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WEATHER

Sunniest, driest spring since 1893 recorded

Germany has registered the sunniest and driest spring since records began in 1893, the German Weather Service (DWD) said Monday. But thunderstorms could end a hot start to the week.

Sunniest, driest spring since 1893 recorded
Photo: DPA

“Germany enjoyed a summer-like spring in 2011,” said DWD meteorologist Uwe Kirsche in a statement.

“No spring on record has brought more sunshine, and only the spring of 2007 was warmer. Indeed, the months of March, April and May haven’t seen such little rainfall since 1893,” he added, citing the data of approximately 2,000 weather stations administered by the DWD.

The average temperature in Germany this spring was 10.1 degrees Celsius – 2.4 degrees higher than normal – with Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate the driest and warmest regions.

Since temperature tracking began in 1881, spring this year was only surpassed by 2007 (10.6 degrees), despite evening frost this year that continued well into May.

Click here for a photo gallery of the hot spring weather

The mercury is expected to stay high early this week until thunderstorms and showers roll across much of the country.

Warm temperatures will prevail across Germany Monday afternoon, with temperatures climbing to a sweltering 32 degrees in some regions. Heat thunderstorms could affect the extreme south, but the rest of the country will remain dry.

Sudden changes are expected Monday night, though.

As high pressure system “Birgit” moves toward eastern Europe, low pressure system “Yves” will move in, bringing cooler air and showers to western Germany. Thunderstorms in the Rhineland could continue into Tuesday morning.

“Yves” will then cover most of Germany over the course of Tuesday, with a band of clouds reaching the east by midday. The storms could grow in intensity throughout the day, with extreme weather possible in the southwest.

But sustained rainfall could offer respite to farmers who have suffered through an unusually arid spring.

Before the thunderstorms arrive Tuesday, the weather will be hot, reaching 30 degrees in the east, while the west will see milder temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees.

On Tuesday night, there will be steady rainfall in the south and east, while the west will remain dry under the influence of a new high pressure system.

This system will spread across Germany over the rest of the week, bringing balmy temperatures of 25 to 30 degrees to most regions, while the extreme south will remain under cloud cover with thunderstorms possible.

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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