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February 16, 2007



The second paragraph of the story:

"Germany has an installed wind energy capacity of 20.6 megawatts, that comes from 18,685 wind turbines installed on the mainland."

should read "20.6 gigawatts", or "20,600 megawatts".

Many wind turbines being installed these days have a capacity well over 1 megawatt.


"Germany has an installed wind energy capacity of 20.6 megawatts, that comes from 18,685 wind turbines installed on the mainland. This represented 5.7 percent of all electricity generated in the country last year. ..."

Even if that number is corrected to 20.6 gigawatts, how meaningful is this statement? The stated capacity of a wind generator refers to the maximum amount of electricity that can be produced by that unit under ideal conditions. How many hours a year are the conditions ideal? To put it another way, what is the average actual production from such units? A 100 megawatt coal, nuclear or gas fired plant will produce somewhere around 100 megawatt, except during maintenance. How much power will we actually get from a 1 megawatt wind generator? 5.7% sounds like a lot, but if the actual power produced is more like .4%, then it is essentially nothing.


According to this:


in 2003 production from non-hydro renewables were 31.4 Gwh of 558.1 total, or 5.6%. In capacity terms, non-hydro renewables were 12.3 Gw of 119.8 Gw, or about 10%. Unfortunately somewhat out-of-date, and doesn't break out wind, solar, and biomass.

This tidbit is interesting:

"Germany has agreed to phase out nuclear power generation over the next two decades. Replacement will most likely be a mix of gas-fueled and coal-fueled power plants, as well as increases in renewable energy and much greater electricity imports..."

In other words, led by Green party activists, Germany will be replacing nuclear power plants with more coal and gas. Doh!



a January 2007 report by Deutsche Bank warned that Germany will miss its carbon dioxide emission targets by a wide margin, face higher electricity prices, suffer more blackouts and dramatically increase its dependence on gas imports from Russia as a result of its nuclear phase-out policy, if it is followed through. Unless adjustments are made to the shutdown timetable which was passed into law, four large reactors (which started up 1975-77) totaling almost 4 GWe will be shut down by the end of 2009. The Economy Minister and utility owners called for urgent review of the policy. The Bank estimates that 42 GWe of new generating capacity will need to be constructed by 2022 if shutdowns proceed.

Utilities want to extend the lifetimes of all 17 reactors initially to 40 years (from average 32 years) and then individually seeking extensions to 60 years as in the USA .

Meanwhile Germany spends some EUR 2.5 billion per year subsidising its coal mines to produce 55% of its electricity (cf nuclear 31% with no subsidy).

Jim wrote:

German development of wind energy is driven heavily by moves to cut its reliance on foreign sources for energy. Germany imports all of its uranium for its nuclear power plants

Uranium is, and will be for at least thousands of years, dirt cheap relative to the energy it can produce. Following basic laws of supply and demand, foreign sources compete against each other to deliver uranium to the highest bidder. Being dependent upon foreign sources of uranium hardly puts a nation in a precarious position -- especially since Germany could simply mine its uranium from seawater and suffer from that only a minor increase in the cost of nuclear electricity.

There is more information on uranium supplies, here:

Since uranium is part of the energy sector, another way to look at exploration costs is on the basis of energy value. This allows comparisons with the energy investment cost for other energy fuels, especially fossil fuels which will have analogous costs related to the discovery of the resources. From numerous published sources, the finding costs of crude oil have averaged around US$ 6/bbl over at least the past three decades. When finding costs of the two fuels are expressed in terms of their contained energy value, oil, at US$ 1050/MJ of energy, is about 300 times more expensive to find than uranium, at US$ 3.4/MJ. Similarly, the proportion of current market prices that finding costs comprise are lower for uranium. Its finding costs make up only 2% of the recent spot price of US$ 30/lb ($78/kgU), while the oil finding costs are 12% of a recent spot price of US$ 50/bbl.

By these measures, uranium is a very inexpensive energy source to replenish, as society has accepted far higher energy replacement costs to sustain oil resources.


