Solar Provides 10 Percent Of Germany’s Electricity In May

Last month was a big one for the German solar industry. According to figures released by a German water and energy trade association, distributed solar photovoltaic systems produced 10 percent of Germany’s total electricity consumption for the month of May. That’s a 40 percent increase over May of 2011.

On the 25th and 26th of May, Germany was able to meet one third of its peak demand with solar alone.

There are now over one million solar systems installed across Germany. In 2011, solar accounted for 3 percent of the country’s total electricity generation — a 60 percent increase over 2010.

A sunny month and a continued boom in installations contributed to the increase in generation. In the first quarter of 2012, deployment of solar PV systems was more than three times higher than the first quarter of 2011. In the rush to get systems placed in service before Germany administers steep cuts to its feed-in tariff program, installers put 1,800 MW online in the first three months of the year. That’s roughly what the entire U.S. industry installed in 2011.

But the continued growth in German installations and increase in solar generation is also sparking calls for more cuts to the country’s incentives. The feed-in tariff, which provides system owners with a guaranteed rate for every unit of energy fed into the grid, has been the key reason for Germany’s success. But with solar costs dropping and generation increasing, the premiums given to producers have been reduced substantially in an effort to cool the market.

In 2011, Germany got roughly 20% of its electricity from all renewable energy technologies.

18 Responses to Solar Provides 10 Percent Of Germany’s Electricity In May

  1. Barry Saxifrage says:

    An interesting chart would be one that compares the FIT rate to installs over the years. My understanding is that installs have increased even as FIT has decreased. This is exactly the clean energy success pathway we are all hoping is possible.

  2. Julianne S. says:

    Fingers crossed that other can follow in their foot steps ( aka America). One million installs is astounding!

  3. Julianne S. says:

    Pardon me, I meant Others*

  4. Doug Bostrom says:

    Still blows my mind to see a roof crammed w/PV panels but missing the hot water part.

    Hot water panels: ~80% efficient. PV: ~15%

    Why heat water w/coal or gas when you can do it with solar? Why heat water w/PV at 5x the cost?

    Make a little room, please.

  5. AA says:

    Solar thermal is partly a victim of the success of PV.

    In more and more cases, it’s not worth the trouble. I’m not ready to call solar hot-water dead just yet, but Martin Holladay thinks it’s getting there fast:

  6. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. Germany is tapping Solar as well as Wind on a large scale.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP), India

  7. Bill Woods says:

    Here’s the installation figures for the past couple of years:
    Click on “German Feed-in Tariffs 20[xx]” in the sidebar for the FiT rates.

  8. SecularAnimist says:

    Actually, I do see something on the roof in that photo, in the middle of and just below the PV panels, that might be a solar thermal collector — or it could be a skylight. Hard to tell from the photo.

    I have talked to several PV contractors about getting PV panels installed on my roof. All of them told me that if my goal is to reduce my energy bills, solar thermal collectors for water heating will give me a LOT more bang for the buck than PV. And these guys don’t even sell solar water heating equipment — they referred me to other suppliers who do.

  9. Doug Bostrom says:

    Yeah, do the math and it’s pretty much obviousL more WHE for less money w/solar DHW. Tough for multi-family dwellings, granted. Collective preheat maybe worth investigating for that context but that introduces the budget-killing demon of complication.

    I think part of the problem is that PV has more sex appeal; we all love our electrons but plumbing not so much.

  10. Doug Bostrom says:

    Don’t tell my water heater, please! I’m in a lousy place for solar (Seattle, shade problem from large trees) and we’re still getting about 1/2 our hot water WHE from a couple of meters of solar collectors.

    Good enough…

  11. Arrow. Zing. Bullseye.

  12. Mike 22 says:

    Payback on solar thermal DHW equipment to offset grid electric DHW is excellent.

    However, for the case where PV is already installed with net metering in place, the payback on PV + air source DHW heat pump is even better. That is assuming you have the room for the DHW heat pump–but if you’ve got room for an 80 gallon solar hot water tank, you’ve probably got room for the heat pump instead.

    They are both great investments.

  13. Doug Bostrom says:

    That’s an interesting point. I’d love to see the numbers on that, including down-the-road maintenance costs. Do you have a steer on those?

  14. Mike 22 says:

    Perhaps you could talk with an installer who is familiar with all three technologies: PV, solar thermal, and air source domestic hot water heaters.

    If you are putting in PV, adding a kilowatt or so (depends on your insolation) to what is planned and replacing your hot water heater with the air source heater is the less expensive and more reliable option.

    The PV will be in the 17% efficiency range, and the heat pump (in heat pump only mode) will have a COP of around 2.8–effectively, you will get as much hot water from the same square footage of collector on the roof–for a lower installed price. And, the PV and the heat pumps are dropping in price–the solar thermal panels are resource intensive (lots of copper) and not dropping in price (mature technology).

    Households which use electricity to make hot water consume about 4,000 kwh/year to do this. Works out to about 8% of total US residential electrical use. Just replacing electric hot water heaters with heat pumps would displace a lot of coal.

  15. Mike 22 says:

    “I’d love to see the numbers on that”, see AA link above, although the numbers for the solar thermal install are too low by half, and the COP of the DHW heaters are closer to 2.8–not 2.0


  16. Doug Bostrom says:


    Sometimes modernized energy aficionados remind me of cyclists: all agree that bicycles are great but then fall to fighting viciously over what type of handlebars are best. :-)

  17. Doug Bostrom says:

    Keeping complication out of the picture is a serious plus for what Mike describes; why install two completely autonomous systems when one will do? The only thing that bothers me about it is maintainability and the impact of maintenance on economics.

    In general hermetically sealed phase change heat pumps are pretty reliable; it’s not unheard of to get 20 years of life out of a compressor. However, if there’s a failure out of warranty it seems likely that would more or less destroy the economics of the system for the owner in comparison w/more antiquated methods.

    I’ll contrast that w/the DHW system on my house, which has a single moving part consisting of a water pump w/a cartridge replacement motor/impeller. When (not if) this moving part fails it’ll cost me about $80 to replace it. That’s the limit of the financial Damocles’ sword hanging over my head in terms of maintenance. For neurotic people (me) this is a big plus.

  18. Mike 22 says:

    Cinelli 65 Criterium 42 cm