A snapshot of German wind power

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Media reports on renewables like to focus on record highs in output (if you wish to promote renewables) or record lows in production (if you want to denigrate renewables). In the long run, averages are probably what really matter. The medium term problems (until storage can be figured) are most commonly thought of as being caused by very low wind output. However the last two days of wind power output in Germany offer a nice snapshot of how highs in output are probably a greater medium term limitation.

Wind power yesterday:



Wind power today:




So, pretty stable at around 22 GW all day yesterday. But a large drop from 22 GW to 5 GW in about 12 hours today. How does this output compare to demand? Total power supply is shown below (green stuff is wind, yellow solar, and gray is everything else.)




So, the percentage of Germany’s electricity coming from wind peaked at about 43%. Not bad, however let’s try projecting wind power into the future. Currently Germany is getting 8% of its power from wind. Let’s say we wanted to push that up to 20%. In this future scenario German wind production at 2 am this morning would have been almost 10% higher than total demand. So, a way of storing this power is going to be needed to get past 20% without significant problem, be it batteries or building a large number of inter-connectors to Norway to use their hydro plants as batteries. Germany could, for a while, just export the power. However their eastern neighbours are currently not so enthralled at the prospect.


One thought on “A snapshot of German wind power

    John Russell (@JohnRussell40) said:
    February 1, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    As I mentioned on Twitter, Robert, I’m really keen on the idea of wind turbines having mechanical air compressors in their nacelles, rather than electrical generators. This would reduce significantly the cost of a single wind turbine. The compressed air from a number of turbines would then be piped to a single underground compressed air reservoir. This compressed air reservoir would then feed a single compressed air gen set and the resultant electricity fed to the grid when the price is right.

    Not only is the whole set-up probably cheaper than the conventional system—the reservoir is the only costly item (depending on how many turbines its fed by)—but it could cope with the over-production you describe and it would extend the availability of wind power into times when there’s no wind blowing.

    All this should more than compensate for any loss in overall efficiency caused by not producing the electricity in the nacelle. At the very least it would be much cheaper than the battery-based storage we were discussing.


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