Are solar panels prone to sunburn?

It’s a paradox: the more the sun shines, the greater the chance that German entrepreneur Jens Husemann’s photovoltaic system will be disconnected from the grid, a waste of energy and yet so precious in times of energy crisis.

“There are cuts every day,” complains AFP of this small solar power producer, whose panels line the roof of a transport company in Aurach, northern Bavaria.

In the approximately 200 days since the beginning of the year, his system had failed more than half the time.

The electricity produced during these disruptions has effectively been thrown away because the grid does not have the capacity to transport it.

The contractor could supply around fifty households with electricity. Instead, it won’t have delivered half of its production capacity by the end of the year.

“This is a deception towards the population,” he says angrily.

His anger is all the greater because at the same time electricity prices are skyrocketing in the wake of the Ukraine war and the government repeatedly announces that it wants to promote clean energies in Germany in order to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels in order to achieve its climate goals.

He is not the only victim: the operations of this “decoupling” from the grid have multiplied in recent years in his region and are mainly aimed at large photovoltaic systems.

The local operator N-Ergie, which buys Jens Husemann’s production, is well aware of the problem, but has to intervene in the face of increasing bottlenecks or in the event of maintenance on the network.

“We are currently experiencing – and that is fortunate – a maximum increase in photovoltaic parks, which we have never seen in the past,” emphasizes Rainer Kleedörfer, head of the operator’s development department.

But if one to two years are necessary for the commissioning of a park, the expansion “of the network infrastructure to be implemented in parallel takes between five and ten years,” he emphasizes, in particular because of the very long administrative time involved in the approval process.

As a result, the number of disconnections has increased steadily in recent years, especially around the “midday peaks” when the sun shines most intensely.

This phenomenon of exploding production while the grid can’t keep up is affecting wind energy even more, and on a national scale, says Carsten Körnig, executive director of the German Solar Energy Association.

In his opinion, the problems with solar energy remain relatively limited and regional, with Bavaria and some large photovoltaic parks in eastern Germany being hardest hit.

For the future, König fears that the problems in rural areas will worsen, especially “if the political decision-making process with the aim of expanding the network to meet needs takes too long”.

According to the latest official information, 6.1 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity produced by renewable energies in Germany in 2020 could not be used due to the grid weakness.

With an average consumption of 2,500 kilowatt hours for a two-person household, this corresponds to a lost amount of electricity for around 2.4 million of these households.

The Federal Network Agency wants to calm things down.

“The idea that a needs-based network structure will not take place is generally not shared,” says a spokesman for the facility.

It does acknowledge delays, some of which are due to lengthy permitting processes or overwork by specialized companies.

As annoying as the regular cuts in his facility may be, Jens Husemann should not have suffered too many financial losses.

The operator has to pay him up to more than 35,000 euros in compensation for electricity that could never have made it to the socket.

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