As the Bundestag voted to officially end the nuclear power era, clouds began forming on German solar power. The post-nuclear plan requires doubling the renewable electrical energy sources. Solar investment is shrinking in favor of other technologies.
German Solar Power – Nuclear Sunset
The Japanese earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima nuclear facility on March 11, 2011 ignited a smoldering anti-German nuclear power movement. The Green Party won a major state election, and leveraged the Chancellery to reverse its nuclear position. An immediate decision shut down seven of the older reactors. The Bundestag voted to end German nuclear power by 2022 on June 30, 2011.
German Solar Power – Revised Renewable Plan
In 2010, nuclear power delivered 22% of electrical needs. German solar power added 2%. The graph, below, reveals renewable technologies accumulated to 17%.
The post-nuclear goal doubles to 35%. The government plans increased subsidies for water power and geothermal energy. Investment in solar power, biomass, and land-based wind power declines.
German Solar Power – Diminishing Returns On Sunlight
Just recently, the German government touted 250,000 solar installations in 2010. A government energy agency worried how a sunny might overload Germany’s energy grid. Why are shadows forming on German solar power panels?
A one billion Euro monthly tax incentive for individuals and companies is fueling solar growth. This Feed-In Tariff is part of the German Renewal Energy Act, the cost shared by all rate payers. While a decade of 63% compound annual growth is impressive, 2% of German energy is a weak return on a huge investment. 250,000 installations are notable, but the cost of installing German solar power in 900,000 companies and 39 million households is daunting. Other energy technologies may provide a higher return.
German Solar Power – Renewable Plan Risks
Doubling renewable energy power by 2022 is an ambitious plan. German cultural conflicts add risk. The plan includes more off-shore wind farms, but construction is halted to protect porpoises. A new smart grid is a priority to optimize energy distribution, but no one wants the power masts in their backyards.
In the end, Germany’s choice is between nuclear and fossil fuel power. With one of the world’s hottest economies, energy consumption will rise. In parallel to investing in renewable technologies, more coal and gas-fired generators need capital. Totally depending on renewable sources, especially as plans continue to shift, is risking black-outs and economic problems.
Reducing a billion Euro monthly solar subsidy is probably wise. Even with less investment, German solar power is likely to glow a little bit brighter each year.