Solar Power Oversupply risks Overloading Germany's grid
Germany's high adoption of solar power stands the risk of overloading the country's ageing electricity grid, causing power outages
Germany has been one of the most active adopters of solar power. German solar subsidies have encouraged residents and businesses to install solar panels and sell extra electricity to the grid. Solar installations have become so popular that Germany's solar power generation could reach 30 GW by the end of next year. Unfortunately this high adoption of solar power stands the risk of overloading the country's ageing electricity grid.
Solar power varies throughout the day and can be produced in huge surges during peak sun hours. These solar power surges usually occur during the middle of the day, rather than during the evening when demand for power is much higher. When small surges occur, power station generators can be turned off in order to keep the overall power supply to the grid the same. But large surges of solar power can result in an oversupply of power to the grid, exceeding demand, even when all the generators are turned off. Stephan Kohler, head of Germany's energy agency, DENA, warned that at current rates of solar installation, solar power will soon reach large surge levels, and could trigger blackouts. "We need to cap installation of new panels," a spokesperson for DENA told New Scientist.
Germany's circumstance highlights the importance of preparing for such a large move to renewable energy. Tim Green of Imperial College London comments that since renewable energy supply lowers the flexibility of power generation, we need to be more flexible in when we use the power, for example by charging electric cars during peak solar power hours.