Renewable energy is gaining ground in Germany. The total amount of renewable energy generated increased again in 2016. According to the Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien (Renewable Energies Agency), it now accounts for 32,3% of Germany’s gross energy production. This energy primarily comprises wind power (both on- and offshore), biomass, solar power, and hydroelectric power.
In Germany, wind power contributes the most to renewable energy, with a distinction often made between on and offshore wind farms.
Onshore wind farms – meaning wind turbines installed on land – now account for more than 12% of the power mix, which makes up nearly half of all renewable energy in Germany. In 2016, 27,270 wind turbines with an installed capacity of around 46 gigawatts produced renewable energy. There’s also the wind power produced by offshore wind turbines, which generate electricity while out at sea. Four gigawatts of offshore wind power were connected to the German grid by the end of 2016. The German government’s current plans call for around 6.5 gigawatts by 2020 and 15 gigawatts by 2030. The offshore turbines are not without controversy, as expansion is very expensive, meaning turbines are managed by large conglomerates. In contrast, many onshore wind farms are in the hands of private energy cooperatives.
Ordinary people are the ones primarily responsible for the expansion of solar power in Germany. More than 1.58 million photovoltaics systems had been installed by the end of 2016, a majority of which are found on the rooftops of private homes. Photovoltaics systems offered an installed capacity of 41,2 gigawatt-peak and generated 38,3 terawatt-hours, thus meeting the electricity needs of 10 million households.
Between 2005 and 2014 alone, the cost of energy sourced from large solar power plants fell by approximately 80% in Germany – from 43 to 8.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. And this trend will only continue. A kilowatt-hour of solar power generated at large plants in Europe will only cost between 4 and 6 cents by 2025, and 2 and 4 cents by 2050.
In Germany, bioenergy is extracted from energy crops, wood, and waste materials such as straw, organic waste, and liquid manure. It’s one of the most versatile renewable energies, as electricity, heat, and fuel can be generated from biomass in solid, liquid, and gas form. A total of 49 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were generated in 2016.
Hydroelectric power was the most important source of renewable energy in Germany for a long time, with wind power only taking the lead in 2004. In 2016, hydroelectric power plants generated 20 billion kilowatt-hours of energy. After the traditional use of biomass, hydroelectric power is used more than any other renewable energy around the world.