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WEATHER

One dead and two badly injured after Bavaria storm wreaks havoc

A cyclist was killed by a falling tree during a severe thunderstorm that hit several regions of Bavaria on Monday.

Woman shovels hailstorms after storm
A resident of Moosburg shovels hailstorms after a sudden storm on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

Germany has been struck by weather extremes over the past few days, with record-breaking heat of up to 39C followed by rainstorms and cooler temperatures. 

While firefighters in Brandenburg battled to douse a raging forest fire on Monday, parts of Bavaria were hit by sudden storms that left a trail of wreckage in their path.

Freising to the north of Munich was one of the districts that was caught in a sudden thunderstorm on Monday. 

According to the district office, a cyclist from Baden-Württemberg was killed when a tree fell in the storm, a 15-year-old pedestrian and car driver were left with severe injuries.

Police helicopters and water rescue teams were also dispatched to search for a woman who they believed had been caught by surprise while bathing in a lake near Moosburg but were unable to find her. 

READ ALSO: Heatwave: Germany sees record high temperatures

Thousands of homes were also left without electricity when the storm damaged parts of the high-voltage grid that runs from Munich to Uppenborn via Moosburg. A spokesperson for Stadtwerke München (SWM) told BR24 that on Tuesday morning an estimated 13,000 people were temporarily without power. 

‘Such devastation’ 

The village of Großaitingen to the west of Munich was one of the places to be worst-hit in the shock thunderstorm. 

The storm tore holes in the roofs of several houses, and the ridge of St. Nicholas Church had to be secured with the help of a crane because roof panels had come loose. 

There were also reports that entire rows of trees had been ripped up by their roots and that sports fields and construction sites were left in chaos. Around 140 volunteer firefighters were called out to fix tiles on roofs and clear away fallen trees. 

Storm destruction Freising

A tin roof is ripped off a building the district of Freising, Bavaria, on June 20th, 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

Speaking to BR24 in the aftermath of the storm, Großaitingen resident Claudia Wiedemann described a sudden burst of rain and hail that lasted about ten minutes and destroyed a linden tree at the entrance to her farm.

“There’s never been such devastation in the village before,” another resident said. 

Local police services said that Landshut to the northeast of Moosburg was also badly affected by the storm, with residents reporting seeing trees ripped out of their roots and traffic signs blown over.

According to a spokesperson for the local police force, 14 tree trunks had to be cleared out of the road. 

One resident also reported that their skylight had been smashed by large hailstones.

As of Tuesday, train services between Landshut and Freising were still disrupted. Operators said a rail replacement bus service was in place. 

More storms expected

The German Weather Service (DWD) had previously set a Stage 4 warning – the highest level possible  for parts of Upper and Lower Bavaria due to the threat of extreme storms. 

Over the next few days, the DWD predicts that there could be repeated thunderstorms throughout Bavaria – in some cases with heavy rain, hail and gale-force winds of up to 80 kilometers per hour.

In the rest of the country, there will be sunny spells with temperatures of between 27 and 30C as well as occasional rain and thunderstorms.

These are likely to strike across western Germany on Thursday and spread to Bavaria again on Friday. The northeast, meanwhile, could see more heavy rain before sunshine and warm weather returns across Germany on Saturday. 

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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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