Category Renewable Energy – The Facts

Renewable energy here and in the developing world

In previous sections, we have focused on the main instruments and steps towards a sustainable energy supply in Germany. In places, we have also mentioned how impor­tant renewable energy can be for sustainable development in the developing world.

As difficult as it has been for us to switch to solar energy, it is even harder for developing countries to switch to a sustainable energy supply in light of their far worse economic situation.63

Environmental protection does not play a major role in these countries, which face more urgent economic and social prob­lems, such as widespread poverty. Generally, no capital is available for investments in renewable energy and efficient technologies.

There is a great lack of proper training for a sustainable energy supply and too little expertise about...

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Indispensable part of our energy transition

Today, the generation of electricity is the cause of more than a third of all carbon emissions in Germany. The reason is the low efficiency at which power plants convert fuels into power. On average, fossil power plants run at efficiencies far below 40 per cent. If we then deduct the power needed by the plant itself and transport losses on the grid, we see that only a third of the primary energy fed into the plant actually arrives at your wall socket.28

The alternative to conventional power generation is called cogeneration. Here, waste heat from the power generation process in conventional steam turbines is used. For the waste heat to be used in resi­dential areas, hospitals or commercial units, the power has to be generated close to consumers.

The overall efficiency of cogeneration unit...

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Wind Power

6.1 Wind power comes of age

Back in 1900, some 18,000 traditional wind­mills were still in operation in Germany. They were mainly used to produce flour. But over the decades, they were gradually replaced by electrical equipment. In the 1980s, modern wind power began. These wind turbines are no longer mechanical windmills, but rather power generators. In Germany, the new age of wind power started off with a disaster. In the Growian project, the German Ministry of Research and Technology wanted to set a new record...

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Are renewables job killers?

Studies about how renewables will affect the job market are controversial for a good reason. While the number of employees at companies manufacturing wind power and solar equipment – and even at suppliers – can be stated quite exactly, it is much harder to demonstrate downstream effects, which certainly occur, but are impossible to empiri­cally demonstrate.15

In a study on how the German job market will change when we switch to renewables, the Institute of Applied Ecology not only assumed that renewables would offset some of our fossil energy, but also all nuclear power. This sustainable energy approach was expected to create some 200,000 jobs over the long term because energy conser­vation technologies and renewable energy would replace energy imports.16

Current events in Denmark confir...

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Off-grid PV arrays

Roughly 2 billion people worldwide – a third of the world’s population – have to make do without a power grid. Distributed electricity supply to cover the basics would improve the lives of these people considerably. Artificial lighting at night allows people on farms and in shops to work later; schools and community centres can also offer more flexible services. Radio, telephones and tele­vision provide information and means of communication to remote regions. The power needed for such applications can be provided less expensively and often faster with off-grid PV arrays than with grid expan­sion.5 Indeed, photovoltaics is often even less expensive than small diesel generators.

The equipment used for such purposes is known as Solar Home Systems (see Figure 3...

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The world’s largest hydropower plants

While Rheinfelden is considered a large hydropower plant by German standards, at only 100MW megawatts, it is quite small on a global scale. Worldwide, some hydropower plants are true giants.9

The Itaipu dam on the border between Brazil and Paraguay was constructed on the Iguapu and Parana Rivers. A storage lake some 170km long – roughly twice as large as Europe’s Lake Constance – was created behind a dam 196m tall and 7.8km long. The power plant has a capacity of 12.6GW and generates around 95,000GWh of elec­tricity each year, roughly enough to cover a quarter of Brazil’s power demand – or theo­retically a sixth of Germany’s.

For a long time, this hydropower plant, which went into operation in 1983, was the largest in the world, but in May 2006, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River ...

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The Renewable Energy Act (EEG)

From both an ecological and economical viewpoint, the Feed-in Act (see 11.9) needed to be revised after the liberalization of the power market. Its successor was the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), which came into force on 1 April 2000. The EEG was revised in 2004, with feed-in rates being adjusted.34 This law differs in a number of important ways from the Feed-in Act of 1991:

The feed-in tariffs are originally paid out by network operators, but the fees paid are later equaled out at the national level between network operators so that all network operators and power customers are equally affected...

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Renewable Energy – The Facts

administration more than ever before as the country worked to make itself less depend­ent on foreign energy imports.

Clearly, energy policy is in a transitional period. Renewables are quickly becoming more important. In this book, we navigate our readers through this process and provide them with facts and good reasons for this change. We also present strategies for the quick transition to the Solar Age:

• The book first provides information about the many ways that solar energy can be used. We start with the direct use of solar energy: solar thermal and PV. The former creates heat; the latter, elec­tricity (Chapters 2-4). The sun is also the engine behind our climate; wind, clouds and rain are the result of insolation. Likewise, plants (biomass) could not exist without light...

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