German power producers are poised to pay customers to use electricity this weekend. Wind generation is forecast to climb to a record on Sunday, creating more output than needed and driving electricity prices below zero. It would be the first time this year that the average price for a whole day is negative, not just for specific hours.
Wind output is forecast to peak at 39,190 megawatts at 7am on Sunday
Equivalent to the output of about 40 nuclear reactors and enough to meet more than half of Germany’s total demand. Onshore wind turbines accounted for almost a third of Germany’s installed power capacity at the end of June and the nation is poised to increase new installations by 9 percent this year, according to industry federation BWE.
Wind technology has developed greatly in recent years. The trend toward larger and more powerful wind turbines continues. Since the turn of the Millennium, the 2 to 3 megawatt class dominates the market, but the importance of the 3 to 5-megawatt class is increasing significantly.
In 2016 the power of a newly installed wind turbine on land averaged 2,848 kW. That’s 155% more than in the year 2000 [1,115 kW].
Wind power currently supplies about 10 percent of Europe’s electricity and is expected to continue to grow as the technology becomes cheaper. The cost of electricity from offshore wind farms, once one of the most expensive forms of green energy, is expected to slide by 71 percent over the next two decades, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
With 50,018 MW, Germany has the most wind power capacity [32.5%] installed in Europe and was the leader in new installations [44%] in 2016. Last year 28,217 wind turbines on- and offshore generated 12.3% of the electricity in the country. Wind made the largest contribution to electricity generation from renewable energy sources with 80 terawatt hours total and the industry is also the largest employer among the renewables with 142,900 jobs. In a worldwide comparison, Germany comes in third with 10% of the installed capacity, right behind China [43%] and the United States [15%].
Jobs in the wind energy industry
The German wind energy industry was booming during the last decade, creating thousands of jobs. With a share of 43%, the wind energy industry is the largest employer among the renewable energies [330,000 jobs total] but the employment has decreased by 4% compared to the previous year. In 2015, 142,900 people in Germany were working in the wind industry – 122,400 of them were employed onshore and 20,500 offshore.
Wind energy investments
Wind energy was the strongest investment division 2015, which reached 66.5% [€9.7 billion] of the entire renewable investment volume of €14.5 billion. Although 2015 recorded the second highest investment volume to date, investments decreased by 20% compared to the record year 2014 [€12.1 billion]. €5.2 billion were invested in onshore wind power, the investment volume offshore added up to €4.5 billion.
The German population is strongly supporting the energy transformation. According to a representative survey by TNS Emnid on behalf of the Renewable Energy Agency [AEE], 93% of the respondents find the further expansion of renewable energy important. Inter-generational equity and climate protection are the priorities according to the respondents. 52% of the respondents would accept wind turbines in their own living environment. The agreement increases to 69% if the respondents already have experience with wind farms in their neighborhood. According to the survey results, fossil fuels are less accepted by the consumers. Only 6% of the respondents said they would be comfortable with a coal power plant in their own neighborhood.
Germany’s grid operators can struggle to keep the balance between how much energy people are using and how much is being produced when there are high amounts of wind generation. Negative prices mean that producers must either shut down power stations to reduce supply or pay consumers to take the electricity off the grid.
Earlier this year, Germany shocked the renewable energy industry by handing out contracts to developers willing to build offshore farms without subsidy. German wind generation reached a record 38,370 megawatts on 18 March.