Thanks to renewable energy, German factories got paid to use power last weekend

germany renewable energy negative power prices skyline frankfurt 2011 01
Wikimedia
Over the holiday weekend, customers in Germany were paid to consume power, as a surplus of electricity from wind generators pushed electricity prices below zero. It’s not an unusual occurrence, as the New York Times reports. Germany’s massive investment in renewable energy sources — more than $200 billion over the past 20 years — has resulted in regular excess of electricity due to the unpredictable nature of wind and solar power.

Germany got 35% of its energy from renewable sources in 2017, and some days that figure peaked as high as 85% depending on the sun and wind. Over the holiday weekend, a combination of low demand, strong winds, and warm weather combined for a surge in power generation.

The country’s nuclear and coal plants were unable to scale down their output quickly enough, leading to a bounty of about $60 per megawatt-hour for high-volume consumers such as factories.

These paybacks don’t filter down to everyday households, as utility prices are calculated quite differently in Germany than the U.S. However, the government is considering programs for individuals such as incentives to use more power at certain times to relieve stress on the power grid.

Germany can export some of its surplus energy to neighboring companies, but they’ve already experienced price dips below zero more than 100 times in 2017. With plans to begin phasing out their nuclear program by 2022, reliable weather forecasting is essential for consistent power production.

Many European countries, as well as other countries around the world, also deal with occasional surplus power problems, but Germany’s reliance on variable renewable sources presents some unique challenges. At one point during October, prices were below zero for a 31-hour period. As a result, large-scale consumers were paid as much as $98 per megawatt-hour to consume electricity during that period.

Batteries to absorb the excess power during peak production is an obvious solution, but current technology is not advanced enough to store all the excess energy. Still, they’re adapting to the new reality of renewable energy. “We now have technology that cannot produce according to the demand, but is producing according to the weather,” said German energy consultant Tobias Kurth. “[It’s] one of the key challenges in the whole transition of the energy market to renewable power.”

Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Smart Home

Hello Fresh vs. Blue Apron: Which meal-delivery service is better?

To save time in the kitchen, some busy people order takeout, some look to devices like slow cookers and pressure cookers, and others try home-delivery meal services. These days, you have several meal-delivery services to choose from if you…
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Mobile

Check out 30 of the best iPhone games you need to be playing

The iPhone has some of our favorite games available for any mobile platform. Here are the best iPhone games for every big-name genre, whether you're into puzzles, strategy, or something else entirely.
Cars

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?
Outdoors

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Forget joysticks — the Guts Game is controlled by a sensor that you swallow

Researchers have created an unusual new game in which players swallow a biosensor and then compete to raise or lower the temperature in their gut. Sound crazy? Here's why it could catch on.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.