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STORM

Lightning set to strike Wednesday, from Hamburg right down to Munich

Brace yourselves, because Germany is in for a particularly stormy and blustery week.

Lightning set to strike Wednesday, from Hamburg right down to Munich
Lightning strikes in Munich in June 2017. Photo: DPA

The German Weather Service (DWD)  has predicted plenty of heavy rain, thunderstorms and hail for the upcoming week, with winds of 80km/h predicted for Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, as well as Saxony. 

In the night to Wednesday, showers will spread to northern areas, and it will remain rainy in the west and southwest. Storms and heavy rain will weaken as it gets closer to morning. The east and southeast are expected to remain mostly dry. 

Wednesday will see heavy clouds and powerful thunderstorms in the west and south. The weather will be pleasant to start with in the east and north east, before thunderstorms with small hailstones develop later in the day. In the evening, the chance of storms in the west will decrease. Temperature highs will reach 19C to 26C, hitting 26C to 30C in the east and southeast.

Thunderstorms are predicted for many areas on Wednesday. Source: DWD

Ready yourself for plenty of rain in local areas in the east on Thursday, with the possibility of some individual hailstorms and thunderstorms. Elsewhere there will be heavy cloud, changeable weather with showers and individual thunderstorms in some areas. The highest temperatures will be between 17C and 25C. Strong winds in areas close to the storms are also anticipated. 

Friday will begin with long-lasting heavy rain in areas in the north and north east, but they will retreat during the course of the day. Elsewhere there will be changing amounts of cloud, bringing showers and individual thunderstorms, but the sun will also show itself from time to time. Highest temperatures will be between 17C and 23C.

Predictions for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Source: DWD

Cloudy skies and rain in the north and west are expected on Saturday, which could last for a while in some areas. Elsewhere, there will be changing amounts of cloud, bringing showers and thunderstorms with it. Temperatures will only reach highs of 16C with persistent rain in the north west, and 22C in the south and east.

Sunday and Monday are expected to be changeable, with showers and individual thunderstorms. Sunny intervals in the south west will increase on Monday and it will remain mostly dry.

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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