06.02.2012
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German power exports to France increasing

The current cold spell in Europe is having an effect on international power exports. On the one hand, demand for heat has skyrocketed, but the clear skies also ensure that photovoltaics reaches relatively high peaks for the winter around noon.

 - Though the day is short, PV power production is still peaking at an impressive level during the current cold spell in Germany. Source: EEX
Though the day is short, PV power production is still peaking at an impressive level during the current cold spell in Germany. Source: EEX

As Renewables International has reported, the switching off of Germany's nuclear power plants last spring has led to a sort of stress test for the German grid. But as the country's neighbors to the east complain about unexpected power flows, something else is happening to the West between France and Germany.

Because France has so much nuclear power, the country has an inordinate number of electric heating systems. And because France has not added on enough additional capacity over the past decade, the country's current nuclear plants are starting to have trouble meeting demand, especially when it gets very cold in the winter.

As a result, power exports from Germany to France reached 4 to 5 gigawatts – the equivalent of around four nuclear power plants – last Friday morning according to German journalist Bernward Janzing. It was not exactly a time of low consumption in Germany either at 70 gigawatts around noon on Friday, but Janzing nonetheless reports that the grid operators said everything was under control, and the country's emergency reserves were not being tapped. On the contrary, he reports that a spokesperson for transit grid operator Amprion told him that "photovoltaics in southern Germany is currently helping us a lot."

Janzing also points out that prices on the power exchange indicated that there was indeed no shortage of power, with the price of a kilowatt-hour peaking at 11.3 cents in the evening, but only reaching 7.7 cents around noon. One reason might be that the clear skies are ensuring a fairly strong performance for solar arrays. As the chart on the left from the EEX power exchange shows, solar power production has been peaking at around 10 gigawatts at noon over the past few days, such as here on Sunday. Germany currently has around 25 gigawatts of PV installed, so 10 gigawatts means the country's solar capacity is peaking at around 40 percent – not bad for early February. On the other hand, Germany also has some 27 gigawatts of wind power capacity installed, and the current cold spell has not produced a lot of wind power.

At the same time, Janzing reports that power prices on the French power exchange were up to 50 percent higher, and power consumers in Brittany were called on to reduce power consumption.  (Craig Morris)

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