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25 Interesting Facts You Need to Know About Solar Power

Brooke Nally's picture
Solar Power Authority

Brooke is the content coordinator at SolarPowerAuthority, a leading renewable energy and solar industry website. Brooke is a part-time blogger, and a full-time environmentalist. Her crusade for...

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Man installing alternative energy photovoltaic solar panels on roof

Solar power is the future of energy production. The consumption of non-renewable energy such as coal, oil, and natural gas, is unsustainable, and solar offers an alternative. Because education inspires change, here are 25 interesting facts about solar power, ranging from the basic to the less widely known.

BASICS

  • Solar power uses the natural energy of the sun to produce electricity. It is sustainable and renewable.
  • Every square meter of our planet receives around 1,366 watts of direct solar radiation.
  • Coal plants are the largest producers of carbon emissions, which contributes to global warming. Solar power serves as an alternative to non-renewable resources like coal.
  • Solar power does not create any noise pollution.
  • You can use solar power to heat water for your home.
  • You can use a battery as backup for your solar system, giving you a supply of electricity even on days when your home doesn’t get as much radiation from the sun. However, most modern solar systems use net metering, which is easier than storing excess energy in batteries.
  • In America, one solar panel system is installed every four minutes.
  • NASA is currently working on a solar-powered aircraft.

HEALTH

  • Solar power produces no pollution, which is a by-product of non-renewable energy consumption and one of the biggest global killers. It affects as many people as HIV or malaria and has a serious effect on children, whose bodies are often more vulnerable than those of adults.
  • China is the world’s leading solar producer and seeks to triple its capacity by 2020. These goals are largely tied to the fact that China’s air pollution makes it almost impossible for citizens to breathe in cities like Shanghai and Beijing.
  • A household rooftop solar panel system can reduce pollution by 100 tons of CO2 in its lifetime — including the energy it took to manufacture the solar panels. This can improve future air quality for humans as well as the millions of birds, fish, and mammals that are negatively affected by pollution each year.

AFFORDABILITY

  • The cost of solar panels has dropped by 80% since 2008, and it is expected to keep falling.
  • Solar power itself is a free source of energy, and once you’ve installed PV panels on your home, maintenance is minimal.
  • Most solar panels have a warranty of 25 years.
  • Many states allow you to sell the excess solar energy you produce, meaning you can not only earn back the cost of your panels, but you can also make a profit in the long run.
  • Many states also have incentive programs for solar panel installation as encouragement to switch to more sustainable energy production. Policies vary by state, so find out what’s offered in yours when considering solar for your home.
  • It takes the average homeowner 7 to 15 years to pay off their solar panels; those living in sunnier climates or states with good incentive programs can do it in as little as two years.
  • Solar panels are exempt of property taxes in many states and can increase the value of a home more than a complete kitchen remodel.

AVAILABILITY AND GROWTH 

  • Given the constant nature of the sun, solar power is a very reliable energy source, as our ability to harvest it is dependent on just technology and location.
  • California is home to the largest solar power plant in the world, located in the Mojave Desert. It spans 1,000 acres.
  • California also dominates the solar power market, with a market share of 44% in 2015.
  • California, Arizona, and North Carolina are the top three US states for solar power, based on the amount of cumulative solar electric capacity installed.
  • Pollution can obscure the sun’s rays and stop them from reaching the Earth, so theoretically, the more humans switch over to solar power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the greater the Earth’s capacity to harness solar energy will be.
  • There are now nine states in the U.S. where 100% of new electrical energy comes from solar power.
  • More than 200,000 Americans currently work in the solar power industry. That number isexpected to climb to 420,000 by 2020.

Solar power is an exciting and ever-expanding industry. Stay up to date on developments insolar news to learn more about solar power’s effectiveness as a renewable energy source.

