Thursday, 31 May 2012

Germany Sets New Solar Record By Meeting Nearly Half of Country’s Weekend Power Demand

That is the title of a posting in tonight's Inhabitat online newsletter.  Read the original article here.

Frankly, I don't know quite what to add to this sort of amazing news.  The Inhabitat article mentions that in response to public pressure after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, Germany significantly accelerated its installation of photovoltaics while at the same time shutting down its nuclear generators.  But what it doesn't mention is the variety of interesting schemes that make it possible for Germany to have installed such huge renewables capacity, so quickly.  Chief amongst them is the mechanism whereby the power generating utility effectively leases a private roof, for the right to install building integrated photovoltaics.  For the householder, this represents not only an effective income, but an actual saving in building materials that would otherwise have to be the roof of the dwelling.

This kind of spectacular growth in baseline generation capacity by renewables, shows how ridiculous is all the negative sentiment and opposition, that we experience here in Australia.  It makes very clear that even now the photovoltaic technology is sufficiently mature, and with the appropriate incentive schemes, economically viable.  Quite clearly it would be able to make much, much more than a marginal impact on how we supply our electricity demand.  If only we would bite the bullet, and get on with it.


Anonymous said...

I have been consistently shocked in the past few years at the negative responses in Sydney towards the installation and use of Solar Panels. My family installed solar panels on our family house in 2007 and were excited by the ‘positive thinking’ of the Solar Bonus Scheme when it was introduced on 1 January 2010. However, the closing of the scheme to new applicants on 1 July 2012 , as it reached its overall ‘connected capacity’ of 300 MW, highlights how insignificant this scheme is in comparison to the incredible 22 gigawatts of solar power that was fed per hour into Germany’s national grid on a weekend in June 2012.

Also, in relation to the blog post “Duh! Big houses use more energy” in 2007, a 2.5 story detached house is currently being constructed to the northern side of our family property . This house will use more energy and produce more pollution than the existing single story property, as for example its proximity to neighbouring properties has led to very minimal glazing on both the Northern and Southern Facades. Not only this, but the house will reduce our properties solar gain as well as covering the solar panels on our roof in shade for much of the year. Having apposed the proposed plans, we found that despite small changes being forced by the Local Government, the issue of our solar panels becoming ineffective was not addressed or of any consequence.

This blog post and my experience has led me to further question the commitment of our National and State Governments to encourage renewable energy use. The minute capacity of the Solar Bonus Scheme highlights the small scale at which our governments are encouraging change, whilst Germany shows the immense possibilities of nation-wide change. Furthermore, the lack of legislation to ensure productivity for constructed Solar Panels exposes a lack of depth and commitment to current policy.

Solar Bonus Scheme:

Duh! Big houses use more energy:

Neighbouring House Drawings and Application:

Steve King said...

Thanks for your long comment.

The problem with the solar electricity bonus scheme to which you refer was always going to be the ill considered bonus pricing. If the purchase price for the electricity was to be for the 'gross' production, it was never going to make sense for the unit price to be much more than the utility charges to sell the same electricity. It all sounded terribly enlightened, but it was economically unsustainable.

Now of course we have reverted to 'net' pricing, and again they have priced it poorly. This time the price is too low; what you get for your small surplus production will take a very long time to recover your cost of installation.

You would have to conclude that the NSW government has been getting poor advice - or if they get good advice, they are ignoring it.

I do agree with your broad assessment of the 'depth of commitment', but we are mired in a very complex problem.

The planning frameworks are designed to protect the opportunity to develop real property while safeguarding the public good. The protection of amenity for neighbours has actually been grafted onto that older and more fundamental objective, and becomes difficult to enforce.

Encouraging dispersed generation of power falls uncomfortably between private interest and public benefit, and most planners are not competent to make consistent decisions in such a complicated area.

Until we have well thought out policies from a political level, we will end up with bad decisions - either such as your case, or the other way around where someone's otherwise approvable development is sterilised by a badly located solar collector.