Library filed under General from Germany
On some nights in northern Germany, utilities pay customers to keep their lights on. In a country with deep green roots, it's an odd fix for an odd problem: Local distributors have no place to store wind energy and no way to dispatch it to areas that need it.
After years of getting government incentives to install windmills, operators in Europe may have become their own worst enemy, reducing the total price paid for electricity in Germany, Europe's biggest power market, by as much as 5 billion euros some years, according to a study this week by Poeyry, a Helsinki-based industry consultant. ..."Wind is playing an important role in spot-price volatility because it's very difficult to predict when more power is coming on line," said Ruxandra Haradau-Doeser, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt.
Abstract: The allure of an environmentally benign, abundant, and cost-effective energy source has led an increasing number of industrialized countries to back public financing of renewable energies. Germany’s experience with renewable energy promotion is often cited as a model to be replicated elsewhere, being based on a combination of far-reaching energy and environmental laws that stretch back nearly two decades. This paper critically reviews the current centerpiece of this effort, the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), focusing on its costs and the associated implications for job creation and climate protection. We argue that German renewable energy policy, and in particular the adopted feed-in tariff scheme, has failed to harness the market incentives needed to ensure a viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies into the country’s energy portfolio. To the contrary, the government’s support mechanisms have in many respects subverted these incentives, resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security. In the case of photovoltaics, Germany’s subsidization regime has reached a level that by far exceeds average wages, with per-worker subsidies as high as 175,000 € (US $ 240,000)
As much as 100 billion euros ($143 billion) in planned investments in German offshore wind farms are at risk as developers struggle to get funding, jeopardizing the deepest emissions cuts in the European Union. Bochum's municipal utility expects its first wind park to be delayed by up to two years, Managing Director Bernd Wilmert said. HEAG Suedhessische Energie AG, a regional energy supplier known as HSE, had to go to twice as many banks as it would have needed last year to finance a 1.3 billion-euro North Sea wind farm, Chief Executive Officer Albert Filbert said.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has laid the foundation for a "milestone" renewable energy plant that answers the big question surrounding wind energy: what happens when it isn't windy? ...Some renewable energy experts have expressed doubts that the electrolysis will be as effective as planned and warn that the technology is a long way from being market-ready. ..."The technology is very elaborate and very expensive," says Dr Peter Schäfer of the Jülich research centre, which operated a similar hydrogen storage system powered by solar cells.
Offshore wind-energy installations in Northern Europe have lost appeal among financiers because of increased costs and difficulties in building and running equipment miles at sea, a German banker said. Many lenders have stopped providing credit for installations that are anchored to the ocean floor, said Thiess Harder-Heun, a director at Deutsche Kreditbank AG, which has financed construction of about 700 wind turbines over the past decade.
To make use of this clean [renewable] energy, we'll need more transmission lines that can transport power from one region to another and connect energy-hungry cities with the remote areas where much of our renewable power is likely to be generated. We'll also need far smarter controls throughout the distribution system--technologies that can store extra electricity from wind farms in the batteries of plug-in hybrid cars, for example, or remotely turn power-hungry appliances on and off as the energy supply rises and falls. If these grid upgrades don't happen, new renewable-power projects could be stalled, because they would place unacceptable stresses on existing electrical systems.
The islands of Wangerooge and Borkum had sought to keep the future windparks, with towers rising 90 metres above the sea, out of their backyard. They argued that tourists might be put off by the view and that ships colliding with the windmills could cause huge oil spills.
"Many of these engineering problems have been known for years, but when it comes to putting them into practice developers have encountered difficulties, especially when far offshore and when the weather is bad," said Heiko Stohlmeyer, a renewable-energy financing consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, in an interview. "Enormous" challenges in getting equipment to areas of the sea where windfarms are being built and then servicing the equipment are presenting obstacles for the projects, Stohlmeyer said.
Building work for Germany's first offshore wind power park, Alpha Ventus in the North Sea, will start within a week, the project developer said on Friday. DOTI -- a joint venture owned in equal shares by utilities E.ON, Vattenfall Europe and EWE -- said the 180 million euro ($282.6 million) project got official permission to earlier this month. "Having received the go-ahead, we will start with building work out at sea by the end of next week," a company spokesman said.