An earlier version of this piece appeared on Solar Power Authority. You can also find Solar Power Authority on Facebook and Twitter.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 28, 2016

brooke, solar energy has never offered an alternative to coal, oil, and natural gas, and it never will.
I wouldn’t object to you advertising your organization – I’m surrounded by ads all day – but your stupid, false solutions are destroying the world my kids will inhabit. And I will continue to counter your stupid posts each time you post them, until you take the time to learn about the implications of what you’re doing.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 28, 2016

One more interesting solar fact: that residential PV power is much more expensive than sustainable power from the utility, but government policies and incentives shift most of the cost to other people, thus making it much harder for society to make an actual switch to clean energy. Furthermore, the energy produced by the PV system is not even the “power on demand” product that customers want, but must instead be converted to that by the fossil fuel powered grid (this article suggests batteries could also perform that function, but actually in most locations, fossil fuel backup is still required unless the batteries can store a few months worth of energy).

The SEIA, a trade group which advocates for the US solar industry, has for years consistently reported that residential solar is double the cost of utility scale solar. Their most recent update reports $3.21/W for residential vs $1.24/W at utility scale. Utility scale plants can also be expected to have lower maintenance cost, therefore longer service lives. They can use tracking, to improve output in the morning and evening. Because utility solar is ground-mounted, it is safer for the workers. And utility sustainable energy is not limited to PV, and even includes options that don’t stop working when it gets dark or cloudy.

With society struggling to find the money to shift from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, and major countries like Spain and Germany slowing down their clean energy investments due to the high cost, the US residential solar industry has continued to lobby for and in many cases receive sufficiently strong policy incentives that allow its product to successfully displace much more economical sustainable alternatives.

Advocates of residential solar will often claim their product provides other compensating benefits for the grid, such as reducing net peak load on the grid. But these claims are vastly overstated, since in most areas, electricity demand is only slightly lower at sunset than it was at the daily maximum. Thus, peaking power plants and grid expansions are seldom actually displaced by residential PV. Another claim is that distribution losses are reduced by rooftop PV; this is true for commercial & industrial installations (which are also much cheaper than residential), but unlike businesses, homes don’t use much power during the day, so the grid losses can actually be worse.

More and more utilities are deploying clean energy programs that allow residential users to buy clean energy from the utility. These typically cost more than normal grid power, as unlike with residential solar, the cost is not shifted onto other (typically poorer) users. But these programs are more scalable, since it is technically impossible for all homes to deploy rooftop solar under net-metering (using the grid as a zero-cost battery), but we’ve seen in other countries that utilities can shift to nearly 100% sustainable power (using a mix of renewables and clean dispatchable power) if customers are willing to support the cost.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on Aug 29, 2016

Every square meter of our planet receives around 1,366 watts of direct solar radiation.

That is simply not true. 1366 watts per square meter is the energy that arrives from the sun to the top of Earth’s atmosphere. The max amount that can reach Earth is around 1000 w/m2 at noon with no clouds..

Furthermore, solar radiation varies hugely from place to place due latitude and weather. In Lappland here in Finland we have a period called kaamos. It means that the sun does not rise over the horizon at all in the middle of winter. The temperatures are the lowest, the record from 1999 is -51.5 C. That’s -60 F.

You can use a battery as backup for your solar system, giving you a supply of electricity even on days when your home doesn’t get as much radiation from the sun.

Does not work in northern Europe during winter. No Sun. Tesla’s Powerwall in the US….for how long do you run a house with 10 kWhs?

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 29, 2016

Germany slowing down clean energy ,,, ??
The German Energiewende (target 1.5%/a) is accelerating!
Av. increase renewable in period:
– 2000 – 2005: 4.9 TWh/a = 0.8%/a of consumption.
– 2005 – 2010: 8.5 TWh/a = 1.4%/a of consumption
– 2010 – 2015: 18.2TWh/a = 3.0%/a of consumption

In 2015 the increase was 5.2% (so now 33% by renewable)!
As:
– this fast expansion increases costs, which have to stay insignificant as government repeatedly promised; and
– big renewable projects had high profits with the FiT’s rules;

Germany switched towards the tender system for big projects. Small cooperatives, households, etc. keep the FiT’s because open tendering is expensive for bidders.

And the tender system delivers renewable against significantly lower costs as shown by the recent Dutch tender for the 700MW offshore Borssele wind farm (~30meter deep sea, ~25km off the coast, operational in 2020).
The winner, Danish Dong (with 8.2MW turbines), installs, operate and decommission all for a PPA of 7.3cent/KWh during 15years (no inflation correction, no subsidies). The >15years thereafter they have to sell on the whole sale market (~3.7cnt/KWh).

