Records set to be smashed as Germany’s solar output soars

Germany will continue to break records for solar output despite market declines, confirm analysts

This weekend Germany recorded 23.9GW of electricity generated from solar power. (Source: jikatu)

By Nilima Choudhury

Last weekend Germany recorded 23.9GW of electricity generated from solar power according to manufacturer SMA Solar, enough to power 2.3 million homes.  

The country’s previous record of 22GW was set in May, in what is rapidly proving to be a stellar year for solar power capacity in the country.

Today, approximately 8.5 million people live in buildings in Germany that use their own solar power systems to generate electricity or heat. That figure, and the country’s output, are both likely to rise.

Stefan de Haan, analyst at market research firm IHS told RTCC that because of the number of people that own solar panels: “we will see a new record every year. This can happen [again] any year on a sunny day.”

In 1991 Germany launched its Energiewende policy transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The country now gets nearly 25% of its electricity from renewables.

The electricity share from renewables is slated to grow to around 39% by 2020, at least 50% by 2030, and 80% by 2050.

Despite de Haan’s optimism, Germany’s solar industry has had a great deal of bad news this summer. It awaits further cuts to its subsidy scheme, while two of Germany’s largest companies, Conergy and Gerhlicher Solar, filed for insolvency.

Political scruples

Government dithering over updating the German renewable energy act (EEG), which offered solar manufacturers a level of financial security, has been blamed for causing a wave of solar company insolvencies and job cuts.

Various factions of the government claim the uptake of solar power has happened too fast due to generous subsidies. They say these are now draining resources from other budgets.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, currently campaigning for a third term, promising to overhaul subsidies for renewable energy after the September general election.

Meanwhile, the solar industry is suffering because there are now too many companies operating in a limited sector.

Susanne von Aichberger, market and technology analyst at Solarbuzz told RTCC that the argument of over-production leading to higher costs for the government to support the solar industry “is nothing new”.

“I think that even if the government would use the last weekend as argument for cutting PV funding, it is unlikely that this record weekend would change their plans to cut PV. Had the last weekend been rainy, they would have referred to another record-weekend,” von Aichberger said.


Similarly, de Haan states that solar will continue to play a significant role in the energy mix regardless of whether the sun is shining or not.

“The average solar yield in Germany is something like 900kWh for every kilowatt installed,” said de Haan,.

For project developers and installers, weather is also irrelevant.

“The hot temperatures in the summer don’t make a big difference, because in the German summer you always find weather that is suitable for construction work,” said von Aichberger.

“There is a strong impact though of the weather in the winter, in particular in the later winter like January or February, when the ground and snow tends to get deeply frozen in some areas in Germany and it gets difficult and dangerous to install.

“One issue that might negatively affect the PV market this summer is the flood, which caused a lot of damage and money might flow rather in reconstruction work, new furniture etc. than in PV systems,” Von Aichberger said.

“Imagine if we have five times that much how shall we handle that, where should all that go and so on,” said de Haan.

“We must use the time to make sure we can handle that when there’s much more PV installed than today and this will happen absolutely.”

Von Aichberger said: “Surely PV systems produce much more in the summer, but that’s why we have to look at PV as part of a new energy system, including all renewables and the remaining conventional power plants. It’s all technically doable, one just has to do it.

Trade spat

Germany and the European Union is currently embroiled in a trade case accusing China of selling solar panels on the EU market at below cost.

Media reports are circulating that the European and China have reached a resolution in the largest trade case between these countries, but officials refuse to confirm them.

“The dispute about trade sanctions with China is resolved for the time being,” a spokeswoman with the Economy Ministry who asked not to be named due to ministry policy told Bloomberg.

However, press officer to EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht who imposed preliminary duties on Chinese products in June, told RTCC that discussions between the parties are still ongoing.

“All we can say is that talks are indeed ongoing and there are delegations of EU experts have been in Beijing for more than two weeks and now there’s a delegation of Chinese experts in Brussels so the talks continue – they are ongoing”.

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