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Dictionary

German Solar Capacities

Germany has long led the world in promoting solar energy, in particular photovoltaic electricity generation. However, in 2015 China overtook Germany's 39.7 GW with its 43.6 GW.

There were 1.58 million solar power systems in Germany by the end of 2016, for a total capacity of 41.75 GW (1.53 GW newly installed in 2016), generating 37.5 TWh (6.9%) of Germany's total electricity consumption. Despite 1.58 billion euro invested in new solar systems, generation fell by 0.8% compared to 2015.

There is a clear correlation between the FiT (feed-in tariff, designed to subsidise solar energy producers) and direct solar investment. From 5.3 bn euro direct investment (DI) in 2007 and 49.2c FiT (per kWh for a medium-sized rooftop solar installation), DI rose to its peak of 19.5 bn euro with a FiT level of 35.4c in 2010. By 2013, DI had fallen drastically to 4.3 bn euro with 14c FiT. Since then DI has fallen consistently further to 1.58 bn euro at a FiT of 12.7c in 2016.

With falling investment and the solar panel production industry in Germany in crisis due to competition from cheap Chinese imports, jobs have fallen from the peak in 2011 of 110,900 to 31.500 in 2015, below the 2007 level of 38,600. Nearly 50% of jobs were lost in 2013 alone (100,300 → 56,000).

2016 German electricity generation
SourceNet installed (2017) /GWPower generated /TWhPower generated /% of total 2016
Nuclear10.88014.8%
Lignite (brown coal)20.9134.924.9%
Anthracite (hard coal)28.3299.418.3%
Mineral oil4.19n/an/a
Natural gas29.8946.48.6%
WindOnshore 48.04
Offshore 4.82
Total 52.86
77.814.4%
Solar41.7537.5 (grid supply)6.9%
Biomass7.08478.7%
Hydroelectric5.6019.13.5%

Source: https://www.energy-charts.de/power_inst.htm

Note: the figures for solar are for electricity supplied to the public grid. Own consumption by homeowners of solar power is not included.

Solar irradiation map Germany
Solar irradiation map Germany

The German government launched the "1000 roofs program" in 1991 - the world's first major solar photovoltaic (PV) initiative. Under this programme, the government subsidised the installation of solar panels to generate electricity. Thanks to this programme, Germany gained valuable experience with solar installations, the housing industry began to experiment with means to meet the challenge of integrating renewable electricity generation, and consumers were introduced to the concept of small-scale solar power. By the mid 1990s, 2,000 grid-connected PV systems had been installed on German rooftops.

The hundred thousand roof programme was subsequently launched in 1999, and prompted the mass production of photovoltaic panels. The programme ended in July 2003 having supported 55,000 installations and 261 MW of additional capacity.

Germany has an estimated 2,300 km2 of roof and facade area on existing buildings (0.66% of the total land area) which are suitable for PV systems. At 20% efficiency, a square metre of rooftop PV panels can provide peak power of 33 watts. Therefore 30 m2 could supply one kWp (one kilowatt peak power). Middle Germany can typically expect 900 hours of full-load equivalent hours of sunshine - a single house installation, 40-50m2 inclined to optimal solar radiation exposure, could therefore generate 4 MWh per year.

Germany has an electricity generating capacity of over 600 GW. If one-third could be met by PV, then Germany would need 200 GWp. This would require 1% of Germany's land surface to be covered in solar panels. For comparison, developed settlement and traffic areas occupy 47,000 km2 or 13.4% of the land area. Current rates of additional capacity would meet this level by 2035.

Germany baseload 2020
Estimated power demand over a week in 2012 and 2020, Germany

An important instrument for the development of both solar and wind energies has been the FiT (feed-in tariff). This guarantees a price for solar power generated by homeowners who sell their surplus power to grid operators. Since the cost of solar power has been more expensive than the market price, but falling as economies of scale and improved technology take effect, there has been a policy of gradually reducing the level of the FiT for new installations over the years. This is regulated by the German renewable energy law (EEG).

In 2016, 37.5 TWh (down 3.3% on 2015) was fed into the grid from photovoltaic arrays, from a total installed capacity of 40.85 GW PV at the end of 2016. At 1.00 pm on 8 May 2016, 47% of Germany's electricity demand was covered by PV, with a peak production of 28.5 GW. In the summer months, output of all PV systems often approaches or even exceeds that of all Germany's nuclear power stations combined.

In March 2011, the first solar gas plant in Germany went into operation in the Morbach power plant. Solar energy is converted into synthetic natural gas and stored in gas form.

PV in Germany

In Germany at the end of 2016, the price of electricity generated by a rooftop installation was 1500 €/kWp (figure from BSW). The LCOE (levelized cost of electricity) from a PV power plant was around 8 ct€/kWh (ISE&Agora).

In more favourable solar regions, the LCOE from a PV power plant can be as low as 2-4 ct€/kWh.

In 2016, Germany generated 38.2 TWh (7% of Germany's electricity supply) from 41.3 GWp cumulative PV capacity (13% of the world total). This is an average of 925 Wh per Wp, indicating that the German average solar irradiation is 925 hours of full-load sunshine. A rooftop system with 10-100 kWp PV costs 1,270 €/kWp at the start of 2017. There has been a compound average price reduction since 1990 (when it was a staggering 14,000 €/kWp of 9%. Rule of thumb: module price decreases by a quarter for each doubling of cumulated module production.