Thursday, September 15, 2005

Speaking of Regenerative Energies

Three stories, a bit dated:

First: Solar power in Germany:

In June this year, Germany became the second country with total photovoltaic power generating capacity in excess of 1 gigawatt (1000 MW) - the average power of a modern nuclear power plant block.

For some comparison: at the end of 2004, Japan had solar cells with 1137 MW installed, Germany had 794 MW, third-placed USA 358 MW - with respective 2004 additions of 277 MW, 363 MW and 83 MW.

Even tough the capacity factor (average power per maximum power over a full year) of solar cells in Germany is about 11%, that is this 1 GW of solar cells produces a ninth to eighth of the electricity a nuclear power plant block would, this is now really something. Also note: while less than half (165 MW) of US solar cells are connected to the grid (and still just 60% of the newly installed), almost all of the German and Japanese photovoltaic power is grid-connected.

(File under "European success stories ignored even by local economic elites".)

Second - Geothermal power in Germany:

In the first half of August in Landau/Rhineland-Pfalz state, drilling started for (if I counted them all) the seventh commercial-scale deep geothermal power plant in Germany. When the 3 km bore and the machinery upon it starts service in 2007, 150°C water will power a turbine at 2-2.5 MW, and (through a secondary circuit) supply heat to local homes at 8 MW.

Geothermal energy is technically available at a lot more places than commonly assumed*.

Among alternative energies, the advantages of geothermal are constant power for electricity production (3500 plants with 10 MW each would suffice to give all of the constant part of the German baseload), and the ability to replace gas & heating oil in building heating (wind or photovoltaic [PV] solar cells can't)#. Its disadvantage is that, disregarding 'external costs' (pollution etc.) as our current economies do, it is still rather expensive, about 3-5 times the market price (but less than PV)+.

I note that at Landau, drilling is done by Oil & Gas Exploration Company Jaslo Ltd., a Polish company.

These two German stories indicate what will be lost after the expected government change in Germany next week - all the successes of the Social Democrat-Greens coalition were connected to the latter, now we'll only see chancellor Schröder's neoliberal line replaced by an even more neoliberal line of an SPD/Christian Democrat 'grand coalition', or a still more neoliberal line by a Christian Democrat/Free Democrat coalition.

Third - China raises targets:

China recently passed its own feed-in law for regenerative energies, complete with a target for raising their share from 7% to 10% by 2010 (while overall use expands rapidly too). Wind power alone was slated to grow to 20 GW.

Significant, but far from enough. Dirty coal, which now gives 75%, would give most of the growth (along with dangerous and lethal waste producing nuclear energy, and dams that won't be a net benefit due to CO2/mehane producing rot in sediment/sewage-rich reservoirs).

Now the government considers raising the target by 50% (still just to 15%...).

Notes:
*: The potential just along the Upper Rhine fault line in Germany is currently estimated at 28,000 TWh/year electricity - 50 times the entire German demand, transmission losses included. (This older study (pdf!) puts the potential in all of Germany at ten times of that.)
#: Indeed in Germany, there are also about a dozen geothermal plants that produce only heat.
+: The German feed-in tariff for geothermal is (depending on size: less for bigger ones) 7.16-15 c/kWh. My 3500 plants would cost €250 billion to build.

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