Optimising the expansion of renewable energies

A comparison of costs of different possible ways of expanding wind and solar energy in Germany until 2033.

  • Project Duration: 09/2012 - 05/2013

Should wind and solar installations in the future be built where sun and wind are optimal for power production, or should they be built close to the places where the power will be consumed?

This question was heavily debated in 2013. There are two different viewpoints: One argument is that wind and solar installations should be built in locations optimal for production – that is, erecting wind turbines in the north and solar arrays in the south, where power is produced most cheaply. The other view is that both wind and sun facilities should be distributed across Germany, concentrating on areas near where power is consumed, which saves money in terms of network and storage facilities. A well-founded, comprehensive evaluation has not yet been carried out.

Can renewable energy grow only after grids expand?

The output of wind turbines in some areas of northern Germany today is curbed when winds are strong, as power grids do not have enough capacity to transport the electricity generated. Whether delays in building new power lines are having an impact on electricity prices – and how large this impact may be – has not been analysed systematically. This study considers whether a delay in network expansion will affect the profitability of either optimised expansion plan.

What will be the consequences of a massive expansion of solar and battery systems for home consumption?

The guaranteed price paid for electricity from new photovoltaic systems (PV systems) under the Renewable Energy Act today already lies well below the household price of electricity – the result of exemptions from levies, duties and taxes. This gives the owners of photovoltaic systems a financial incentive to themselves use the electricity they produce. One problem, however, is that electricity production and consumption are rarely simultaneous. Decentralized storage is needed to boost consumption by producers. The technical and economic effects of a sizeable expansion of solar power and battery storage systems in Germany have not been thoroughly investigated. This study looks at an additional scenario: The spread of 150 GW photovoltaic plants with 40GW battery systems by 2033.

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