Germany's Bad Energy Choices Leading into Cul de Sac?
Big wind and big solar are hopelessly intermittent and unreliable forms of energy production. But Germany has rashly committed itself to supplying 40% of its power from the intermittent unreliables by 2020. As a result of this giant leap of faith, German energy planners are scrambling for ways to convert big wind and big solar energy to more reliable forms of energy that can be stored, and used whenever needed.
As seen in the diagram above, a new €3.3 million project aims to produce methane from wind and solar generated electricity, using alkaline electrolyser stacks.
Once the hydrogen has been produced it passes through a methanisation process. The resulting methane can be injected directly into the natural gas grid, thus allowing for renewable energy storage on a timescale of months or more. The gas contributes to decarbonising the grid, and can be used for electricity generation or to fuel natural gas vehicles. _FuelCellTodayHere is more information about an earlier, preliminary research project to prove the concept:
The Centre for Solar Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) has inaugurated a research facility to convert solar power to methane. The methane is then added to the natural gas grid.More information from ZSW (in German)
The project uses solar power to electrolyse water in a pressurised alkaline electrolyser, producing hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen gas then undergoes methanation, and with the facility able to produce up to 300 cubic meters of renewable methane per day, it is the largest of its type in the world. _FuelCellToday
Needless to say, the concentration of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere is vanishingly small (0.04%) -- making atmospheric CO2 far too rare and expensive as a CO2 source, for an industrial-scale project. This being the case, it is clear that the project will have to use concentrated CO2 effluent from a hydrocarbon-burning power plant, cement plant, or other industrial scale plant.
And as it happens, Germany is burning much more coal lately, as a result of its impulsive decision to shut down its nuclear power plants. All of which brings up a very good question: "If Germans want to produce methane from CO2 and H2 from the electrolysis of water, why not use nuclear power as your source of electricity?" Nuclear power is cheaper, more reliable, and more potentially abundant than the intermittent unreliables -- big wind and big solar.
Perhaps the answer to the question is that the Germans are not actually serious about all of this, but are merely posturing for the energy and environmental media -- and for green oriented voters and power blocs.
That would be a shame. Germany is in dire need of competent people who are willing to take a serious approach to present and future electrical power needs.
Today's bad choices by German leaders will have the effect of limiting possible good choices in the future. Germany is being painted into a corner, led into a cul de sac, by faux environmental greens who have been given too much power across the EU.
The green ideology is doing for Germany and the EU what the communist ideology did for the former USSR.