Ray Rothrock

Germany Decides No Nukes – No Sense!

In Energy on June 7, 2011 at 6:20 am

Germany cancels nukes.  It’s amazing to me how politics trumps logic and economics.  I would have hoped that the German leadership would have looked long and hard at the bare facts about energy, their economy, and the world in which they are living.   Turns out they did within the last year.  Their recent decision to exit nuclear power as a source of electricity, coming so quickly after they planned to expand nuclear, was politically motivated

One nuclear plant provides power 24×7 at capacity factors around 90% . . .that’s pretty much all the time, and it can do it for five decades.  Not to rain on renewables parade, but a wind facility or solar facility, on a good year will have 20% capacity factor, and doesn’t provide power when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun is shining, respectively.  So, even if you could coordinate when the wind blows and sun shines, you’d need 5x as much capacity of wind and solar to cover for just one nuclear plant.  At hundreds of square miles per plant for wind and solar compared to one square mile for nuclear, land will be consumed at a prodigious rate to make up the elimination of nuclear power.  Otherwise, Germany will be looking to its neighbors for electricity in short order.  Or burning more fossil fuels which also is hard to imagine given the pollution and impact it has.

I’ve read that Germany plans to buy power when those nuclear facilities start to shut down.  I’m sure France will sell electricity to Germany from their nuclear fleet.  But I wonder at what price?   I’m sure the planners for electricity consumption in Germany are fine tuning their economic models and telling the government of Germany all will be fine.  Economics is a real law.  Electricity is a commodity.  I predict that supply and demand will take over and prices will rise.  Even if German demand remains constant prices will rise because its supply will fall off.

At the end of the day, I suppose it boils down to an optimistic view of one’s economy versus a pessimistic view reflecting a country’s population self-image and plans for the future.   In other words, to grow or not to grow.  Germany has made their bet.


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