With society struggling to find the money to shift…
So we should concentrate on renewable as those require now at least a factor two less money per KWh than nuclear. Even offshore wind is >2 times cheaper nowadays!

….$3.21/W for residential vs $1.24/W at utility scale.

This shows the backwards situation in USA where utilities defend their position by sticking to superfluous expensive license, etc. procedures.
US can learn from Germany how this difference can be reduced to less than half.

Maintenance costs for rooftop PV?
Those are around zero. Cleaning the panel surfaces may increase production a little, but then it’s easier & cheaper to schedule a few extra panels.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 29, 2016

Almost in complete agreement. That solar needs “fossil backup” is overstating its importance, though. Solar and wind can serve to extend fossil fuels. Intermittent REs will have major difficulties in dominating fossils. That would require lots of overbuild and curtailment.

Curious about which countries are you thinking of in your last sentence. AFAIK, there are no renewable success stories except where there’s really abundant hydro.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 29, 2016

Borssele is heavily subsidized. First of all, the extremely expensive off-shore grid connection is paid by the government. Second, the PPA itself is a subsidy and a guarantee which increases the bankability of the project a lot compared to if the current electricity price had been the same.

Germany has given up on solar, biomass and hydro, so there is no significant progress in those areas. All it intends to build in the coming years is wind. When that reaches its intermittency limit, progress will stall entirely. Since nuclear is also clean energy and Germany is closing it down, virtually no progress has been made over the last decade and no progress will be made in the coming decade.

Maintenance for rooftop is zero for lots of years, when all goes well. Then suddenly, in inverter goes poof or something else in those cheap chinese panels starts to malfunction. When that happens, O&M spikes incredibly. On average, solar is assumed to have higher O&M expenses than wind and nuclear.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 29, 2016

In Sweden, we call this period “polarnatt” (polar night). Solar power is madness in our countries. In Germany, Russia, Canada, UK, Poland, Ukraine too, I’d say.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 30, 2016

…there are no renewable success stories except where there’s really abundant hydro.

Agreed. When I said, “… utilities can shift to nearly 100% sustainable power“, of course I’m counting nuclear as sustainable. In particular, I’m thinking of France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ontario Canada which AFAIK, have the only major grids which have ever successfully decarbonized (using nuclear and big-hydro).

For the US case, since our hydro contribution is small (about 6%), and in the southern states, the electricity demand peaks in the summer, I would expect a technically optimal sustainable mix to include not just nuclear and hydro, but also some solar. Of course the problem with solar and wind is that as soon as they grow to significant penetration, it becomes a better economic solution to just keep using fossil fuel for the majority of generation (the “flexible generation” role favors low capital cost over low fuel cost).

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 30, 2016

The grid connection is delivered by Tennet at a price of 1.4cent/KWh.
It’s not very expensive as Tennet expects to install more of such connections and gained a lot of experience connecting German offshore wind farms: http://www.tennet.eu/

Germany has given up on solar, .. All it intends to build in coming years is wind. When that reaches its intermittency limit, progress will stall entirely.

Nonsense. They are ~3years ahead of their original schedule (35% renewable in 2020. It’s now ~33%), and still you predict failure!
While the Germans
– and their scientists (a.o. think-tank Agora) are convinced that they will reach their targets!.
– are increasing the original Energiewende 52GW target for solar, as they are now already at 40GW solar.

solar maintenance costs
Buy panels with full guarantee during 25years (incl. electricity production level), e.g. Sunpower X21.
.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 30, 2016

1.4 cent/kWh is probably subsidised as well, and a happy number without contingencies or financing. I’ll believe it when I see it. The German grid connections were hideously expensive. Also, the LCOE of nuclear is easily cheaper than 7.3+1.4 eurocents/kWh. (And no, an EPR is not proof to the contrary.)

The current (2015) German wind and solar penetration together stands at 20%. I don’t predict failure, I see failure currently! What Agora is convinced of is completely irrelevant – that’s politics more than science. Wind is at 14%, nuclear at 14% and solar at 6%, in total 34%. The nuclear should first be distributed to the other two, say 26% wind and 8% solar. Then they should raise those amounts further to start replacing coal and gas. Won’t happen, since 26% wind and 8% solar is already a stretch for these intermittent sources.

