Saturday, May 26, 2012

Germany Sets Solar Record

Yesterday and today, Germany set new records for solar electric generation. At midday solar panels were feeding 22 gigawatts of electricity onto the grid. Today at its peak that was half of the country’s electric supply.

It is a favorable time of year for solar power in the northern hemisphere, and there was favorable weather, and those are reasons to discount this accomplishment somewhat. On the other hand, there are more reasons to be amazed. Germany, sitting at 50 degrees north latitude, is hardly an ideal case for solar power, which is stronger closer to the equator. Germany’s solar initiatives, though expensive, have never seemed large enough to shake up the country, and have taken up only a small fraction of the structural potential that the country has for solar panels. The solar generation numbers do not include other solar electricity that was used locally and not fed onto the electric grid.

What all this suggests is that the current technology is good enough. It is just a matter of time before solar panels provide 100 percent of midday electricity, then 200 percent, and not just in Germany, but in many other places besides. If solar panel technology improves and manufacturing costs decline further, as everyone expects, it will happen that much sooner. To say that this will shake up the electric power industry is an understatement.