Nine stunning pictures of Germany’s freezing weekend

Clear blue skies, heavy frosts, and coverings of snow: winter has arrived in Germany in all but name. Here are some of the most breathtaking photos from the last couple of days.

Nine stunning pictures of Germany's freezing weekend
A fountain statue in Lunenburg in Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

Photo: DPA

In the Taunus mountain range north of Frankfurt in Hesse, one man dusted off his cross-country skis on Saturday, and took to the snowy fields.

Photo: DPA

On Germany's Riedbergpass in Bavaria – Germany's highest mountain pass, peaking at 1,407 metres above sea level – a car and bus shelter in Balderschwang were fully snowed in.

Photo: DPA

Most of the north of Germany stayed snow-free, but across the country people awoke to a thick frost, and to beautiful winter sunrises. Here in the Oder-Spree area of Brandenburg, Patrick Pleul captured the sunrise over a wind turbine farm near Sieversdorf.

Photo: DPA

The wide open skies provided photo opportunities across Germany. Here Bernd Thissen snapped the early Monday morning frost on a hill near the Phoenix reservoir in Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Photo: DPA

The frost was so heavy in parts of Germany, such as near Mühlen-Eichsen, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where it crystallized the branches of the trees lining the road on Sunday morning.

Photo: DPA

Many also made the trip on Sunday morning up to the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz mountain range in Saxony-Anhalt at 1,141 metres of altitude. 

Although considerably lower than the Alpine peaks, northern Germany's highest mountain top had a covering of 21 centimetres of snow and temperatures of minus seven degrees.

Photo: DPA

Patrick Pleul also captured the beautiful, frosted colours of a tree line with a drone camera in Brandenburg.

Photo: DPA

The cold weather continued into the new week. In Lunenburg in Lower Saxony, a fountain statue gained an ice cap on Monday morning.

Photo: DPA

Catching the early morning sun on Monday, one jogger was photographed running through the Tiergarten park in central Berlin.

After a clear and cold Monday, the weather is set to get wetter and warmer during the rest of the week.

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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.