Solar tendering in the EEG 2016 is put at 0.6 GW/year, which is nothing, really. Such a tiny amount would need 20 years of cumulative installations to replace a single large nuclear reactor. (And to go from 40 GW to 52 GW.) Sure, there might be some distributed solar in addition to the tendering, but it’s still far from significant.

Solar installation guarantees in a bubble sector of the economy is worth little. How many companies will remain in 10 years to honor their guarantees?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 30, 2016

Yes, experience in germany shows that costs can be decreased dramatically if standard “plugs” for Offsore wind farms are used, e.g stadardised 900MW AC/DC converter platforms.
The first converter platforms were project specific, did take too long and were too expensive.
The standardised versions can be built much cheaper, and then connect several wind parks in the region.
It is much easier to provide such “plugs” outside the windpark project to keep the standardisation up and the costs down.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 30, 2016

I see failure currently!

Amazing! Energiewende accelerated far beyond it’s scheduled transition speed during recent years.
So what failure do you see??.

Last year renewable increased 5.1% of total consumption.
Assume it is reduced to the av. of past 10years; 2.2%. Then renewable share will increase 16% in the 7yrs until all nuclear (which deliver 14%) is closed..
So even then there will also be 2% fossil fuel decrease.

Note that in several countries wind produce 25%-45% of all electricity. Denmark schedules >50% in 2020.

Btw.
Solar tendering concerns only large surface mounted solar which is only part of new solar installations.
The idea is that rooftop solar should take the major share. That also supports the ‘democratization of electricity generation’ target.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 30, 2016

In germany – and most likely as well in the other countries you name, a roughly 1:1 mixture (nameplate capacity) of wind and solar aligns seasonal output of renewables with seasonal demand, removing the need for seasonal storage at all.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 30, 2016

The failure I see can be viewed in this graph:
http://media.nejdetkanviinte.se/2016/06/germany-log2-2015.png

As I said, only wind is scaling right now in Germany. This will continue to go fairly well, for a few years. Old and inefficient German wind can be repowered with greater capacity factors, and its penetration rate can definitely increase, with timely grid investments. Today around 16% and I said 26% to replace nuclear. But I think that is a stretch and I find it unlikely to go beyond that.

No, several countries does _not_ produce 25%-45%. Denmark posts 50%, but it does so by being a small part of a larger grid, so it relies on neighbors to an extreme extent. Germany is a major country that won’t be willing and able to replicate Denmark’s strategy. The other wind leaders are Ireland and Portugal, which have great wind resources compared to Germany but has stalled at some 22-23% for years.

Rooftop solar is impractical since Germany already has a lot, which means additions are increasingly worthless. Utility scale solar with trackers would improve capacity factors and improve the value of the energy produced, supporting somewhat increased penetration rates. But rooftop is a losing proposition at this stage and the graph shows how solar has been virtually abandoned in Germany.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 30, 2016

The question is why we’d want solar at all in the summer. We’re on vacation, the sun is shining all waking hours, there is no load from thermal needs and it isn’t hot enough to install much air conditioning. The electricity is dirt cheap. Our nuclear plants try to compensate by scheduling fuel changes and revisions. But our rivers needs to have some water in them to not hurt the ecosystems, so we can’t save all water in dams, and we don’t want to have too large and sudden variations in how much water we release either, again for the ecosystems and to avoid damaging river banks. So how does solar help us? What value does it provide?

In Arizona and SoCal, they have twice the capacity factor (for fixed-tilt panels) and solar matches the huge load of airconditioning. There’s some point in solar there. But in Sweden? Forget it. We are subsidising it, but that’s just to please some progressives who doesn’t understand better.

