SHARE
COPY LINK
GERMAN FLOOD DISASTER

WEATHER

Northern Germany races to repel flood surge

Germany's race to shore up dykes on swollen rivers shifted to the north Friday while other regions began counting the cost of the deadly flooding.

Northern Germany races to repel flood surge
Photo: DPA

Volunteers, rescuers and soldiers in northern German states feverishly piled up sandbags along the Elbe river which has already deluged vast stretches with seas of brown water from the Czech Republic to eastern Germany.

After days of flooding in southern and eastern Germany, more than 11,000

soldiers have been deployed to help fight Europe’s worst river flooding in over a decade that has forced mass evacuations and killed at least 12.

German Chamber of Trade and Industry head Eric Schweitzer said in Friday’s Rheinische Post newspaper that in some regions the damage was expected to be

greater than in the 2002 floods whose economic cost had amounted to €11 billion ($15 billion).

In the medieval city of Magdeburg in Saxony-Anhalt state, the Elbe surpassed record levels from historic flooding in 2002 Friday with worse still to come, according to officials.

Dozens of army and Red Cross jeeps and trucks were parked at the entry to Mühlberg, a town of 4,000 inhabitants in Brandenburg state, 150 kilometres

(90 miles) south of the capital Berlin.

Photos of flood devastation in Germany

“We are afraid. But we must wait here for that to pass because we have animals,” Silke Christen, 47, who owns a horse-breeding business, told news agency AFP.

Volunteers scrambled to fill sandbags as the Elbe reached 9.9 metres Friday, just 10 centimetres below the maximum the dykes are able to resist. “As you can see, it’s urgent,” a soldier commented, while a firefighter described the situation as “tense”.

Little respite was in sight for residents of another Saxony-Anhalt city, Bitterfeld, visited Thursday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where more residents fled to safety as a lake threatened to flood parts of the city.

In the historic eastern cities of Dresden and Halle, where 30,000 people were evacuated after recent days saw the highest water level in 400 years on a local tributary, as well as in Bavaria in the south, the water level was slowly falling.

After Merkel pledged aid of at least €100 million, another offer of help came from Bavaria’s footballing heroes.

Bayern Munich which recently scored its own place in history by becoming the first German club to win the Bundesliga, German Cup and the Champions League in the same campaign, announced a charity match in aid of flood victims.

AFP/mry

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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.

READ MORE:

SHOW COMMENTS