EXPRESS #4 - October 2, 2018
Germany has now an impressive 56 GW of wind power capacity installed –the equivalent (in capacity, not production) of some 56 coal power stations and almost 19% of total German power capacity.
However, the country can reliably count on a mere 1% of this capacity, reports the respectable German newspaper Handelsblatt. In other words, there are times when there is almost zero wind power capacity available for the system.
Handelsblatt bases itself on not-yet-published figures from the Verbandes VGB PowerTech, a trade association that represents companies active in a wide range of energy technologies, including renewables.
In an interview with Handelsblatt, CEO of VGB PowerTech Oliver Then says that “the actual production figures show that the readily available wind power capacity in Germany is less than one percent of installed capacity”.
VGB PowerTech made a detailed analysis of wind power production in Germany, UK, Spain, Denmark and Portugal in 2016. This showed, says Handelsblatt, that Germany cannot count on other countries to make up for a lack of wind power. “The power production over the course of time is to a large extent synchronous”, notes Then.
And widespread “Dunkelflaute” (dark doldrums when there is very little wind or solar power) are hardly a theoretical phenomenon. They occur every year, says Then.
The use of pumped hydro storage to make up for lack of wind power would be prohibitively expensive. It would require ten times more storage capacity than is available now. Oliver Then concludes that backup from fossil plants will remain a necessity for a long time to come.
None of this of course is really new. But what the VGB analysis does show is that the amount of wind power capacity has no effect on its reliability. When there is no wind, it won’t matter how many wind turbines a country has. Which is not exactly rocket science either.