In the winter, wind is replacing some nuclear which destroys capital, creates high grid investment costs and is making our grid less robust. Due to abundant hydro, we don’t yet need to build natural gas plants and pipelines, but we will eventually, if we don’t renew parts of our nuclear fleet.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 31, 2016

Well your nuclear museums are so profitable at the moment that you needed to remove the tax which should have compensated the state for the insurance service it provides, and some other costs in the future todays operators of the nuclear power plants might not pay in the future due to being not existant any more. This was neccesary to allow the operators of these plants not to get too deep into red numbers and pay repairs and neccesary improvements for the next years.
Year by year those repairs become more amd more expensive, also because more and more of the equipment usend in the plants in not available any more on the market, as well as similar products which colrd be used with smaller adoption costs.

I work with similar problems in other parts of infrastructure, the solution there is to remove all equipment each 20 years or so down to the bare concrete, and equip everything new. Which is not a economic way to do in nuclear power stations because of the safety issues and the amount of equipment used, it wuld kill the plant instantly economical.
So you could decide to use imports in summer, if hydropower does not deliver enough. But usually the possible variation between low water levels and natural flood level are enough to vary hydropower a lot, usually significant more then it is done today.
(For swizerland I have read the numbers, the difference between maximum flow of hydropower and natural flood levels which do not cause damages is a factor 10 usually. I do not know how this factor is in sweden.
But in swizerland if low wind or solar production would happen in the grid to a amount that peaker plants would need to kick in, it would make it a busines case for them to add aditional turbine capacity, the same for austria. They have a lot of plans in the shelfs to do so, but so far there is simply no occasion even tu utilise existing capacity.
Maybe this will happen with higher renewable penetration in germany. MAybe grid expansions will happen fast enough, and Czisch and others will be right, and the grid will balance out varying generation so new turbine capacity will never be needed.
Both options will work.
So far there is not even enogh lack of electricity “when the wind does not blow and the sun did not shine” to bring the gas peaker plants and the pumped storages which exist online, which were regulary online almost every noon 10 and more years ago.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 31, 2016

Sweden’s nuclear tax was not meant for anything other than filling state coffers. Now the government had subsidised enough renewable power that nuclear plants started showing red figures, as you mention, and it decided it wanted to preserve nuclear and therefore it will abolish the tax. Reactors doesn’t have escalating O&M costs, AFAIK. Of course, regulatory ratcheting can lead to higher costs and Swedish nuclear got its share of that recently with unneccessary requirements of independent core cooling.

Anyway, I’m not sure why you bring that up. What we discussed was that solar doesn’t help Sweden. It really doesn’t. The rest of your speculation regarding hydro misses the point, as it focuses on when the sun doesn’t shine, while I’m talking about the value when it does shine.

So the point is that solar production in the summer is fairly worthless in Sweden, since we don’t need it then, and since hydro needs to produce some anyway, and since it most definitely does not help us with consumption peaks. Why would we build something that does not match our needs? Sure, we could integrate a few percent solar semi-usefully (albeit to a cost many times higher than it’s worth) but above 5%, it really becomes futile. Besides, we can rely on Denmark and Germany selling us some of their subsidised solar power almost for nothing in the best summer hours.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 31, 2016

Well, so swedish nuclear power has insurance in the level above 1 trillion €, or does it rely on the state for this?
O&M costs go um inevitabely at the end of tha bathtub curve. And it goes up due to the outdating of whole technologies used in the systems. You can technically still print newspapers with Lineotype systems, but it would cost a fortune to keep the equipment running, because no sparepart would come from series production, but must be hand made, or whole production lines must be bought and kept operational to get special parts for replacements.
Cour de Comptes shows the rising O&M-Costs for nuclear power stations in france very clearly. In sweden this vanishes so far in the overall numbers of vattenfall and similar.
About solar – well anything else delivering power mainly during summer would also be expensive. So it is a question of optimisation. Fortunately, building solar if someone decides it is worth the money is a fast and simple task. So you could watch the market developing. 5 or 10% solar could already do a lot to balance seasonality if needed. And with costs falling year by year it will not be expensive.
And importing power is always possible from further south, espeicially if new grid connections are being built as planned.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 31, 2016

All industries rely on the state for worst-case scenarios.

Sometimes, you modernize the systems to use more contemporary parts. Sometimes you use non-series production parts and pay more, but then the cost isn’t worse the next time. In all, O&M costs does not escalate very much.

