German solar industry is imploding

The other day in a post I made about the reversal of opinion about the impact of salt consumption some in the comment section decided to tell me I was stupid for pointing out solar energy was a waste of time. Well, everybody likes to bring up German success with solar energy, but the wheels are coming off that cart it looks like:

Germany produced a record 23.9 gigawatts of electricity yesterday from thousands of solar photovoltaic systems, according to SMA Solar Technology. Despite setting yet another solar world record, the collapse of Germany’s solar energy industry seems to be spreading downstream from manufacturers to distributors and installers. On Friday, Gehrlicher Solar and Conergy, two of Germany’s leading downstream solar power companies, filed for insolvency.

Only a few weeks ago, Siemens SI +0.04%, the industrial conglomerate based in Munich, Germany, said it was shutting down its solar power division after enduring nearly $1 billion in losses over the past two years. Similarly, Bosch also recently said it was exiting the solar energy market after suffering significant losses.

So who’s left to do this in Germany? The Chinese? Nobody else is wasting money making these, and the Chinese do it to sell it to these dumb greens. I do want to point out that the record generation of 29.9 Gigawatt is mostly non-commercial, and that this number is a point in time computed during the peak hour. I could not find information on it, but power generation is 0 during night hours, which during the summer in Europe is still some 10 hours, and off-peak generation is likely to be half of that record number (which is a record because it has only occurred once). When the Germans had nukes they produced more power. Yeah, the nukes where commercial, but they didn’t shut down at night. Note that I expect Germans to keep using solar, for now, but no German company will be making these panels it looks like.

Solar will for the foreseeable future remain what it is today: an inefficient and expensive fad that might work for some individual usage, but can never produce enough power to meet all demand. And without government subsidies it can not compete. It is too expensive and the output sucks for that cost. But let the greens keep having their wet dreams.

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  1. John Binder

    Maybe this is the infromation you were looking for.

    http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/downloads-englisch/pdf-files-englisch/news/electricity-production-from-solar-and-wind-in-germany-in-2013.pdf

    This is the part I found most interesting.

    Installed solar power at March 27, 2013
    33.409 GW

    Electricity produced by solar: first half year 2013
    14.3 TWh

    From this information we can use a little math and get this.

    33.409 * 365/2 * 24 = 146331.42 GWH or 146.33142 TWh
    (this is how much electricity would be produced if Germany’s solar panels produced their nameplate capacity all the time)

    14.3 / 146.33142 = 0.097723373 %

    Germany’s solar panels only produced 10% of their nameplate capacity during the first half of 2013! This is what happens when a cloudy country far away from the equator embraces solar pv.

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  2. Mississippi Yankee

    Germany started to significantly back off of it’s wind power 5 or 6 years ago too. And for much of the same reasons it is now shedding it’s solar fantasy.

    The Japanese tsunami disaster is starting to fade from the public memory even though the “watermelon squad” continues to spread fear and loathing.

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  3. Seattle Outcast

    Solar power can’t be an efficient source of energy – quite simply, even if you had 100% conversion of sunlight into electricity, you would have to wrap the planet in solar panels to still not have enough to run our civilization at current energy consumption levels. The energy density of the medium is too low to ever be anything more than a crutch for people disconnected from the grid. This is why we look for sources that are constant, reliable (wind is neither), available 24 hours on demand (solar isn’t), and economically cheap to obtain (sorry corn, you’re a net loss of energy).

    That leaves us with coal, nuclear, petrochemicals, and, in the future, fusion. Some places get lucky and have hydro or geo energy sources, but damns and volcanic activity have their own issues. And if I hear “orbital microwave power” again I’ll puke – I don’t even trust my own government to put a weapon of mass destruction in orbit, I trust the rest of them a lot less.

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  4. stogy

    Solar power can’t be an efficient source of energy

    If you look carefully at what I said, it’s that at the moment, small-scale rooftop solar can be a very good way of reducing peak power consumption (it’s very cost efficient against peak rates). It also reduces burden on the grid and may reduce CO2 levels by a reasonable percentage. And the carbon expended in making such systems is usually paid back within 18 months. It supports technological development in the industry. Individuals (including relatives of mine) who have bought such systems are going to pay back the cost of their investment within 5 – 7 years.

    There is very little about this model that’s not to like.

    Solar power can’t be an efficient source of energy – quite simply, even if you had 100% conversion of sunlight into electricity, you would have to wrap the planet in solar panels to still not have enough to run our civilization at current energy consumption levels.

    Large-scale plants still have some way to go – in terms of reducing costs and storage. I don’t think anyone is yet advocating that solar replace everything, just that it be included as part of the energy mix.

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  5. stogy

    Solar will for the foreseeable future remain what it is today: an inefficient and expensive fad that might work for some individual usage, but can never produce enough power to meet all demand.

