The End of the German Solar Dream
So far the Germans have invested approximately 130 billion Euros in household and industrial solar power. (Roughly the same as the recent Greek bail-out) See Here
Over a year solar now provides around 3% of their electrical requirements. (See Wikipedia Here)
Of course this solar power is only effective during the daylight hours and then only when the sun is shining. During winter the output is usually as close to nil as makes no difference.
The headline solar installation capacity is (for 2011) 24.8 GW. If that was really the effective output it would amount to 30 medium/large Nuclear or fossil fuel power stations (assuming a typical capacity factor of 80%).
Unfortunately the claim is deceptive, if not down right fraudulent.
This is a snippet from the above Wikipedia article
When you do the sums you find that the actual yearly solar output is just over 8% of the much heralded maximum.
The actual energy produced by these 130,000,000,000 Euros worth of solar averages over the year at less than two and a half Nuclear or CCGT or coal power stations power stations, each rated at 1GW with an 80% Capacity factor.
Even then, the solar output is of course intermittent. Not only due to the the obvious night time limitation of solar, but due to variable solar intensity due to time of year and the inevitable periods of cloud.
The net result of this is that the 130,000,000,000 Euros worth of solar does not displace anywhere near 2.5 GW of fossil or nuclear plant.
Let us be kind and throw caution to the wind.
Lets say that this 130,000,000,000 Euros worth of solar saves carbon emissions from 3 coal powered stations each rated at 1GW.
That averages out at over 43 billion euro per coal plant shut down. Hardly an economic or environmental miracle is it?
Let us do a comparison here.
A CCGT gas plant produces less than 40% of the carbon emmissions of a coal plant. So to save the same amount of carbon as this expensive solar plant (but in a reliable and on-demand way) all you need to do is replace 5, 1GW coal plants with 5, 1GW CCGT plants.
A 1GW CCGT plant costs around 600 million Euros so you can do the same thing (but also produce reliable dispatchable and on-demand electricity all the year round) for about 3 billion Euros. Or just over 2% of the cost of solar. The running costs of the gas plant would also be considerably less than the feed in tarif payments of 10 billion paid annually for the solar plant.
Of course if the Germans coiuld get over their collective phobia regarding nuclear then you could save the same amount of carbon by replacing 2.5 Coal plants with 2.5 modern Nuclear plants
Even using the ludicrously inflated figures from the anti nuclear lobby the cost would be only 7.5 Billion Euros or 5% of the solar cost (actually the real figure is about 3%)
Like the rest of Europe, Germany is sitting on an ocean of shale gas. Germany also has the technical expertise to exploit 3rd and 4th generation nuclear as well as cutting edge nuclear such as MSR or LFTR nuclear plant.
If they had avoided the quasi-religious dogma that forced them down this solar blind alley, they would today be reducing their carbon emissions. instead they are about to massively rise as they replace nuclear with coal.
Instead of a dynamic, low carbon and cutting edge power generation network, the Germans now have their self indulgent and next to useless solar money pit, plus their equally hopeless wind farms - all backed up by dirty coal.
No wonder some German politicians are running scared. ( See Here ) ( and Here )