In parallel with phasing out nuclear the Germans are also upgrading all of their, pre 1978, domestic buildings to current energy standards. This is a funded program, $2Bn a year for 20 years, not an aspiration target.


Passive House techniques are also being targeted at renovations, i.e. reducing the energy required for heating by 90% from current best practice.



Good going Germans!

The demise of nuclear power is coming. The age of renewable energy is starting.

Will nuclear winter cancel civilization first? Unless US foreign policy changes immediately that is a distinct possibility.

How many think nuke-u-ler bunker busters are all locked and loaded ready to descend on Iran? Raise you hands.

How many think congress will stop them?


Someone ought to inform German energy policy administrators about the process that turns coal into natural gas underground. No mining, no mess to get rid of as is the case with coal gasification, and the natural gas can be used in solid oxide fuel cell turbines at 75% efficiency.

These fuel cell/turbines can run on powdered cellulose or biogas from manure, sewage, garbage, and waste digestion with the CO2 feeding algae in solar collectors that make biodiesel and cellulose fuel.

Fuel cells of this type make an excellent backup for wind, solar, and water power. Electrical energy storage and distribution can be combined with high voltage DC transmission lines that store power by acting as huge capacitors.

Germany could make this work. Maybe show us all the way to win this fight against global climate disaster, perpetual oil war, and terminal nuclear proliferation.


Furthermore: The reason AC power lines are difficult to bury, is the problem of capacitance losses between the conductor and the ground shield. Higher power carrying lines have very high losses when they need to be buried.

With high voltage DC current at 500,000 volts in the current long distance electric power transmission design, the energy storage potential is huge. And you CAN bury them, getting rid of a lot of the NIMBYism around power grid upgrades.


"what is the average actual production from such units? "

About 18% of rated capacity (aka "capacity factor"). Not nearly as good as the 30% we get in the US, but the Germans are willing to pay a premium for renewables. Please note that wind capacity factors are designed to be much lower than thermal plants. It's a little like peak vehicle horsepower vs average.

"5.7% sounds like a lot, but if the actual power produced is more like .4%, then it is essentially nothing. "

The 5.7% is % of kwhrs, so that's correct.

david foster

Wonder what they're planning to do about energy storage? As wind becomes a higher % of the total grid, then obviously storage becomes more of an issue.


Their wind is not blowing in much energy. Seems like a mess to me as they are killing the best source (nuclear) of energy they have. You can bet these silly rules will be changed when the time comes for the lights to go out. This illustrates a foolish enviromentalist driven rule. I am for envirmental rules based on science balanced by cost. This one appears to be based on "wacko" environmental politics. JohnBo


Meanwhile Germany spends some EUR 2.5 billion per year subsidising its coal mines to produce 55% of its electricity (cf nuclear 31% with no subsidy).

Wow. That is shocking, if true. NO subsidy? Aren't US nukes subsidized pretty heavily, at least in terms of insurance, waste disposal and decommissioning costs? Decades ago I was opposed to nukes on economic grounds, but today even that is not enough to compensate for the particulates and co2 of coal. If the economics of German power is really that inverted, then they are truly nuts to follow the "Green" (Brown)policy.

Jason C

In the US there are NO subsidies for nuclear power, except for long term R/D costs....and the new stimulus package come to think of it. But let's confine our discussion to currently operating plants shall we? Insurance is not REALLY subsidized, at least less than any other insurance in this country. Nuc. plants take out the maximum amount of private insurance they can and each reactor chips in a certain amount into their own form of group insurance. While it's true anything after this is the gov.'s problem, the group insurance has a couple billion $'s in it so I'm not too worried. Waste disposal and decommissioning aren't subsidized either, both are funded the same way in fact. Small charges are tacked onto the plants electricity sales(on each kwh sold). The money goes into funds to pay for the costs. One private, one public. The only real subsidies paid out so far are R/D, and if you think their unreasonable.......... well you may be right, but total subsides for nuc. are only about 2x solar(as of 2006, Management Information Services, Inc.).



Storage? Not as big a problem as previously thought.

It turns out that the wind is not as inconsistent over large areas as critics assumed. A study of only 8 windfarms proved that 95% of baseload power could come from wind, without prohibitively expensive storage or backup.

Consider 800 or 8000 windfarms now, spread over a continent and offshore all interconnected. No problem.

Kit P

The nice people who are responsible for making electricity in Germany do not think solar and wind is such a good idea. Several years ago I read a report about the performance of wind and solar relative to periods of high demand. Solar and wind is not a very dependable way of making electricity for Germany.

In the US, we have not come near tapping our good wind resources. The schedule capacity additions in the next few years are about 25,000 MW for wind and 100,000 MW for fossil. At the same time, about 25,000 MW of nuclear generation is being planned with construction starting after 2010. If wind turns out to be a more reliable way to make electricity than predicted, fewer nukes will get built because the price of natural gas will decrease.

However, the mostly reality is that the US will import more natural gas and coal to meet demand for electricity long before the new nukes come on line.


The "nice people who are responsible for making electricity in germany" are (still) the ones that own the coal and nuclear plants. These companies hardly have any investments in renrewables and of course they don't think it's a good idea to take away their (once) monopoly profits. They're still doing their lobbyspin on politicians and citizen. Like the Deutsche Bank for instance Doug, who is heavly invested and associated with the german nuclear industrie. However reality here in germany is changing:

Electricity generation from renewable resources had a market share of about 12% last year and grew by over 11% in 2006. When disregarding electricity from water (which has always been there and has no more potential) that is a staggering 17%! (Wind: +10%, Solar +60%, Biomass: +40%, Biogas: +50%)

Our last administrations "renewable energy act" had (among others) the goal to push market share of electricity from rennewables from somewhere around 4% to 20% by 2020. While politicians still discuss about these goals the "federal Union of renewable energies" estimates they will achieve that goal by 2012 already. The estimated market share in 2020 is way over 30%.

And that all is without much subsides. While Coal and Nuclear recieved tremendous amounts of subsides over the decades, renewables recieve(d) relatively little. Yet they are already very competetive now! Their existance already lowers prices on the elctricity market and avoids external costs from convential electricity generation. The traditional black coal industry alone recieved way over 100 Billion Euros over the past decades. These subsides have been reduced latly and are 'soon' running out. Currently they are still at about 2,5 billion Euro a year. The combined renewable sector (not only electricity) recieves less than that. And is getting less every year. Yet look at their growth rates.

So the bottom line is - even without further political aid renewables will play a major, prefered role in germanies future. If politics would get ambitious for once - they would skyrocket. And our politicians have good reasons to be ambitious. Not only due to the environemental issue.
We are almost completly dependant on foreign energy resources now. Dependant on countries like Russia who do not really present themselves as reliable partners and raise concerns about political usage of their resources. And here we have the chance to get rid of this dependance completly and keep the associated money and jobs within the country at the same time. Renewables are already a massive source of new jobs and a big economic factor in in/export today. Their own lobby grows at the same pace so I'm not worried about them.

Looking into the far future there is no doubt renewables have to and will take over completly. The question is not if but when. Only how do we do the tansition. Germany decided to get rid of nuclears by 2020. We will be able to subsitute our 28% nuclear electricity with renewables easily. But there won't be much left to reduce coal and gas. So the other big thing we have to do is simply to save energy.

We can save over 40% of our energy (not only electricity) with profit. Investments needed will be less than the money saved. The problem here is to convince decission makers. It's not only a problem of convincing in those cases where investments require money down now but may pay off 10 or 15 years later. Thus we need federal programs and funding. This is our main challange! In 2020 we could produce 30% electricity from renewables and consume 40% less. We could even be better. All that while saving money, adding jobs and reducing foreign dependancy.

Now with these numbers take another look back at the nice people who are responsible for making electricity in germany today. They have a problem. If they can't convince politics that renewables are a bad idea their market share will melt to fast for them to make up for their mistakes of the past.

Harvey D.

Philipp: I agree with you. In Canada, it is much the same. Coal, Nuclear, Natural Gas and Oil fueled power plants got billions in subsidies during the last 40 years or so. Oil is still geting about $1 billion/year from the Federal government.

For obscure reasons, cleaner energy sources such as Hydro, Wind, Solar, Biogas etc. got very little.

One could say that lobbies may have a lot to do with it? Political parties financing and support can and do influence government policies and politics.

Nulcear may become acceptable and/or essential for 'base load' production in many countries. More Coal fueled plants may be worse.

Kit P

Making some of Germany's electricity with wind and solar is a good idea. Germany should have enough domestic sources of electricity that they could resist energy blackmail by Russia. However, getting blackmailed by nature is stupid too. Germany is building more coal plants and will not shut down nuke plants until they have run 60 years.

There is no compelling environmental reason to rely on renewable energy. First of all it is not free. You have to pay someone to make the electricity for you. Renewable energy is not safer. It is not cleaner. There is, however, a compelling reason to have a diverse energy supply that includes renewable energy.


Kit P wrote: Making some of Germany's electricity with wind and solar is a good idea. [...] There is [...] a compelling reason to have a diverse energy supply that includes renewable energy.

Please show your math.

Kit P wrote: Germany should have enough domestic sources of electricity that they could resist energy blackmail by Russia.

Russia does not have a monopoly on uranium.


Harvey. I'm glad you are a man of arguments rather than blod claims. So I can tell you that current law in germany sais that every nuclear plant will be shut down after it reaches the age of 32. Two down, 17 left. One scheduled to go in 2008, four more in 2009. We will see what happens.

Yes, there are plans for further coal plants. But most of them are not for years to come. It remains to be seen if they are really all going to be build. German law dictates energie from renewables must be prefered over conventionally produced.

Of course i have to admit that I'm in constant fear our windmills blow up like Tschernobyl. The cancer rates around them are certainly higher than those around Sellafield, too. And if you have ever been to a city where people heat with coal you know for sure there is nothing cleaner in this world than good old black coal.

But I guess we have to live with that because renewables generate more jobs and keep them around. Just like the money currently spend for resources from abroad. They are also easier and faster to build than big plants. Last not least they are going to be cheaper by the time they have been given as much time to develop as coal and co had. It's an investment. Renewables are not just Wind and Solar btw. Together with Water, Biomass, -gas and Geothermie will they will make a solid mix.

Im not sure if/why you think that germany should have enough domestic resources for electricity generation. We don't have any Uranium that powers the Nuclears and we hardly have any Natural Gas or Oil. Water is only able to produce about 3% of our electricity. We import about 75% of our total Energie resources. And it will get worse when we stop subsiding our black coal which lies to deep to be mined at competetive rates (actually 3 times more expensive than the market). The only resource we have in masses is brown coal which is basically good for electricity only and has a current share of 11% of overall energie production. In itself it's not a really good mix for electricity, too. Bottom line: We should but we don't. Yet more reasons for renewables and savings.

Ronald Brak

I've never understood claims that an energy source, or any business for that matter, can create jobs. For the most part the level of employment in a country is controled by the setting interest rates.

Kit P

Nucbuddy, I am not sure what math you want to see. There is the kind of math used by vendors selling equipment. Then the kind of math used by those against something. The anti-whatever crowd rule out everything they do not like and then come up with math to justify renewable energy as the only acceptable choice.

Anyhow, as a generality, a compelling reason to use wind as an an energy source is because it will reduce resource depletion of natural gas.

Of course I can make the same positive statement about nuclear power plants.

Paul Dietz

Anyhow, as a generality, a compelling reason to use wind as an an energy source is because it will reduce resource depletion of natural gas.

Is that a compelling reason? The wind turbines require spinning reserve to handle sudden loss of output. Isn't this spinning reserve typically gas fired?



The real picture on wind power and it's detractors. The "capacity factor" talking point eulogy,RIP.


Kit P wrote: Nucbuddy, I am not sure what math you want to see.

...The math upon-which you based your conclusion that:

Making some of Germany's electricity with wind and solar is a good idea. [...] There is [...] a compelling reason to have a diverse energy supply that includes renewable energy.
Kit P

RB, the argument that renewable energy creates jobs is tenuous at best. If you work at nuke plant or a coal plant you may like the idea of being put out of work when you think you are doing a good service for your community. The use of energy and technology allows us to be more productive. I can heat a few homes with an axe if there is enough near by wood. However, using coal or nuclear power, one person can heat a thousand homes. That person can actually hire someone to cut wood to heat his home.

Producing energy that creating jobs rather relying on imported fossil fuel may result in a net increase in jobs but it is beyond me to prove.


I have to admit I'm weak on arguments regarding a net increase in jobs. However I hear that renewables need more manpower and less investments in material than nuclear and coal. But I'm very certain it generates more jobs for germany because renewables already have more than twice the employees than coal and nuclear combined. And resources for biomass could perfectly come from the EU instead of us subsiding export and avoidance of overproduction now.

Personally i don't even think jobs in itself are a good thing because I like efficency and the chances it offers. But jobs are the "killer argument" in ANY shallow discussion around here. However in this case it's actually true and politicians and shallow discussers will probably pick it up.

Kit P

Philipp, high capital cost is a common trait of coal, nuclear, and renewable energy. The cost of a BTU of coal is essentially determined by the labor that mine the coal.

Solar and wind are very material intensive technologies. IMO, we really do not know how much maintenance solar and wind will take. For example, 1 million new solar panels on roofs in California would produce at noon the same amount of electricity as the 30 year old nuke plant that will operate for another 30 years. Building 1 million new solar panels will create a lots of jobs. How much electricity they will produce for how long remains to be seen. It does not look very promising. If a solar panels or windmill work for only a year, it is a huge environmental insult. If they work for 5 years, the environmental impact is reduced by 80% and so on.

Performance counts. In my region, many wind farms are being built including a utility that also sells natural gas. It is creating jobs and the tax base. However, more jobs were lost because 10 years ago everyone thought natural gas would always be cheap forgetting the lessons of the 70s. When people know what the world will be like in future, I am not so sure.

Udo Stenzel

Nick: "About 18% of rated capacity... Not nearly as good as the 30% we get in the US"

Actually our wind turbines achieve 16% capacity factor on average, and only 12% if land based. The numbers are expected to decrease further, since the good spots are already in use. You don't get 30% in the US either, the numbers for California are closer to 10%.

david foster: "Wonder what they're planning to do about energy storage"

Nothing at all. The future German energy mix will be lots of coal, a bit of wind and lots of natural gas. The wind power will not be a reliable supply, it will only help save some gas.

(That's the true reason why wind worshippers like natural gas burning but dislike nuclear fission: saving gas is economically important, saving uranium is not. With nuclear power, their ugly contraptions are useless and too expensive.)

Udo Stenzel

Philipp: "Our last administrations "renewable energy act"... all is without much subsides"

Are you freaking out of your mind?! If paying 50ct for a measly kWh is not considered a subsidy, wtf is it then? This green Newspeak is getting more ridiculous by the minute.

Now with these numbers take another look back at the nice people who are responsible for making electricity in germany today

These people sell electricity for 9ct/kWh, grid maintenance included. I find that nice. It is less than the wind farms get paid, and they only use a grid they don't maintain. I find that not nice. You pick your numbers in strange ways, and that's not nice, either.

windmills... Tschernobyl... Sellafield

I didn't know windmills have military value. How about you compared apples to apples?

Jobs In Pakistan

I think in scientific world the English people is more talented.There invention,s is really surprise able.

oilfield equipment

i think this is a must. why don't we push this more.


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I have never seen windmills in water. this is a great use of space!

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