50% of the national grid’s needs, after providing a third of the amount necessary a day before, when factories and offices were still open.
This is somewhat of a record, according to Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR), because so far no other state has succeeded in coming up with so much photovoltaic energy. And even for Germany, this achievement didn’t come easy: it struggled a bit in the previous weeks, circling around 20 GW, but finally did it!
The record is particularly impressive since it was only last year that the country’s government decided to drop nuclear power to prevent accidents like the one from Fukushima. Ever since, the cautious German spirit set in, the government is constantly supporting the installation of solar power plants, like the added 7.5 GW in 2012 for a total of 26 GW. However, the extra solar energy isn’t making everyone happy, since it makes the grid’s power output more fickle.
The government support also translates into the “feed-in-tariff” (FIT), which is supposed to tone down the photovoltaic prices until they reach a more affordable level. However, consumer and utilities groups aren’t quite cheering for it, since it’s presumably adding 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, for prices that are already among the highest globally. According to the Environment Ministry, this amounts to an extra 4 billion euros ($5 billion) per year.
All in all, no one can contest the fact that Germany has done pretty well in the industry: the rest of the world’s solar power can barely surpass the country’s installed capacity, while 4% of of its total electricity need can be assuaged by the sun alone. So no one holds much doubt that if anybody is to stand by its promise to cut the coal, gas-burning and nuclear power plants emissions by 40% by 2020, then that’s Germany. Even if critics sustain solar power isn’t reliable enough, the government wants to prove otherwise – so who are we to contradict them?