In Germany: Batteries Spark a Sustainable Community

November 30, 2015


Sonnenbatterie’s wall-mounted household-scale unit combines energy storage, regulator and smart-grid connectivity in a single rather elegant package

Deutshe Welle:

On Wednesday in Berlin, Sonnenbatterie co-founder and CEO Christoph Ostermann presented “SonnenCommunity,” a way for buyers of the company’s household-scale electricity storage batteries – most of whom also have solar photovoltaic panels mounted on their rooftops – to automatically buy and sell energy from each other directly through a shared online platform.

Launching in January, the platform will allow members who have more stored power than they need on a given day to sell electricity to others who are short of electricity.

Sonnen buyers who join SonnenCommunity will directly benefit in financial terms, the company said. For one thing, new Sonnen unit buyers will get a discount of 1,875 euros off the retail price of the battery, in exchange for having to pay a 20 euro per month members’ fee.

Members will also get 1,000 kWh of free electricity per year – power SonnenCommunity will acquire from grid operators at times when excess solar or wind power, due to bright sunshine or strong winds, is flooding Germany’s wholesale electricity market to such an extent that the spot price of electricity goes to zero. That’s an increasingly frequent event in a country where 30 percent of total electricity produced in 2015 was renewable electricity – much of that from wind and solar power.

Buying and selling

Under German law, the electricity grid operator must buy any solar power offered to it by anyone in the country, and pay a regulated “feed-in tariff” that sets a firm price for solar power sold over a 20-year contract period starting when the solar panels are first installed and connected to the grid. At the moment, the grid operator must pay about 11 cents per kWh for new solar power installations.

SonnenCommunity members who instead sell power to other members will get 0.25 euro cents more per kWh than they would get from the grid operator for solar-generated electricity.

A much more significant benefit will accrue to members of SonnenCommunity who are short power on a given day. They’ll pay a flat rate of 23 euro cents per kWh to buy electrictiy from other members of the Community, a much lower rate than the roughly 32 euro cents flat rate they pay to grid operators for electricity.

Meanwhile, the larger vision continues to gel.
Stanford Engineer Mark Jacobsen’s newest study on how to get to 100 percent renewable is out – and it’s a window on a sustainable future.

Let’s make it a door and go thru it.

Scientific American:

Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi have done it again. This time they’ve spelled out how 139 countries can each generate all the energy needed for homes, businesses, industry, transportation, agriculture—everything—from wind, solar and water power technologies, by 2050. Their national blueprints, released Nov. 18, follow similar plans they have published in the past few years to run each of the 50 U.S. states on renewables, as well as the entire world.

Energy demand across the 139 nations by 2050 would be met with a broad set of wind, water and solar technologies: 19.4 percent onshore wind farms, 12.9 percent offshore wind farms, 42.2 percent utility-scale photovoltaic arrays, 5.6 percent rooftop solar panels, 6.0 percent commercial rooftop solar panels, 7.7 percent concentrated solar power arrays, 4.8 percent hydroelectricity, and 1.47 percent geothermal, wave and tidal power. Jacobson, Delucchi and more than a dozen colleagues from around the world have posted the details, country by country, in a self-published paper they released online. Hoping to make it available for COP, they have yet to publish it in a journal, but they intend to, Jacobson says. The previous plans have all been published.

The big knock against renewables such as wind and solar is that they are intermittent; the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. That means large amounts of energy storage are needed to save up excess power generated when these technologies are going full bore, which can then be tapped when they are low. Storage adds substantial cost and complexity to a renewable energy system.  But Jacobson has an answer. By using a smart mix of technologies that complement one another during different parts of the day and different weather conditions, storage can be kept to a minimum. He, Delucchi and two colleagues explain how this can work across the U.S. in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that (was) published Nov. 23.

The engineering detail in all these papers and plans is staggering. The document released for the 139 countries provides an itemized mix of technologies and costs for every nation, as well as how much land and rooftop area would be required. Since 2009 the two researchers, working with many others, have honed the numbers again and again. Now what is needed most, Jacobson says, is exposure. “We have talked to hundreds of expert and politicians. Now we need to reach hundreds of millions of people,” in hopes that they will see the possibilities and begin to call for them.




4 Responses to “In Germany: Batteries Spark a Sustainable Community”

  1. andrewfez Says:

    Germany also has a community of ~500 homes, who have solar heat collection panels on their roofs which dump heat into a 3 million gallon communal water tank in the summer and use that to heat their homes during the winter. Canada too has one of these communities. There are 100 or so around the world.

  2. kap55 Says:

    What Jacobson et al. quietly slide under the radar is the cozy-but-impossible assumption that every state (or presumably, nation) is entirely capable of reducing it’s overall energy use by enormous fractions, which is required to implement their vision. No staggering detail of engineering here, just pie-in-the-sky unicorns and rainbows.

    The fact is that as global energy efficiency has gone up, up, up every year on its linear course (as measured by real GDP produced per energy consumed), global energy use has gone up, up, up on a parallel course, utterly unaffected by increasing efficiency. Or, more correctly, stimulated by the economic benefit that energy efficiency provides.

    If something is based on a putative effect that has never been observed in 200 years of looking, is it fair to call it science?

    • indy222 Says:

      In my own writings, I’m going to be calling this “Generalized Jevon’s Paradox”. Efficiency savings have always been spent and they can be spent ANYwhere, not just on the thing giving the savings. This is what such policy people miss. The thirst for more wealth (i.e. time-integrated GDP over all nations over all time) has never slackened. The newly created efficiency newly creates the ability to spend the savings elsewhere in our desires. And any spending on anything will involve new energy generation. Some of that energy will be CO2 producing, for quite a long time. By increasing efficiency, we only increase the rate Civilization can grow. And if it CAN grow, it WILL grow, history teaches us. See the work of Tim Garrett (cloud physicist at U. Utah), including his YouTube seminars, for more on this phenomenon. He’s shown that the time integrated GDP of all nations over all time is simply proportional to the current rate of global energy consumption. This is human nature in action. Jacobson etal make the unstated assumption that savings will never be spent, essentially will be destroyed, and therefore not contribute to expanding Civilization. This is a variance with all of human experience and history. Jacobson has looked at the alternative energy possibilities for each country, and then simply drawn french curves to get them up to where he wants them, and then drops CO2 production along with his curves. Not realistic in the actual world.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Well said, and I’ll add a “Jevon’s Paradox” thought of my own to that. Increased “efficiency” in production of fossil fuels, even if that merely results from dumping cheap oil on the market by the Saudis, has led to low gasoline prices, which has led to a surge in the sales of pickup trucks and large SUV’s in the U.S., which vehicles use more gas than more sensibly sized vehicles even though their efficiency HAS improved somewhat because of federal fuel efficiency standards.

        The Great Recession caused a large drop in miles driven and gasoline consumption, but now that many folks are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, miles driven are climbing steeply, and the net result will be more fuel consumed and more CO2 released, and NOBODY can predict with any real accuracy where we’re headed.

        I have to chuckle when engineers like Jacobson swish their slide rules back and forth and come up with those pretty “french curve” graphs without understanding how the non-sciences of economics, human psychology, and politics impact their calculations, and how the rising impacts of AGW (if we don’t move much faster) are going to “monkey-wrench” his projections. If the Chinese economy tanks and we go into a world-wide recession, people WILL consume less energy, but it won’t be because of spending on “increased efficiency” but rather because people are saving their resources to use for food.

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