Germany could soon be confronted with a problem: they will have too much solar power, unadapted to their lifestyle. The electric grid, designed for times that had far less consumers and producers than they are now, will ultimately come to an overload, says Stephan Ki¶hler, head of DENA, Germany’s energy agency, to the Berliner Zeitung on Oct. 17.
Because the Sun rises and shines at its maximum just when people are at work, and the demand is not that high, surges already occur in the grid. Usually, smaller surges can be dealt with by reducing conventional power generators, but if the input from solar panels is higher than all of the consumers’ demand, blackouts could occur.
German citizens had been encouraged to install solar power on their houses by providing them with subsidies and a premium price for the electricity they upload to the grid. But there seems to be just enough energy for everyone – at this point, storing solutions could come into play, such as those used in Spain and Italy, made from molten salts. Or they could implement a smart-grid option, such as the American V2G.
Still, the DENA spokesperson told New Scientist: “We need to cap installation of new panels,” which is absurd, in my opinion. Why should they do that, after they’ve encouraged the development of clean energy, instead of reorganizing their grid, because there’s a pack full of solutions and most of them are readily available and tested throughout the world.
“You lose flexibility on the supply side, so you need to gain some on the demand side,” says Tim Green of Imperial College London, perhaps by encouraging people to charge their electric cars when the sun shines. But electric cars aren’t available yet, and I guess that’s the real issue. And even if they were, the grid still wouldn’t bear the load when, in the evening, everyone plugged in their chargers to give the little beasts some juice for their batteries.
A smart, long-term solution, comes from Tim Nuthall, from the European Climate Foundation in Brussels, Belgium, who says that “in Europe, you need a grid that balances the sun in the south with the wind in the north.” And he may be right. Denmark, for example, is a perfect recipient for the solar power produced in Germany or Italy, and their wind (which is much more than they need) is perfectly suited for generating energy for the Germans or some other southern countries.