German Solar Sets Records in War on Russian Gas

August 20, 2022

More transmission needed.


German solar power is hitting new records this summer, and is set for further growth as the government enacts new policies to spur the expansion of renewable energy.

In May, German solar output hit a new high of 7.7 terawatt-hours, PV Magazine reported. That record was broken in June, when solar produced 8 terawatt-hours of power, and again in July, when it hit 8.2 terawatt-hours and supplied a fifth of Germany’s electricity. The July record is notable as solar output typically peaks in June, when the days are longest.

In the first half of 2022, Germany installed 3.8 gigawatts of solar power, up from 2.75 gigawatts installed in the first half of 2021, PV Magazine reported. The country is roughly on pace to match the record growth seen between 2010 and 2012.

Now, the government is looking to further speed the buildout of renewables to curb Germany’s reliance on Russian natural gas. Last month, Germany set a goal of drawing 80 percent of its power from renewables by 2030, up from its prior target of 65 percent. The plan calls for tripling solar power by 2030 and includes measures that will streamline approval of renewable projects and increase incentives for rooftop installations and small solar arrays.

The rapid buildout of solar poses a challenge for the grid, however, as on particularly sunny days the high volume of solar can overload power lines. There were 257 days last year when German grid operator N-Ergie limited the amount of electricity from solar panels. “The likelihood is that grid bottlenecks will actually increase in the coming years” as solar power grows, N-Ergie spokesperson Michael Enderlein, told AFP.

In his remarks on Germany’s energy policy, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said a rapid buildout of renewables is needed to provide an affordable and reliable supply of power. “Energy policy is not just a question of price. Energy policy is also security policy,” he said at an event hosted by the Renewable Energy Association. “That’s why we need to kick the expansion of renewables into high gear now.”


The more the sun shines in the southern German town of Aurach, the more likely it is that Jens Husemann’s solar panels will be disconnected from the grid – an exasperating paradox at a time when Germany is navigating an energy supply crisis.

“It’s being switched off every day,” Husemann told AFP during a recent sunny spell, saying there had been more than 120 days of forced shutdowns so far this year.

Husemann, who runs an energy conversion business near Munich, also owns a sprawling solar power system on the flat roof of a transport company in Aurach, Bavaria.

The energy generated flows into power lines run by grid operator N-Ergie, which then distributes it on the network.

But in sunny weather, the power lines are becoming overloaded – leading the grid operator to cut off supply from the solar panels.

“It’s a betrayal of the population,” said Husemann, pointing to soaring electricity prices and a continued push to install more solar panels across Germany.

Europe’s biggest economy is eyeing an ambitious switch to renewables making up 80% of its electricity from 2030 in a bid to go carbon neutral.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put a spanner in the works. 

Moscow has cut gas supplies to Germany by 80%, in what is believed to be a bid to weaken the European powerhouse’s resolve in backing Ukraine.

As a result, Berlin has been scrambling for alternative sources across the world to replace the shortfall.

This makes it all the more frustrating for Husemann, whose solar panels normally generate enough electricity for 50 households. With the repeated shutdowns, he suspects they will only supply half of their capacity by the end of the year.

Grid bottlenecks

Grid operator N-Ergie, which is responsible for harvesting electricity from Husemann’s panels, admits the situation is less than ideal.

There were 257 days last year when it had to cut off supply from solar panels on parts of the grid.

“We are currently witnessing – and this is a good thing – an unprecedented boom in photovoltaic parks,” Rainer Kleedoerfer, head of N-Ergie’s development department, told AFP.

But while it takes just a couple of years to commission a solar power plant, updating the necessary infrastructure takes between five and 10 years, he said.

“The number of interventions and the amount of curtailed energy have increased continuously in recent years” as a result, according to N-Ergie spokesman Michael Enderlein. 

“The likelihood is that grid bottlenecks will actually increase in the coming years,” while resolving them will take several more years, Enderlein said.

According to Carsten Koenig, managing director of the German Solar Industry Association, the problem is not unique to solar power and also affects wind energy.

Solar bottlenecks tend to be regional and temporary, he said. “Occasionally, however, we hear that especially in rural areas in Bavaria, the shutdowns are more frequent.”

2.4 million households 

Koenig agrees the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“This will be especially true if political measures aimed at sufficiently expanding the power grid in Germany… drag on for too long,” he said.

Some 6.1 terawatt hours of electricity from renewables had to be curtailed in 2020, according to the most recent figures available. 

With an average consumption of around 2 500 kilowatt hours per year in a two-person household, this would have been enough to power around 2.4 million households. 

A spokesman for Germany’s Federal Network Agency said it did not share the belief that “it will not be possible to expand the network in line with demand in the coming years”. 

Only some aspects of the expansion are seeing delays, the spokesman said – mainly due to slow approval procedures and a lack of specialist companies to do the work.

UPDATE – Scientist Stefan Rahmstorf tweets:

“This technology dries your laundry without fossil energy, only with wind and sun! Easy to use. Ah, Putin!”


2 Responses to “German Solar Sets Records in War on Russian Gas”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    Oh come on. A bunch of heat pumps, induction cookers, & other efficient appliances, sourced from all over the world in support of the anti-invasion emergency, a powerwall & a computer the size of a crouton in each house to shunt electricity to immediate household use, then on-site storage, then the grid, to take care of most of the problem. Neighborhood micro-grids between storage and grid could take care of enough of the rest so the remaining problems would be no problem.

    Declaration of an emergency to upgrade whatever part of the grid needs it, as China has done, and addition of more offshore wind at 63%+ capacity factor. A response of matching seriousness from the US to help supply everything Germany can’t provide fast enough. No new fossil mining, drilling, LNG facilities.

  2. John Oneill Says:

    Don’t know how much curtailment was happening today, but for two hours around midday, in the middle of summer and with an anticyclone over northern Europe, German solar produced at just over half it’s capacity (52%) and made up, for those two hours, 42% of the country’s power. The solar production bell curve covered 14 hours, with an average capacity factor over that period of about 30%, or taken over the 24 hour period, 17.5%. There was no reduction at all in coal or nuclear power during the midday solar production peak, even though solar then pushed output ~25% higher than what used to be the evening peak in demand. They’re using solar to minimise gas use, but it’s not doing a very good job of it. Even with less than 40% of its nuclear fleet operational -after ten years of the government’s stated policy of cutting nuclear, incuding decommissioning fully functional power stations -French emissions per kW/h are still about a quarter those of Germany, land of the Energiewende.

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