Pragmatic 2C: The Battery Problem Follow-up 3

12 January, 2014


Follow up (Part C) to The Battery Problem with a discussion of Germany’s forward-thinking approach to renewable energy.

Transcript available
This is pragmatic follow-up part C for episode 2 the battery problem. I'm Ben Alexander and my co-host is John Gigi. Thanks Ben Wanted to talk specifically about some feedback from gentlemen by the name of Lenny P Robert and on Twitter he sent through some very interesting links to situation in Germany in Europe with respect to The renewable energy situation over in in that country and in parts of Europe as well Now, the links for these are in the show notes for this follow up segment. And what's interesting is that for those people that don't know, Germany actually led the way in a lot of respects with regards to renewable energy. And the Renewable Energy Sources Act came into force in 2000. And it was written a few years before that, but it came into force in 2000. And amongst a whole bunch of other things that guaranteed feed-in tariffs, one of the problems that we had here in Queensland was that the government set in the feed-in tariffs at a very attractive rate. And then after the uptake, the initial uptake after a few years, they realised that they were unsustainable and then they cut them. So they said, if anyone who's on the existing tariffs will give them to you for a bit longer, but they could end them at any point that they choose. any new people signing up were down to 8 cents. So we got I signed up on 8 cents kilowatt hour feed in whereas originally it was I think 40 or so it was something ridiculously high. And anyhow, so a lot of people put in small systems and were able to get away with offsetting their energy costs for not a lot of money. Whereas in my case, I've had to put in a five kilowatt system, which is the largest allowable in order to get those sorts of trade offs. But in any case, either way, either way you want to look at it in Germany, they figured this out, you know, and implemented an act into law a long time ago. So over getting close to 14 years ago now. So what that has driven has been a massive explosion of development in solar and in wind and the solar power capacity, for example, the current installed base of the 2013 is 35.6 megawatts of solar generating capacity. And in addition, wind power is 32 gigawatts of capacity that's onshore. And in addition to that, they're developing offshore wind generation. One of the ideas of doing offshore is that you can have a pylon out to sea where there's, it's not it's either too shallow to be a shipping channel. Or, for whatever reason, it's, you know, it's unused space out in the ocean, and it gets reliable wind just as much as you do on land. So it's no eyesore if you're in the middle of nowhere, of course, you've got the corrosion problem you got to deal with. But bottom line is it's free real estate or cheap real estate in any case. So they've developed 508 megawatts of offshore capacity. So that's about half a gigawatt, which is not compared to the others, it doesn't sound like too much, but it's an area that they're continuing to expand. And they simply have cabling bringing that power onshore and then it's distributed and connected into the grid. So one of the things that there's a slide deck as well as an actual paper, and again, strongly encourage you to read through in this quite a lot of technical content, but there's also a lot of charts as well that show you the progression of the increase in renewable energy that Germany's been going through over the last 10 years at least. And some of the records being set are quite impressive. So in 2012, they produced 23.1 terawatt hours of exported power. So that was the new record for them. And each year upon year, they're exporting more and more electricity. So I want to say exporting as a country, you know, they're generating a surplus of energy. They're generating so much energy that they are basically exporting it out to nearby countries that are connected to these power grids are connected to Germany's grid. So as you export that energy, you can charge more for it. And so other countries that can't afford to put in all that infrastructure or don't want to put in that infrastructure for whatever reason can buy that electricity from Germany. And so obviously that earns the country money, return on their investment. So in any case, what they also talk about is something that we talked about in episode two in the main show, and that was using hydropower pumped storage for storage for after hours. Now, within Germany, they have currently got about 6.8 gigawatts of pumped storage capacity. Now, there's an additional 5 gigawatts that's either planned or currently under construction at the time of writing of that report. So that will give them some total within a few years of about nearly 12 gigawatts of pumped hydro capacity such that they will be able to, during the daytime when there is a massive surplus with solar, they can simply pump that into the hydro stored system and then of course turn it around and use it as a standard hydro plant of an evening when the sun is down. Wind of course generates 24 hours a day subject to wind conditions so it's more for buffering that 30, excuse me, 35 gigawatts of 35.6 gigawatts of solar. However, the interesting part is that they are also in one of the documents, they're also looking at trade agreements with nearby countries to access their pumped hydra storage. And again, there's a bunch of countries listed there that are ideally situated for such storage simply because they are, you know, high mountains, they've got water sources, and so on and so forth. So, they are more ideally suited. It's a geographical problem because although there are this plenty of capacity in Germany, the problem is that they want more capacity outside of Germany and then what they can do then is they can do a bilateral energy trade. So, they can export during the day and then there will be a cost for them to store their hydro power in another country, say, Scandinavia or whatever, and then they can get the power back in from them over nighttime. Or they could do local, like an energy trade. So you would trade X number of terawatt hours during daylight hours into the hydro system. And then the other country could simply consume that power directly. And it would work just as well. So there's many ways to do it, but they're planning on building more interconnectors to connect all of the grids together and increase the capacity between their different grids so that they can actually implement that whole concept. So, they've got strategies in place to reduce something that we covered. We talked about nuclear fission and how dirty nuclear fission is and how dangerous it is. And essentially, they've said that they're intending to shut down their last nuclear plant by 2022. So, that's less than 10 years away. That's only just over eight years thereabouts away. And it's, yeah, that's not going to be long at all. The number had varied from time to time, but with the amount of capacity that they've installed, according to these documents anyway, and the research that I've done now as a result, I think that's amazing, I think that's wonderful. However, in the end, they need the interconnectors and they need to hydro pump storage to be able to turn that power off completely. They're still burning black and brown coal for shortfalls. Yeah, obviously that will change in future as they install more renewable. So basically, yeah, way of the future. I mean, Europe, clearly that Germany in particular are leading the way in exactly the same, exactly the way that I'd suggested. And I wasn't aware of that at the time. So thank you so much to Lenny, Robert, for bringing that to my attention and for providing those links. They're very informative, very, very useful. And I just wanted to share that with everybody. So thanks again.
Duration 8 minutes and 20 seconds Direct Download

Show Notes

Related Links:

Premium supporters have access to high-quality, early released episodes with a full back-catalogues of previous episodes


Ben Alexander

Ben Alexander

Ben created and runs and Fiat Lux

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.