In 2020, Weather Dependent Renewables (Wind and Solar Power) made up 58% of all power generation installations in the three Nations, DE UK FR. Together they contributed about 24% of the power generated at a productivity / capacity percentage of 19.7%.
These three major Nations: Germany, the United Kingdom and France, (DE UK FR), account for more than half of the Weather Dependent Renewable, energy generation installations across Europe. These Nations cover an area of about 1.1 million square kilometres about a quarter of the land area of the EU(27). It extends from 43°N to 58°N and 6°W to 13°E. The three Nations are predominantly in Northern Europe.
A data set accounting for their hourly and daily power output from 1/12/2019 to 31/11/2020 is used to examine the comparative performance of power generation in these three Nations. The overall comparison between the combined generating installations and the power output they achieve is shown below.
Notable points from these graphics:
- the Weather Dependent Renewable installations in 2020 amounted to some 60% of all generation capacity across DE UK FR, and nominally they contribute ~24% of the DE UK FR power.
- 17% of the installed DE UK FR generation technologies still produce substantial CO2 emissions from Coal, Lignite, Biomass and Natural Gas and these CO2 emitting generation technologies remain responsible for ~33% of the DE UK FR power output.
- the use of this combination of CO2 emitting technologies produce more than ~2.5 times the CO2 emissions that would have been emitted by simply burning Natural Gas alone for the same power output.
- Nuclear energy across DE UK FR still produces 35% of the power, even though the 8GW of that Nuclear power is scheduled for its final closure in Germany early this decade.
- France is the predominant Nuclear power exporting ~6GW of its excess power to other European nations. Those recipient Nations are wholly dependent on these power inputs to maintain their grid supplies. Nonetheless, apparently France is intending to cut back on its Nuclear generation and substitute it with Weather Dependent Renewables.
Contrasting the power production in the three Nations: DE UK FR
The graphics below indicates the extent of installed generation technologies and their level of productive output:
Notable points from these charts:
In 2020, Weather Dependent Renewables (Wind and Solar Power) made up 69.8% of all power generation installations in Germany.
- Germany as a result of its “die Energiewende policy” its Weather Dependent Renewable installations have now reached ~70% of its whole installed generation capacity but those Weather Dependent Renewables only contribute ~33% of its power annually:
- Onshore Wind power productivity/capacity average since 2008 18.9%
- Offshore Wind power productivity/capacity average since 2008 33.6%
- Solar Photovoltaic productivity/capacity average since 2008 10.3%
- Combined Weather Dependent Renewable productivity/capacity average since 2008 15.3%.
- Germany’s power generation is supported by ~20% of CO2 emitting generation from its installations using Hard Coal, Lignite, Biomass and Natural Gas, but these technologies are responsible for 45% of the power produced.
- The CO2 emissions from this combination of fuels could have been reduced to more than one third if Natural Gas had been exclusively instead.
- Germany still has a substantial fleet of Nuclear power stations, but as a result of a political decision, after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, Nuclear generation in Germany is scheduled to close completely within a very few years.
- Germany has been increasing it Coal and Lignite generation in anticipation of the closure of these non CO2 emitting Nuclear facilities. It has reopened some closed Coal-fired plants, realising that closure of these base load power producers would further increase the fragility of its power grid.
- 5% of Germany’s power is produced by Hydro power with limited pumped storage
- in spite of its “die Energiewende policy” Germany still has the highest CO2 emissions/head in Europe at ~8.38 tonnes/head.
- Germany depends on transfers from France and other European countries for ~4% of its power. On occasions Germany’s Renewables over produce in comparison to its demand and this excess power has to be shed or sold at negative prices overseas.
- Germany, alongside Denmark, (also heavily committed to Wind Power), now has the highest electricity prices in the developed world.
In 2020, Weather Dependent Renewables (Wind and Solar Power) made up 58% of all power generation installations in the UK.
