As Europe halts daily life in the fight against coronavirus, the skies above have become as crisp and clean as ever. And not only does that allow for a fresh breath of air, but it also allows solar panels to produce maximum power. In Germany, solar panels produced record amounts of electricity, exacerbating market forces that were already hammering the profitability of the country’s remaining coal plants.
Gin-clear skies over central Europe helped photovoltaic plants produce 32,227 megawatts on Monday, beating the previous record on March 23. Bright conditions are expected to continue this week, according to Germany’s DWD federal weather service. Sunny conditions meant solar-generated as much as about 40% of Germany’s power Monday, compared to the 22% produced by coal and nuclear, according to Agora Energiewende. Solar, wind and other renewables accounted for 78% of Germany’s electricity output.
Renewables together are cutting deeper into the market share for coal, the fuel on which Germany’s wealth and industrial prowess were built. The government forecasts that green power will make up about 80% of the electricity mix by 2038, compared with just over 40% in 2019. Coronavirus lockdowns are accelerating market trends that spell doom for the dirtiest fossil fuel. Less activity has slashed electricity demand just as spring’s sunnier and windy weather boosts output from renewables, which have priority over fossil fuels in feeding into the grid.
While the coronavirus isn’t something to celebrate, seeing the positive environmental benefits is certainly thought-provoking as we prepare for a post-coronavirus world.