    Just a quick question though. Why did they go out of business? The Forbes article doesn’t say. Perhaps it was because much Chinese imported solar PV was cheaper and undercut more expensive German products in the marketplace. Most solar in Germany is rooftop – and installation costs are a fraction of what they are in the US. If companies are indeed going out of business, then it would suggest that the market is deciding on cheaper inputs – aka Chinese panels… or not.

    Which is what it turned out to be:

    German photovoltaic company Gehrlicher Solar AG has filed for bankruptcy as per the country’s protection laws after its bank consortium cancelled €85m credit facility.

    The preliminary reorganization proceedings were filed with the District Court of Munich, which appointed a domestic law firm Müller-Heydenreich Beutler & Kollegen as preliminary administrator.

    Gehrlicher claimed that the company became incapable of proceeding with its growth plans as the introduction of anti-dumping tariffs on China-made modules across the European Union (EU) had a negative impact on the market.

    The solar panel maker had sought the two-year loan agreement extension to facilitate its business plans.

    Gehrlicher management board member and COO Richard von Hehn said that anti-dumping tariffs on solar modules have not benefitted anyone across the sector as they suspend job options throughout the whole PV value chain.

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  6. CM

    I don’t think anyone is yet advocating that solar replace everything, just that it be included as part of the energy mix.

    That overwhelmingly important aspect apparently continues to fall on deaf ears.

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  7. stogy

    And also this: the German government has announced an end to subsidies for solar over the next 4 years, ending the solar boom. Installation of new solar panels is expected to halve, and end a boom in installations over the past few years.

    Ironically, it has been argued that subsidies are the main thing that is keeping the cost of residential solar way too high.

    The Japanese tsunami disaster is starting to fade from the public memory even though the “watermelon squad” continues to spread fear and loathing.

    …just as news comes that it continues to leak plutonium and cesium 137 into the ground water, and on into the Pacific.

    Factor in the true costs of nuclear (insurance, decommissioning, waste storage), and the picture doesn’t look anything near as rosy.

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  8. Seattle Outcast

    Stogy – did they tell you that about the time the investment is paid off they need to buy a bunch of new equipment, and much of the old has to be treated as hazardous waste, and is therefor expensive to dispose of? The panels and batteries wear out – the disposal costs may well suck up any “savings” they have seen.

    That’s why I posted that batch of questions on the earlier post – the hidden costs of solar is frequently never calculated into owning the equipment.

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  9. Seattle Outcast

    Perhaps it was because much Chinese imported solar PV was cheaper and undercut more expensive German products in the marketplace

    As someone that has spend 30 years in the manufacturing industry, I can tell you right now that the Chinese material will be shit. I won’t buy anything from that country that isn’t burdened with customer (non-Chinese) oversight to make sure that QA is followed and a zillion little shortcuts are implemented to save a fucking nickle. Hell, they can’t even make dog food.

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  10. Dave D

    SO: The simple purification of pure silicon from SIO2 is very energy intensive. Molten SIO2 at 1600 degC is kept heated as a pure Si seed crystal grows into a larger ingot. I takes time at these extreme temps. I doubt these things get repayment in terms of just that energy until well into their service life.

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  11. stogy

    14.3 / 146.33142 = 0.097723373 %

    Are you sure you’ve calculated this correctly? It looks quite a lot less than even the data that hardest critics of German solar have put out (like by a factor of 50).

    Focus on peak rates (because that’s where the biggest advantages in pricing and in emissions will be) – last summer, German solar was producing so much power at peak rates – more than 50% of according to the data that I saw – that it pushed electricity prices into the negative (which I agree is a big problem for baseload power generators).

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  12. John Binder

    Are you sure you’ve calculated this correctly? It looks quite a lot less than even the data that hardest critics of German solar have put out (like by a factor of 50).

    I accidentally put a percent sign by the number you quoted, but you’ll notice that right below that where I put my conclusion I wrote the answer out correctly (rounded to one significant figure).

    Germany’s solar panels only produced 10% of their nameplate capacity during the first half of 2013! This is what happens when a cloudy country far away from the equator embraces solar pv.

    Next

    Focus on peak rates (because that’s where the biggest advantages in pricing and in emissions will be) – last summer, German solar was producing so much power at peak rates – more than 50% of according to the data that I saw – that it pushed electricity prices into the negative (which I agree is a big problem for base load power generators).

    You seem to be under some kind of strange impression that negative prices is a good thing. Remember the electric power industry is a business, and negative prices is a cost. When a business has increased costs what do you think that means for their customers? Really everything has a cost. The only question is who ends up paying. If you’re interested in a good description of the situation in Germany try this link.

    http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/green-energy-bust-in-germany

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