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Germany's Renewable Energy Problems Serve as a Warning to the UK

On the 14th of September 2012 the 3,500 wind turbines that exist around the UK managed to produce just over four gigawatts of power to the national grid; a record. The same day Germany also set its own production record, although its 23,000 turbines and millions of solar panels managed to create 31GW.

It is interesting to note that the two records were received very differently. Maria McCaffery, the CEO of RenewableUK, said that “the record high shows that wind energy is providing a reliable, secure supply of electricity to an ever-growing number of British homes and businesses;” whereas the Germans dismayed at their surge in electricity production.

 Germany has a very advanced renewable energy sector, having invested billions over several years to try and encourage as many renewable energy installations as possible. It is a path that the UK government wants to take, and therefore they must quickly heed the warnings and note the problems that Germany is already experiencing.

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The problems generally stem from the fact that solar and wind is not a steady source of energy. This means that it is very difficult to maintain a steady supply to the grid, and as a result traditional fossil fuel plants must be kept on standby, ready to produce energy whenever the wind dies too much.

Keeping a fossil fuel plant on standby in such a way is actually very inefficient, and leads to far more emissions than if the plant were just running normally all the time.

The more Germany installs renewable energy sources, the more problems it encounters. The whole plan to generate 32% of renewables by 2020 is turning out to be a disaster, and the UK really should take note so that they can try to avoid making the same mistakes as best they could.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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  • Ian on November 26 2012 said:
    Many thanks for the first half of an article, how about a conclusion that offers a positive solution? Perhaps;
    1) As energy source diversity increases intermittency becomes less of a problem.
    2) While they may be costly now, as uptake grows these investments will provide generations of clean energy.
    3) With no fuel costs, these plants will provide a stable energy price far below projections for conventional fuels.
  • Mel Tisdale on November 25 2012 said:
    Shock, Horror! The wind does not blow all the time! Who would have thought it?
  • Evan Stuber on November 25 2012 said:
    Can someone please explain how a generator in standby produces more emissions than one running constantly?

    I understand that efficiency would drop, however it would use significantly less fuel in standby than running at full effiency and output.

    This is the surely the important point about renewables, they are allowing us to consume less of our precious fossil fuels.

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