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WEATHER

Heatwave: Germany sees record high temperatures

A temperature record of 39.2C was recorded in the eastern German city of Cottbus on Sunday as forest fires broke out, before torrential rain and storms hit.

People cool down in the Isar river in Munich on Sunday.
People cool down in the Isar river in Munich on Sunday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

A heatwave gripped parts of Europe and Germany over the weekend, resulting in sweltering heat. 

However, there was a major drop in temperatures on Monday with rain and storms. 

On Sunday, the German Weather Service (DWD) recorded readings of 38C – and more – at several weather stations in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg in the afternoon.

READ ALSO: Europe swelters under record-breaking heatwave

In Cottbus, a new Germany-wide temperature record of 39.2C for the second part of June was measured.

The preliminary reading at the station in the eastern Brandenburg city of Cottbus exceeded the previous high by almost one degree.

The previous record for this period – 38.3C – was measured in 2002 in the Rhineland.

Earlier in the afternoon on Sunday, the highest temperatures of the year to date had been recorded at the stations Waghäusel-Kirrlach on the Upper Rhine (Baden-Württemberg) and in Bad Kreuznach (Rhineland-Palatinate) with 37.1C.

Forest fires wreak havoc

The mercury in many other parts of Germany also spiked upwards – reaching just under 38C. In a strip taking in the Upper Rhine in Baden-Württemberg through southern Hesse and Bavaria to southern eastern Germany, temperatures of 35 to 37C were recorded at 3pm, according to the DWD.

The heat resulted in two large forest fires breaking out in Treuenbrietzen and Beelitz, which are both in the Potsdam-Mittelmark district. Hundreds of people had to be evacuated from their homes as a safety measure. 

An area the size of almost 300 football fields was on fire, authorities said. More than a thousand firefighters were deployed to try and get the blaze under control. 

READ ALSO: How climate change is threatening Germany’s forests

Heavy rain on Sunday night and on Monday provided some relief. Rain and storms were to continue throughout Monday, said the DWD. 

“The fire is under control, but not yet extinguished,” the city of Beelitz said on Monday morning. “Even though the current rain is helping us a lot, there may still be heavy smoke.”

Authorities urged locals to stay indoors and keep their windows and doors closed to avoid the smoke. 

Rain on Monday in Treuenbrietzen, Brandenburg, helped in the fight against forest fires.

Rain on Monday in Treuenbrietzen, Brandenburg, helped in the fight against forest fires. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Despite the heat in some parts of the country, northern Germany escaped high temperatures. 

In Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, for instance, it was around 12 to 15C on Sunday. In North Rhine-Westphalia, too, the mercury reached about 20C – far lower than other parts of the country. 

According to the DWD, the week starts with showers and cooler temperatures in large parts of Germany. In the west and north, it will begin with cloudy and sunny spells, while in the northeast there may be isolated showers and short thunderstorms.

That will continue before warmer temperatures return near the end of the week, reaching over 30C in some areas, and accompanied by a strong chance of thunderstorms.

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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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