Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Germany unveils biggest battery plant in Europe

Reuters, BERLIN

Germany switched on Europe’s largest commercial battery plant on Tuesday, an installation powered by 25,600 lithium-ion batteries that will help stabilize the region’s growing supply of energy from renewable sources.

The 6 million euro (US$7.8 million) plant, the size of a school gymnasium, is designed to help even out short-term fluctuations that sometimes accompany power from renewable sources as Germany continues to raise its share of renewable energy from about 25 percent currently to between 40 percent and 45 percent by 2025 and 55 percent and 60 percent by 2035.

“This is an interesting alternative to conventional power plants and the regional utilities have come up with an interesting project here,” German Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel told German TV at the plant’s opening in Schwerin.

So far the lack of extensive storage capacity has been one of the biggest hurdles to Germany’s expansion into renewable energy sources as power produced by wind and photovoltaic can generally not be easily stored in any sizable quantities.

With a storage capacity of 5MWh, Schwerin’s battery fills that gap.

The plant, next to a power substation operated by local utility, Wemag AG, is to address short-term fluctuations that can cause damage and lead to power outages.

The utilities’ grid covers an area of 8,600km2 in northeastern Germany, which received 80 percent of its energy from wind power last year. That figure is expected to rise to 100 percent this year.

Germany’s Energiewende, or switch to renewable energy sources away from nuclear and fossil fuels, is the centerpiece of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s energy and environment policy.

Since 2000, when green energy incentives were introduced by a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, the country’s renewables sector has boomed.

Merkel made the policy her own after the 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima reactor by speeding up a nuclear phaseout. However, she has drawn criticism for shielding industry from bearing more of the cost of the subsidies for green energy sources, which have pushed up retail power prices.

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