Snowy weather strikes throughout Germany on Tuesday

After a mild November start, Germany experienced its first white winter day on Tuesday, with temperatures dipping as low as -10 C in some parts of the country.

Snowy weather strikes throughout Germany on Tuesday
A pedestrian uses an umbrella against the first snow fall in Halle in eastern Germany on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Much of Germany was struck by snow on Tuesday, with the German Weather Service warning drivers to be cautious as they took to icy roads with heavy winds. For many cities, the white weather marked the first snow fall of the season.

The central part of the country was hit particularly hard. Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m in Thuringia there were nearly 85 accidents as a result of the snow, police reported. A total of 13 people were injured as a result. “Drive safely!” local police warned on Twitter.

In the south, the cold and cutting east wind continues to blow, making it feel much colder than the 3 to 4 degrees indicated by the mercury. North of the Danube, it began to snow in the morning, with the snow continuing throughout the day.

The white winter weather also came on Tuesday to Saxony and Thuringia, and in the afternoon also in Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen, which recorded snow fall between 2 and 5 centimeters.

Snow cover between 2 and 5 cm formed in Bremen. Yet the snow fall reached up to 10 cm in areas with heavy traffic congestion. 

Up to 10 cm of fresh snow accumulated in congested areas. Motorists should be prepared for heavy snowfall on motorways and slippery roads.

The snowfall, however, was enjoyed by dogs wandering in the less populated Thuringia Forest, as DWD tweeted. There, snow reached up to 12 cm.

The DWD also tweeted a map on Tuesday at 3 p.m. issued a warning for parts of the country affected by light snow (in yellow) and hence icy roads.

From Wednesday on: weather turns cold yet calm

In the night before Wednesday morning, the snow will continue to fall as the cold east wind decreases. However, it can also become significantly colder amid the fresh snow.

During the day, however, the weather will be much calmer, with cloudy and foggy weather. The day is marked by clouds and fog.

If it gets to be too cold on the ground, there is a risk of freezing rain – particularly dangerous in the valleys in the middle of Germany (such as Hesse and Thuringia), where the maximum temperatures are likely to be between 0 and 7 degrees.  

The first snow of the season in Bad Wünnenberg in North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Thursday will again be marked by cloudy weather, but on Friday it will become a little warmer.

The weather will remain calm until the weekend. On Thursday the clouds still dominate the sky. On Friday it gets more pleasant and a little warmer. On the weekend, however, mostly rainfall is expected throughout the country, and light snow.

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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.