- the UK Weather Dependent Renewable installations now amount to ~58% of its total installed generation capacity but only produce 26% of its power:
- Onshore Wind power productivity/capacity average since 2008 25.6%
- Offshore Wind power productivity/capacity average since 2008 32.2%
- Solar Photovoltaic productivity/capacity average since 2008 9.6%
- Combined Weather Dependent Renewable productivity/capacity average since 2008 21.9%.
- The UK has made a large commitment to Offshore Wind power and is meeting significant local resistance to further Onshore Wind installations.
- the UK power generation is supported by ~46% of CO2 emitting generation from Natural Gas and Biomass: the UK CO2 emissions from Biomass, mainly from the Drax power installations , (burning mainly wood chips imported from America), these CO2 emissions effectively cancel out any CO2 savings from the use of all other Weather Dependent Renewables.
- the UK still has an ageing fleet of Nuclear power stations most of which will be closed this decade. Some replacements are in train with Hinkley point due to open in 2023: there is still no UK wide commitment to the installation of local Small Modular Reactors, which could be manufactured in the UK.
- because of geographic limitations in the UK, only ~5% of UK power is produced by Hydro generation, there is some limited pumped storage.
- as a result of the earlier UK dash for Gas policy the UK has reduced its CO2 emissions / head since the 1990s to below the European average at 5.46 tonnes/head in 2019.
- the UK depends on other European countries, mainly France, for ~8% of its power.
- the UK has a virtually nil operating margin for overall power generation.
- The UK dependence on power imports should be regarded as an existential National emergency.
In 2020, Weather Dependent Renewables (Wind and Solar Power) made up 31.7% of all power generation installations in France. Together they contributed about 9.6% of the power generated at a productivity / capacity percentage of 18.3%.
- the French Weather Dependent Renewable installations now amount to 37% of its installed generation capacity, but they only contribute ~11% of its power:
- Onshore Wind power productivity/capacity since 2008 21.5%
- Solar Photovoltaic productivity/capacity since 2008 12.2%
- Combined Weather Dependent Renewable productivity / capacity since 2008 18.2%
- France has not installed any Offshore Wind generation.
- French power generation has limited CO2 emitting generation from Biomass and Natural Gas producing only about 6% of its power output.
- France still has a massive, but now ageing fleet of Nuclear power stations, these were progressively installed as a reaction to the oil price shock of the 1970s.
- there is still no major commitment for their replacement, but current policy seems to be to reduce the successful French Nuclear fleet from the current 75%+ down to ~50% of French power generation.
- this fleet reduction would of course limit the present French ability to supply its excess power overseas, particularly to the UK and Germany.
- the UK depends on France and other European countries for ~8% of its power
- the UK has a virtually nil operating margin for power generation overall this import dependence should be regarded as an existential National emergency, especially since Brexit.
- in addition, ~14% of French power is from Hydro generation with some limited pumped storage.
- as a result of the earlier long-term French Nuclear policy, since the oil price shock of the 1970s, France has reduced its CO2 emissions / head to below the Global average at 4.26 tonnes/head: France thus has the lowest emissions / head of any developed Nation.
- France now has the lowest electricity prices in Europe.
DE UK FR Weather Dependent Renewables Progress and Productivity / Capacity
The installation and power output progress from 2008 onwards of DE UK FR Weather Dependent Renewables is shown below:
The consequent history of DE UK FR Weather Dependent productivity / capacity is shown below: essentially there has been only marginal productivity advance since 2008 and overall it remains in the region of 20%, (1 day in 5 overall).
The measured annual Weather Dependent Renewable productivity / capacity percentages for the major European proponents of are shown below:
In other words Weather Dependent Renewables produce roughly one fifth of their Name plate rating in the course of any year and this level of productivity / capacity has improved very little since 2008.
