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Earth Power Science

The Coming Energy Turnaround In Germany 394

An anonymous reader writes "Germany has decided to close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 and embark on an energy turnaround that focuses on large increases in sustainable energy production. What will it take in terms of investments, and will it mean cost hikes for German consumers? Will it really mean more jobs in the 'green energy' sector? Quoting: 'Total investment over the next decade for such an energy turnaround is estimated to be roughly €200 billion (or almost $290 billion). ... At the moment, more than 20 new coal-fired power plants are being planned or already under construction; together, they would achieve a total output of 10 gigawatts and could, in terms of power supply, replace nuclear power plants that are still operational. But coal-fired power plants do not fit into the concept of the sustainable energy turnaround that the government has put forward.'"
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The Coming Energy Turnaround In Germany

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  • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Friday September 09, 2011 @06:45PM (#37358024)

    Solar doesn't produce anything at night.

    Don't limit yourself to solar panels. They have solar collectors that concentrate energy onto molten salt that never cools. Energy is added during the day but small amounts of heat are used to power turbines throughout the day/night.

    http://inhabitat.com/worlds-first-molten-salt-solar-plant-produces-power-at-night/ [inhabitat.com]

  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Friday September 09, 2011 @07:01PM (#37358162)

    Right, because nobody ever solved the problem of "how to clean a mirror", and plants like SEGS that have been operating for over a quarter century without a significant drop in efficiency, they're just lies and propaganda.

    In fact, the *newest* section of SEGS is 21 years old, and still going strong.

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday September 09, 2011 @07:43PM (#37358396)
    They aren't really dropping nuclear, they are exporting it across the Rhine to France. The analysis I've seen is the only way the Germans keep up with historic demand growth short of tanking their economy is to build more interconnects to France and let the French operate those horrible nuclear plants.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09, 2011 @08:56PM (#37359008)

    The Canadian CANDU reactors can extra huge amounts of energy out of the waste from American reactors, and even more from disused nuclear weapons. The newer CANDU designs are even more efficient, less expensive (do not require enriched fuel) and have twice as many safety layers as other designs. They also attain higher uptimes because they can be refuelled without a shutdown (this part of the design also means that they cannot melt down, because new fuel must be constantly added to maintain criticality)

  • by inviolet ( 797804 ) <slashdot@i[ ]smatter.org ['dea' in gap]> on Friday September 09, 2011 @10:29PM (#37359570) Journal

    [Environmentalism is a scam that led to] this small scale rollout and blocking wind farms like T. Boone Pickens.

    There is a LOT more to the Pickens story than environmentalist meddling, tax breaks, and ROI. The whole project was a smokescreen, behind which Pickens was attempting to build a water supply business. Do a bit of googling, you'll be amazed at the guy's chutzpah.

  • Scams and Games (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Friday September 09, 2011 @11:27PM (#37359842) Homepage Journal

    I live in Germany, and I've been following this closely.

    First of all, a former government had already decided on a stop on nuclear power, at a much earlier date. The current government reversed that as one of the first major things. It took Fukushima and a huge public outcry for them to reconsider.

    So that's the first scam - those who are now hailed as the ones leading Germany into a brighter, greener future had to be forced to walk that path.

    The main replacements for the nuclear plants will be coal plants. Which, as everyone familiar with the subject, put out not only more CO2, but also more radiation. Their advantage is that they are less likely to fail catastrophically with nuclear fallout. That's the second scam - energy generation in Germany will actually be a lot less clean and less green.

    The choice to go with coal is mostly due to the responsible people clinging to the "baseline" concept, which says you need a certain amount of power stations that output the same amount of electrical energy no matter what the time of day, climate, temperature, season, etc.
    That's the third scam, because it is an outdated model. With 21st century technology and systems, the variability of alternative energy sources can be compensated over types or distances and easily create a reliable baseline equivalent. However, those are distributed, decentralized systems, and the technology and business models of big power corporations are designed for large, centralized power stations. They need time to change (if they even want to), and the government has been nice to give them that time. Did anyone yell "campaign contributions"? Please... you have such a bad image of politicians...

    Viewed as a whole, the entire thing is a game to stay in power and to find a middle way to please both the corporate sponsors and the voting public. But it has no vision, no conviction and no drive. With the next election, or if public opinion changes, everything will be up for grabs again.

    When you read something about politics that mentions a far-future date, always count how many elections are inbetween now and then...

  • Re:"Ahem" (Score:2, Informative)

    by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Friday September 09, 2011 @11:59PM (#37360002) Homepage

    Not sure where you're getting this information that says investing in sustainable energy devalues currency. Many economist articles I've read recently state the opposite, but only time will tell on this one.

    Go ahead, try and short sell the Euro, you'll just end up broke.

  • Re:Be patient (Score:4, Informative)

    by Stephan Schulz ( 948 ) <schulz@eprover.org> on Saturday September 10, 2011 @03:29AM (#37360684) Homepage

    You do realize plants and animals require a minimum of 220 ppm to survive, and the more the better they grow.

    While plants do, of course, need CO2, things are not as easy as you claim. CO2 concentrations dropped to about 180 ppm several times during the ice ages in the last 800000 years, and plant life as a whole survived pretty well. So 220 ppm is not a hard limit. Also, while increased CO2 can benefit plants, it's not universally good. On the one hand, many plants are not limited by carbon availability, but by other nutrients, like phosphorus, usable nitrogen, or trace metals. And secondly, different plants cope differently with varying CO2 levels. So a change in CO2 can change the competitive advantage from one plant type to another, potentially disrupting ecosystems.

  • Re:Be patient (Score:4, Informative)

    by rtfa-troll ( 1340807 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @04:09AM (#37360784)

    So wait; we have a choice between a set of power sources which provide indefinite quantities of energy; where the installation, once done, is pretty much forever and just needs small scale maintenance; where the major influence on the environment is extremely localised and quite easy to understand and reduce and another power source which provides energy now but where later we have to look after nuclear waste for hundreds of thousands of years. Where the major cost is decommissioning and clean up which happens at the end and where almost all cost estimates basically assume the tax payer covers that for free.

    Let's be absolutely clear where we are in clean energy at the present moment. The cost of wind power ($97 / levelised MWh)* , which has been a practical power source only in the last decade or two, is already lower than the cost of nuclear energy ($113.9 / levelised MWh)*. Whilst nuclear is a mature generation technology which has been optimised since the 1960s, wind development is barely started. Further, since wind is simply available for free in many locations there is no clear absolute natural reason why there should be any particular cost level. The questions are simply technological development.

    What's important to realise is that China has now realised this and is doing the sensible thing; investing strongly at this point in the development of green energy sources. At the same time, by increasing rare earth costs, they are attempting to reduce other people's lead in green energy by putting those companies out of business. This becomes essentially an economic war to see who can be the first to get green energy costs so far below conventional energy prices that the other sources become useless. My guess would be that this will come about in about the next five years.

    We've also all heard that the argument that wind energy is intermittent; that it doesn't produce sufficient power when needed. That is, in part true, but what's not understood is that it's an opportunity. The price given above (levelised MWh) already includes this; more wind turbines are installed than required and this is done in many different locations then at the moment of need enough power is available with the same or better availability characteristics as a conventional plant (N.B. the whole point of a large scale power grid is the fact that power sources can and do go offline unexpectedly). However, once we have done this install, what are we left with? Extremely cheap power supply in local areas at certain times. Very simple and somewhat inefficient power storage schemes, such as converting electricity to hydrogen, storing it suddenly become entirely sensible. If you do this next to the wind generators then at times of high wind you can make hydrogen; at times of low wind and high power demand you can burn the hydrogen for profit. This is the kind of scheme Slashdot readers should be thinking about.

    By getting into the green energy game strongly, Germany becomes the logical place to develop these technologies. Long term, say over the next 100 years, this is really clever. The accusation that the Germans aren't thinking long term is clearly wrong.

    * these numbers come from a DOE study which you can find broken down on Wikipedia's Cost of electricity by source [wikipedia.org] page. Note that these figures are somewhat biased against wind since they include very high transmission costs. This is only true because new wind tends to be differently located from existing nuclear and conventional plants. Conventional plants claim cheap costs simply by pretending to be reusing the existing connections. In fact, if capacity is to be expanded then new connections have to be built somewhere. You will notice that sometimes nuclear is presented as cheaper than wind by

  • by teh kurisu ( 701097 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @06:15AM (#37361208) Homepage

    [Solar plants] probably wouldn't work all that great in the UK either; that island is famous for its fog and clouds and generally nasty weather.

    Cloudy, yes. But the UK's reputation for being foggy comes from the 19th century when our cities were heavily polluted, due to coal-fired steam power being the primary source of energy. Fogs were frequent because they would form around the soot particles produced. It's not the case today.

    Besides, we have a long coastline for our land area compared to the US, a bunch of strong tidal races, plenty of opportunity for wave energy, and in Shetland we have the most efficient wind farms in the world. Solar isn't even on our radar.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban