Nuclear phase out in Germany plagued by unforeseen challenges

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Germany’s plan to phase out nuclear power entirely by 2022 has hit unanticipated stumbling blocks as the country has struggled to develop a grid capable of capitalizing on its development in renewable energy and baseload plants come under financial pressure due to the success of the solar sector, Climatewire reports.

As Germany has embarked on an ambitious program to abandon nuclear power entirely in response to the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, the country has looked to replace the lost capacity with wind and solar power, while paradoxically looking to coal to make up the slack in the meantime. The cost of the program is expected to  run to around $720 billion, but difficulties in connecting wind farms, many of which are offshore, with far-away industrial sectors have already changed the original cost calculations. The country will need nearly 1,000 miles of new high-voltage power lines to complete the switch to renewables, but only 155 miles have been built to day, according to Climatewire.

Further complicating things, the success of Germany’s solar sector has served to threatened the stability of the grid as a whole by undermining the financial position of flexible baseload plants, namely gas-burning facilities. Because solar energy tends to supply the intensified power demands on hot, sunny days—when demand, and thus price, are at their highest—baseload plants that previously reaped those rewards are locked out of the action.  The result is a challenge to the existence of gas-burning plants which, without nuclear baseload running in the background, are needed to maintain grid stability during the winter months.

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