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WEATHER

Bavaria reports heavy damage after overnight storm

Police have reported significant damage in Bavaria after heavy storms and torrential rain battered the region on Tuesday night.

Bavaria reports heavy damage after overnight storm
Photo: DPA

The Franconia and Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz) regions were particularly affected by the storm, with damages including flooded cellars and roads blocked by uprooted trees.

A fire in the Upper Palatinate town in Nittenau reportedly started by lightning and inflicted costly damages amounting to an estimated €250 000. Fire fighters in the region were on duty throughout the night to put out the blaze and clear felled tree branches that damaged vehicles and blocked roads in the area. Road construction works were also blown over by high winds.

River traffic in Upper Franconia was also severely affected by the storms. Authorities introduced a temporary suspension to boat travel after several embankments collapsed on the Rhine-Main-Danube canal in the district of Forchheim.

Meanwhile a 12-metre-long embankment parallel to the canal was also washed away, resulting in further disruption to water transport.

Though no-one was injured in Bavaria, a 46-year-old man in the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg was struck by lighting as he was opening an umbrella. But he survived with just light burns, according to the police.

Meanwhile more rain is expected to concentrate in the region for the next few days, the German Weather Service (DWD) said on Wednesday.

Heavy rain from the Lower Rhine to Baltic Sea coast and south of the Danube River will set in for most of Wednesday, with high temperatures between eight and 20 degrees Celsius across the country.

Overnight more rain is expected in the south, with heavy storms concentrated near the Alps. Temperatures could get low enough for ground frost to form, the DWD said.

The south will continue to see rain on Thursday, with scattered thunderstorms in the Alps. The rest of the country will have thick cloud cover and scattered showers with highs between a cool 7 and 14 degrees.

The soggy weather will likely continue in central and southern regions overnight, and low temperatures will bring ground frost and drop the snowfall line to about 1,500 metres.

Friday’s weather won’t improve much for the south, where more rain is expected, but western and northern regions will be mostly dry with a slight increase of temperatures ranging between 8 and 15 degrees, the DWD predicted.

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast.

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ENERGY

Why sunny weather in Germany can switch off solar panels

The more the sun shines in the southern German town of Aurach, the more likely it is that Jens Husemann's solar panels will be disconnected from the grid -- an exasperating paradox at a time when Germany is navigating an energy supply crisis.

Why sunny weather in Germany can switch off solar panels

“It’s being switched off every day,” Husemann told AFP during a recent sunny spell, saying there had been more than 120 days of forced shutdowns so far this year.

Husemann, who runs an energy conversion business near Munich, also owns a sprawling solar power system on the flat roof of a transport company in Aurach, Bavaria.

The energy generated flows into power lines run by grid operator N-Ergie, which then distributes it on the network.

But in sunny weather, the power lines are becoming overloaded — leading the grid operator to cut off supply from the solar panels.

“It’s a betrayal of the population,” said Husemann, pointing to soaring electricity prices and a continued push to install more solar panels across Germany.

Europe’s biggest economy is eyeing an ambitious switch to renewables making up 80 percent of its electricity from 2030 in a bid to go carbon neutral.

N-ergie thermal power station

The thermal power station of energy supplier N-Ergie in Nuremberg, southern Germany. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put a spanner in the works.

Moscow has cut gas supplies to Germany by 80 percent, in what is believed to be a bid to weaken the European powerhouse’s resolve in backing Ukraine.

READ ALSO: OPINION: How many massacres will it take for Germany to turn off Russian gas?

As a result, Berlin has been scrambling for alternative sources across the world to replace the shortfall.

This makes it all the more frustrating for Husemann, whose solar panels normally generate enough electricity for 50 households. With the repeated shutdowns, he suspects they will only supply half of their capacity by the end
of the year.

Grid bottlenecks

Grid operator N-Ergie, which is responsible for harvesting electricity from Husemann’s panels, admits the situation is less than ideal.

There were 257 days last year when it had to cut off supply from solar panels on parts of the grid.

“We are currently witnessing — and this is a good thing — an unprecedented boom in photovoltaic parks,” Rainer Kleedoerfer, head of N-Ergie’s development department, told AFP.

An employee of energy supplier N-ERGIE working at the company's network control centre in Nuremberg, southern Germany. 

An employee of energy supplier N-Ergie working at the company’s network control centre in Nuremberg, southern Germany.  (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

But while it takes just a couple of years to commission a solar power plant, updating the necessary infrastructure takes between five and 10 years, he said.

“The number of interventions and the amount of curtailed energy have increased continuously in recent years” as a result, according to N-Ergie spokesman Michael Enderlein.

“The likelihood is that grid bottlenecks will actually increase in the coming years,” while resolving them will take several more years, Enderlein said.

According to Carsten Koenig, managing director of the German Solar Industry Association, the problem is not unique to solar power and also affects wind energy.

READ ALSO: Reader question – Should I modernise my heating system in Germany?

Solar bottlenecks tend to be regional and temporary, he said. “Occasionally, however, we hear that especially in rural areas in Bavaria, the shutdowns are more frequent.”

2.4 million households

Koenig agrees the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“This will be especially true if political measures aimed at sufficiently expanding the power grid in Germany… drag on for too long,” he said.

Some 6.1 terawatt hours of electricity from renewables had to be curtailed in 2020, according to the most recent figures available.

With an average consumption of around 2,500 kilowatt hours per year in a two-person household, this would have been enough to power around 2.4 million households.

A spokesman for Germany’s Federal Network Agency said it did not share the belief that “it will not be possible to expand the network in line with demand in the coming years”.

Only some aspects of the expansion are seeing delays, the spokesman said — mainly due to slow approval procedures and a lack of specialist companies to do the work.

According to Husemann there have also been delays to the payments he is supposed to receive in return for the solar power he supplies — or cannot supply.

He said he is already owed around 35,000 euros ($35,600) for electricity produced so far this year that has never found its way into a socket.

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