If you have seen rising O&M costs, you have to separate that from regulatory ratcheting, investments in uprates, and from fleet-common planned replacements of certain parts after N years.

Yes, it’s a question of optimization and solar isn’t it. Solar is madness for the countries I mentioned. Solar can only worsen the seasonal balance in these countries. And currently, it is extremely expensive.

But I agree, if we are ever going to build solar in Sweden, Germany, Finland, Russia and Canada, we should wait until it makes economic sense, if it ever does. Southern USA, for instance, can invest if it makes sense for them, and we can wait and see if that drives costs down. We need it to hit cost levels where we can produce for €0.03/kWh if we hang the panels vertically on walls facing east and west. Then we can talk.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 31, 2016

Your graph is misleading due to its Y-scale:
In 2000 all Fossil generated 62.5% of production.
In 2015 all Fossil generated 51.9% of production.
A significant decrease in addition to the decrease of nuclear from ~29.4% towards 14.1% in 2015.

Denmark’s interconnections with Norway and Sweden don’t have enough capacity to rely on.
The interconnections with Germany are rather worthless when it concerns to export superfluous wind as the Northern German states generate far more wind themselves. They generate more than 100% of consumption!

Portugal and Ireland had drawbacks due to the crisis.
They had excessive debts. Just as Spain and Greece the champion in falsifying accounting books.
So they retracted all renewable support.
Spain even taxed solar owners for ~4 years retro-actively so much that they sold their solar to the local utility and near all rooftop solar owners took the panels from their roof.

But Portugal is recovering and recently had a new record. It runned 4 days straight on renewable alone.

We’ll see who will be right regarding Germany: Hirth (and you) whose study results support the portfolio of his employer Vattenfall, or think tank Agora (and me) who involves Germany’s best scientists in it’s studies.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 31, 2016

Consider also Scotland which is at 58% renewable electricity and target to have 100% renewable electricity in 2020 already.
Beating even Denmark, though they have far more hydro than Denmark.

As the sea around their coast is deep, they are building floating wind turbines.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 31, 2016

No, in 2000, all fossil was 64% and in 2015 all fossil was 56%. That’s progress, but some is temporary due to remaining nuclear to be closed. I don’t think these 8% is very significant considering the long time frame and enormous expenses. With the same money, Germany could have decarbonised entirely with nuclear power, instead of just reducing 1/8.

Denmark has a large electricity deficit and its gross imports and exports are huge, each being about one third of consumption. The high wind penetration wouldn’t be possible without those huge imports and exports.

For how long are you guys going to blame the recession of 2008? Both Ireland and Portugal grew their wind until 2013 or so, then they stopped. How come? If renewables are so cheap and so easily scaled, how come they aren’t? How come solar buildouts have all been bubbles? Why has Germany stopped solar? How come wind isn’t scaled past some 20%? We have waited for decades and you guys always say “really soon now”.

It’s common practice among Greens to portray green nobodies as top scientists. We have these academics in Sweden too, saying what the Greens want to hear. But it doesn’t happen!

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Aug 31, 2016

Scotland is not a grid either. It’s a small part of UK. Small parts of grid a can easily have hundreds of percent wind, compared with local production. Therefore, Denmark and Scotland are irrelevant. The Iberian peninsula is relevant. South Korea is relevant, that’s a grid. Any state, country or groups of countries that has <10% gross electricity imports and exports.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 31, 2016

Jesper,
Apparently you use a different source??
I use the AGEB figures (the most authoritative I know).
In 2000 fossil: 360.3TWh of a total 576.6TWh production.
In 2015 fossil: 338.0TWh of a total 651.8TWh production.

You forget the priorities of the Energiewende.
Prime target is all nuclear out asap (done in 2023). While 1,000miles away Germany experienced the detrimental health effects of Chernobyl. And their scientists showed genetic damage for newborn <40km away from nuclear facilities.

– Democratize electricity. So rooftop solar and small wind turbine projects of citizen & farmer cooperation's continue to get FiT's, etc.

– 80% renewable electricity in 2050. Intermediate target was 35% in 2020. It's left behind because they could stop until 2020 as they are already at 33%. So now 45% in 2025.

– Insignificant costs. Hence the 50years transition period. It ensures support of the population (from 55% in 2000 to ~90% now).