The consistently poor performance is in Italy where there is a preponderance of Solar PV installations. Spain, (where they had previously fraudulently generated Solar power at night), had a largely Onshore wind power fleet, but Spain has recently added a further major Solar Power commitment, and accordingly the Spanish previously high productivity has fallen abruptly. UK productivity is sustained by its large proportion of Offshore Wind power. The high proportion of Solar Power in Germany has maintained their poor productivity: Germany and the UK are the darkest and cloudiest nations in Europe.
This post is a 2020 update of information provided in the 2019 post referenced below.
DE UK FR Weather Dependent Renewable performance
The above diagram shows the gross variability on a daily basis of the output from Weather Dependent Renewables across the DE UK FR Nations. It amply shows:
- the variability of combined Wind output affected by changing weather patterns over the year ranging from ~5% of daily generation to more than 30%.
- even though the territories are geographical disparate there is daily coordination throughout the year between Onshore and Offshore Wind generation.
- there is minimal Solar PV production in the winter months October – March.
- even so in the more productive summer months there can still be substantial performance variability of Solar PV power from one day to the next.
- there is some useful coordination between Wind power with lower productivity in the summer months and the higher Solar PV productivity in the summer. This of course ignores that fact that Solar PV productivity falls off rapidly in the evenings at times of higher demand.
However it is only when the performance of Weather Dependent Renewables is assessed on an hourly basis or even at a finer grain that the true extent of their Intermittency and variability becomes clear.
Combined Hourly Power Performance Germany, the UK and France
The wide range of Weather Dependent Power output is clear below. In addition the precipitous nature of the power output changes is also obvious. Generally there is consistent coordination between Onshore and Offshore Wind output. The rapid rate of change of power output creates massive control problems for those responsible for the maintenance of the essential consistent quality of the electrical grid. Europe-wide wind droughts can be seen to have occurred at various extents throughout the year.
The combination of the Wind power output across the three Nations DE UK FR might be thought to smooth out the variability of Weather Dependent Renewables, however the data from some selected months in 2020 shows that the assertion that “the wind is always blowing somewhere”, is a fallacy. A static low wind high pressure area may well encompass the UK and the near continent for extended periods at any season.
The following plots for the selected months of January, April, July and October show Weather Dependent Renewables production as a percentage of total power output for those months. They usefully detail the intermittency and variability inherent in Weather Dependency.
January 2020 _____________
In that peak demand winter month there was poor Wind Power performance particularly from 20-25 January. Solar PV power added vey little and very intermittent power, with poor Solar provision in the evenings, the time of peak demand
April 2020 _____________
Solar PV contribution is ramping up early in the month but their were notable setbacks of Wind power 7-12 April and 23 -28 April.
July 2020 _____________
Solar PV contribution was significant if intermittent, at its peak hours providing more than 30% of all power generated. But still falling off to nil at peak load times in the evenings.
In July 2020 there was a long period with a significant loss of Wind Power from 7-24 July. For 16 days in July 2020 installed Wind power accounting for 40% of the DE UK FR generation fleet, Wind power output output fell to below 10% of total power generated across the region.
October 2020 _____________
The diminution of Solar PV power can be seen as the Autumn advances. Wind power is more productive but even so there were two shorter occasions of 2 days each when its output fell to less than 10% of total DE UK FR generation
Weather Dependence leads to Intermittency and Variability
In the event of significant high wind, Wind power has to be curtailed to protect the equipment from damage. The extent of the very significant Wind drought across all the DE UK FR territories in July 2020 is shown in the hourly data plotted below:
Wind power output is often limited by low wind speeds as well. Using power output from Wind generators as a proxy for wind speed and thus the likely curtailment of Renewable Energy output the following graphic shows the occasions of likely overspeed curtailment and periods of low productivity due to low wind speeds on an hourly basis.
Although storage solutions, such as batteries, might be able to combat such intermittency, it should be noted that the apparently massive battery storage capacity installed in South Australia at a cost of ~US$130 million can sustain the South Australian grid for its population of 1.7 million for about 10 minutes. So, battery storage, at a scale necessary to support the power user of DE UK FR at whatever cost, could not compensate for a Wind drought of some 10 days as occurred in July 2020.
A direct Solar PV comparison for a few winter days showing the an equivalent summer six day output shows that in Winter Solar PV energy provides about 1/6 of the output as in summer and the extent of the dark periods in the Northern winter. It also is crucial to note that even in summer fall off of Solar power is significant even in the evenings and that nil production occurs at all at night. In addition the significant overproduction can occur around midday in Summer and that overproduction will be curtailed or sold to neighbouring countries at a negative price and thus wasted when it exceeds the power demand.
Its seems that the proponents and the government mandators of subsidies for Renewable Energy, particularly Solar PV power in Europe choose to ignore:
- the annual productivity / capacity percentage of Solar PV in Europe persistently remains at only about 10%.
- the “duck curve” of Solar PV production means that Solar PV production normally falls off in the evening, just at the time of likely peak demand
- Solar PV energy production diminishes at least 6 fold from Summer to Winter. Winter is the period of higher demand
- Northern Europe, particularly the UK and Germany are cloudy regions. Other locations such as California may achieve higher Solar productivity by as much as a further 50% to achieve up to 15% annual productivity / capacity percentage.
An excellent way to undermine Western economies is to render their power generation unreliable and expensive. That objective of Green thinking is progressively being achieved by government policies throughout the Western world, but without popular mandate.
- Weather Dependent Renewables now represent ~60% of power generation fleet of the three Nations, but with 70% in Germany and much less in France
- These DE UK FR Weather Dependent Renewables provide an overall productivity / capacity percentage of less than 20%.
- with such high levels of Weather Dependent Renewables and with the progressive elimination of base load power generators both the UK and Germany are standing into danger because their power grids are becoming increasingly fragile for lack of base load power.
If the objectives of using Weather Dependent Renewables were not confused with possibly “saving the planet” from the output of the UK’s and Europe’s relatively minor and diminishing proportion of CO2 emissions, (for electricity generation, less than 25% of 1.1%, the UK 2019 portion of Man-made Global CO2 emissions), their actual cost, in-effectiveness and their inherent unreliability, Weather Dependent Renewables would have always been ruled them out of any engineering consideration as means of National scale electricity generation.
The annual UK CO2 emissions output is well surpassed just by the annual growth of CO2 emissions in China and the Developing world. It is essential to ask the question what is the actual value of these Western government mandated excess expenditures to the improvement of the environment and for the possibility of perhaps preventing virtually undetectable temperature increases by the end of the century, especially in a context where the Developing world will be increasing its CO2 emissions to attain it’s further enhancement of living standards over the coming decades.
Reducing CO2 emissions in just the Western world as a means to control a “warming” climate seems even less relevant when the long-term global temperature trend has been downwards for last 3 millennia, the world is entering a Grand Solar Minimum, which is likely to last for several decades and as the coming end of our current warm and benign Holocene interglacial epoch approaches.
The context in 2020-2021
In spite of all the noisy Climate Propaganda of the past 30 years, in Spring 2020 the world faced a different but very real economic emergency from the reactions to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
That Emergency, with the world facing the loss of many citizens as well as global economic breakdown, should put the futile, self-harming and costly Government mandated attempts to control future climate into stark perspective. This real Emergency clearly shows how irrelevant concerns over probably inconsequential “Climate Change” in a distant future truly are.
This post gratefully uses the following data sources:
- German Renewables and generation data provided at hourly intervals
- United Kingdom Renewables and generation data at 5 minute intervals, condensed to hourly intervals
- France Renewables and generation data at 15 minute intervals, condensed to hourly intervals
- For the progress and scale of EU(28) installations by the end of 2019, EurObserver’ER publish their Renewable Energy “Barometers” for each type of Renewable generation annually, as yet unavailable for 2020, for an example see: