Germany Paid Wind Turbines $548 Million To Sit Idle

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Germany paid wind farms $548 million to switch off last year to prevent damage to the country’s electricity grid, according to a Thursday article in the German newspaper Wirtschaftswoche.

Germany’s wind and solar power systems have provided too much power at unpredictable times, which damaged the power grid and made the system vulnerable to blackouts. To fix the problem, grid operators paid companies $548 million to shut their turbines down, according to a survey by Wirtschaftswoche of Germany’s largest power companies.

Grid operators paid the company Tennet $376 million to shut down wind turbines in 2015, which is 2.5 times more than it did in 2014. Other major power companies such as 50Hertz, Amprion and EnBW revived a combined $172 million.

Wind and solar also run the risk of producing too much power at unpredictable times, which can overload and fry the power grid. This is why electrical companies will occasionally pay consumers to take electricity, because demand for energy must exactly match supply for the grid to function.

Since the output of solar and wind plants cannot be predicted with high accuracy by forecasts, grid operators have to keep excess conventional power reserves running just in case.  Power demand is relatively predictable and conventional power plans, like nuclear plants and natural gas, can adjust output accordingly. Solar and wind power, however, cannot easily adjust output and place extra stress on the grid, which can lead to brownouts or blackouts.

Due to the damaging effects of its green energy policies, the German government plans to cap the total amount of wind energy at 40 to 45 percent of national capacity, according to a report published earlier this month by the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung. By 2019, Germany will get rid of  6,000 megawatts of wind power capacity.

Despite the cut backs to wind power, the German government estimates that it will spend over $1.1 trillion financially supporting wind power, even though building wind turbines hasn’t achieved the government’s goal of actually reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to slow global warming.

Germany created lucrative subsidies and tax benefits for wind power in 2011 after it decided to abandon nuclear power entirely by 2022 following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently investigating how green energy undermines the reliability of the electrical grid. FERC believe there is a “significant risk” of electricity in the United States becoming unreliable because “wind and solar don’t offer the services the shuttered coal plants provided.” Environmental regulations could make operating conventional coal or natural gas power plants unprofitable, which could compromise the reliability of the American power grid.

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