After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown the government of Germany pledged to eliminate nuclear from its energy mix by shutting down 8 plants immediately and the remaining 9 by 2022. Did this Germany would go back to coal-fired or natural gas power plants?
Not so. Germany, based on the latest data, appears to be building its renewable energy capacity quite rapidly. Today it leads the world in solar power generation and its no slouch when it comes to wind either. In July of 2011 Germany actually had to pay customers to remove power from the grid when its wind farms pumped out nearly 12,000 megawatts of power with wind speeds averaging 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) per hour. And in the last few months German solar generated power has come close to 20 Gigawatts of power generated during daylight hours. In the last week for the first time German solar generated more than 22 Gigawatts of power at mid-day. It wasn’t a workday and as a result met close to 50% of the entire country’s mid-day electricity needs. The ability to generate numbers exceeding 20 Gigawatts represents solar capacity growth of better than 50% in the last year with 26 Gigawatts currently installed, as much as the rest of the world combined.
The challenge for Germany remains one of creating a stable supply of electricity from these renewable sources. That will only be accomplished when solar and wind are integrated with inexpensive and reliable storage technology that can capture excess power generated and feed it back into the grid when solar and wind are unavailable.
Using solar and wind has produced a carbon emission benefit with the country on track to reduce its carbon footprint by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.