Germany has installed so much renewable energy capacity there were multiple hours in 2011 when it generated more electricity than was used, and utilities had to pay customers to use it. The European country has over 21,000 wind mills, and high winds on July 24th produced a surplus of power. Meanwhile some American politicians are bashing solar and other renewable energy technologies saying they can’t be implemented with federal support. They seem to be be very confused at the least, and just flat out wrong otherwise. The reason Germany has so much renewable energy is that national law has required aggressive construction of alternative power sources. Just five years ago, a surplus of electricity from renewables would not have occurred, but the forward-looking national law and determined workers have created a new clean energy ball game, one where coal power plants will no longer be cost-competitive.
Wind power capacity in Germany recently peaked at nearly 12,000 megawatts. There are issues with using intermittent power generation dependent on weather conditions and the time of day or night, but they might be addressed with new storage options and staggering consumption. Also there remains work to be done on replacing old consumer technology with new, more efficient kinds and improving personal behavior. Even more renewable energy installations are slated for construction there, and the nuclear power option is being tabled.
A model of energy efficiency has emerged in the Bavarian town of Wildpoldsried where they produce over 300% of their energy needs and sell the surplus each year for millions of dollars. Some American politicians and their followers bash environmental policy as being bad for the economy. but clearly in cases like the small town in Bavaria it has been extremely constructive. (Even the United States Navy is going green, with biofuels and solar to save money on energy consumption.) Germany, Italy, Spain and China will keep moving into the future with national policies that embrace clean energy technology, while our politicians in Congress continue to resist the future and keep us behind when we could be in the lead. Make no mistake, the United States helped Germany rebuild itself after World War II with the Marshall plan. Today they are leaving us in the dust.
Image Credit: Carleton.edu