Conglomerate Siemens AG, wracked by a wide-ranging corruption scandal, will cut up to 4 percent of its work force worldwide, or about 17,200 jobs, a pair of newspapers reported Saturday. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the Munich-based company was set to shed the jobs -- mostly white-collar and administrative -- without citing any sources. ...The warning was a surprise for the conglomerate, whose diverse products include trams, turbines and telecommunications equipment, given that it had said in January that sales were expected to double the pace of the global economy.
Germany was replaced by the United States as the world's No.1 market for newly installed wind turbines last year due to falling subsidies, the German wind energy federation BWE said on Tuesday. While new installation of wind turbines worldwide rose about 31 percent overall to 20,076 megawatt (MW), new installations in Germany slumped 25 percent to 1,667 MW last year, the association said in a statement.
German utilities are warning the government of bottlenecks in power transmission grids due to the difficulties of integrating higher shares of wind energy, Handelsblatt reported. The paper cited reports on the state of transmission networks German utilities are required to submit to the German grid regulator by tomorrow. The number of incidents has risen significantly over the past two years, the report said. Vattenfall Europe AG's transmission unit recorded 155 days where the situation was critical on grids last year, and 28 out of 29 days so far this year.
Federation president Johannes Lackmann said investment in renewable energy sources turbines had actually fallen in 2007 and called on the German government to do more to stimulate its growth. "The government's current provisions are insufficient to continue the successful course of recent years," he said. Tax breaks and other subsidies that renewable energy sources receive in Germany are due to be gradually phased out over the next few years, which "green" producers say will erode their already weak competitiveness compared to traditional energy sources such as coal and nuclear power.
"The next big phase of development in places like Germany and Holland will be offshore, where the resources are so much better." ...In Britain, where around 1.5 percent of electricity is produced by wind, opposition to 50 metre-tall turbines near homes has meant companies are also looking out to sea. "The land-grab has happened," said John-Marc Bunce, alternative energy analyst at broker Ambrian Partners. "In places like the UK there was never really enough land anyway and the government was crazy thinking anyone would want to have a wind turbine next to their house." ...But offshore wind is not without drawbacks, and over the longer term, it could be upstaged by other sources. "It costs a lot more and it's a lot more difficult. The development of offshore technology is in the same place that onshore wind industry was eight, 10 years ago," said Sawyer at the Global Wind Energy Council.
... while German power companies export 61 per cent of the wind generators they produce, the number of new wind turbines installed in Germany fell by more than 25 per cent in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2006. "This is evidence that the fundamental conditions for wind power utilisation are no longer favourable in Germany," said Germany's Wind Energy Federation president Hermann Albers. ...These days news that a wind park is planned normally results in a local residents' campaign to raise concerns that the wind generators risk spoiling the countryside, driving away tourists and leading to sleepless nights for those living close to the turbines because of the infrasound - sound with a frequency too low to be detected by the human ear - caused by the whirling blades. Each year German courts hear 600-700 cases mounted by opponents of plans to build wind turbines in their local communities.
The acquisition will help E.ON, Germany's largest utility, increase its worldwide installed wind power capacity to 850 MW from around 640 MW, thus making the company one of the largest wind farm operators in the world. Also, the total capacity of the wind power projects being developed will grow to 4.6 GW from 2.6 GW.
E.ON Netz GmbH manages 7600 megawatts of wind generation in Germany, representing 41% of the installed capacity for wind in the country. According to this report, wind operated at 18% capacity on average, with the lowest generation of 8 megawatts occurring in May 2005.
E.ON (nyse: EON - news - people ) AG said it is planning to build a wind park off the coast of Yorkshire, where about 80 turbines will generate up to 300 MW of energy.
After the industry's recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting. Gearboxes hiding inside the casings perched on top of the towering masts have short shelf lives, often crapping out before even five years is up. In some cases, fractures form along the rotors, or even in the foundation, after only limited operation. Short circuits or overheated propellers have been known to cause fires. All this despite manufacturers' promises that the turbines would last at least 20 years.