– Less CO2. Kyoto target -20% in 2020 compared to 1990. No major country will reach that target. Germany surpassed it already; -25% now.

Skeptics declared already many times that the Energiewende would fail. Yet it is farther then they held for possible… So let's see who is right.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Sep 1, 2016

So you exclude Germany also as that country produced in 2015 652TWh and exported 85TWh which is >10%…

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Sep 1, 2016

To judge the penetration of renewables in any electricity grid, I’d first have to establish what the grid is. So I’d try to find a contiguous blob of countries with fairly low cross-border flows.

In Germany’s case, it might suffice to consider it together with Netherlands to meet my (rather arbitrary) limits. But that might change, if Germany decides to offload more renewable power on neighbors that has little renewables themselves.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Sep 1, 2016

I use BP numbers and I calculate fossils by subtracting nuclear and RE figures from total electricity. I looked at AGEB and they had the same total for 2000, but this “Übrige Energieträger” of 22.6 TWh seems to account for almost all the difference between your numbers and mine. Do you know what hides behind that label?

Yes, I know Germany has an anti-environmental priority, and no, your junk science from Sherb still doesn’t apply in the real world. There are no discernible health effects of Chernobyl in Germany.

“Democratize electricity” is also a nonsense goal. Partly reverting to subsistence living does not help, neither the environment nor the democracy. Actually, the opposite is true. We have an environmental crisis and Germany disregards that and decides to not only choose bad intermittent sources, but also chooses to promote particularly inefficient forms of those intermittent sources. Why?

Yes, there’s a target of 40-45% RE in 2025, which means virtually no progress against fossils. The 80% goal to 2050 is quite pie-in-the-sky. Nobody believes it.

The costs of the energiewende are simply staggering. With nuclear, they had been done already with the lower costs, but now, they have most of the costs in front of them.

We can congratulate Germany to have taken over an inefficient communist state in exactly the right time, so that targets are easier to reach. Also, we can congratulate them to the Schroderisation, where they are switching some coal for Putin’s gas. And we can congratulate them for building “modern” coal plants to replace the old and more inefficient plants.

Yes, let’s see who’s right. They’ve given up on solar and biomass – no more growth. Hydro hasn’t grown either. When will wind growth stop as well? That day, it’s game over.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Sep 1, 2016

…junk science from Sherb…

??
Many other research support his results which are published in peer reviewed scientific journals. Some interesting varied results:
Bound etal showed significant increased Down syndrome in the Fylde district of Lancashire (NW-England) after the atomic bomb tests in ~1963.

Neel etal checked some genes and found significant increased genetic damage in children whose parents lived ~300km from Chernobyl. It are germ line mutations which are passed to next generations.

Sperling etal found singificant increase of Down syndrome in Germany nine months after Chernobyl. Btw. more in S-Germany, where the districts researched by Scherb etal are.

Pro-nuclear Hoopman etal found even more genetic damage around Gorleben than Scherb etal in their due diligence research.
The conference with all pro- and contra-scientists about the combined results resulted in the decision to close Gorleben prematurely, despite the huge storage building still being largely empty.

More available…

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Sep 2, 2016

“Übrige … what hides behind that label?

It’s a mixture which make it difficult to assign it to renewable or fossil fuel.
E.g.
CHP
In NL market gardeners used to have boilers to heat their greenhouses (growing flowers, tomatoes, etc).
Now they have gas fueled engines with coupled electricity generators. The heat is used to warm their greenhouse, the CO2 is also fed into the greenhouse as tomatoes, etc. grow better with increased CO2 levels.

When electricity price is near zero or negative their engines still run without generating electricity, as they need the heat and CO2.
So what are their CO2 emissions per KWh? Is it clean as the plants in the greenhouse consume (major part of) the CO2 (depending on plant type and grow stage)?

Similar with some chemical processes, etc.

Adding all fossil (coal, lignite, oil, gas) delivers a more correct figure.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Sep 2, 2016

I don’t get it. If the fuel for CHP or the boilers you mention is fossil, then it’s fossil. If the fuel is renewable, then it’s renewable. Where the CO2 ends up is irrelevant to this classification.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Sep 2, 2016

It’s not clear which part for heating and which for electricity generation. Also because it varies wildly.
The main target of the installation is to warm the greenhouse and supply the plants CO2.

Only CO2 which ends in the atmosphere is relevant.
But that is also not known.
It may be zero or even negative if the plants grow fast when the sun shines!

My brothers have greenhouses. The CO2 level inside the greenhouse is often lower then outside in the open air when the sun shines (the lower CO2 level inside hampers growth). So then the windows are opened and the greenhouse takes CO2 off the atmosphere (kind of CCS), while also burning gas in order to insert more CO2 and keep the temperature inside right. Often they store (part of) the heat to be used during the night (in water tanks >1000m³).
Electricity is here a by-product.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Sep 2, 2016

I’m assuming then, that “Übrige” has a fossil share equivalent to the share of fossils in specified non-nuclear thermal generation (i.e. fossils and biomass). Since there was almost no biomass at all in 2000, the entire Übrige should be counted as fossil. In 2015, biomass had increased so “only” 88% of the Übrige should be considered fossil.

So your figures should be adjusted to:
In 2000 fossil: 382.8TWh of a total 576.6TWh production.
In 2015 fossil: 361.8TWh of a total 651.8TWh production.

and consequently:
In 2000 all Fossil generated 66.4% of production.
In 2015 all Fossil generated 55.5% of production.

This is close to my original claim of 64% -> 56%.

Btw, fuel consumption in Germany has developed like this in 2000-2015 in Mtoe:
coal 85,3 -> 78,3
gas 71,3 -> 67,2
oil 129,8 -> 110,2
uranium 38,4 -> 20,7
Sum reduction: 324,8 -> 276,3
The total reduction of these non-RE sources over 15 years is 48 Mtoe, and 276 Mtoe remains. This reduction is a mere 15%, i.e. one percent per year. That’s not good.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Sep 2, 2016

All your examples are junk science. It has been established that there’s no heriditery human damage from radiation in humans, not even from a-bombs. Also, the radiation levels of Chernobyl in Germany have been way too low to cause anything discernible. However, it’s easy to find correlations, always, if one cherry-pick, datamine, disregard significance and don’t adjust for confounding factors, you can “prove” anything. That’s what your guys’ are doing and I showed you before what real scientists think of that with some quotes.

I don’t know why you persist in spreading junk that is not supported by mainstream science. Why not throw in some stuff from Chris Busby as well? He’s Sherb’s pal, you know…

And btw, any attempt to portray this junk science as supported by “pro-nuclear” scientists is ludicrous. The only “scientists” who are pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear are the anti-nuclear junk scientists such as Sherb and Busby. The rest are just scientists.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Sep 2, 2016

Your previous “junk science” statement regarding the many studies published in scientific journals which show serious health damage due to radiation increase, shows that you do not accept any fact which contradict your (pro-nuclear) ideas.

Now you also distort the authoritative AGEB figures in your drive to show that the Energiewende is a failure!

I consider the Energiewende to be a great success as it is reaching, even overshooting, it’s 4 most important targets:
1. All nuclear out before 2023
2. Democratize electricity generation (near 50% of renewable owned by citizens, farmers and cooperation’s)

3. 80% renewable in 2050 with nearest intermediate target 35% in 2020. They will overshoot that target as they are now already at 33% (was 6% renewable in 2000).

4. Affordable costs. Those are insignificant as shown by the greatly increased support of German population. From ~55% in 2000 towards ~90% now.
It secures successful continuation!

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Sep 2, 2016

Uhm, not accepting junk science does not show any bias whatsoever, except perhaps a bias for truth.

I don’t distort AGEB, I simply estimate the fossil contents of their “other energy”. Please consider that if you’re adamant that the “other energy” isn’t partly fossil, then you should be as adamant that it isn’t partly renewable. In that case, working with Germany’s 80% goal for RE electricity you would have to classify “other energy” as non-RE, so you just made Germany’s job harder, while I made it easier.

I have responded to your claims in 1-4 already, but in short, nuclear is better than what replaces it, “democratization” of energy is nonsense at best, 80% RE by 2050 is pie-in-the-sky and costs are extreme.

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