The good thing about renewable energy sources is that they have an unlimited amount of power to offer. The downside, unexpectedly, is that it’s unlimited. That’s the problem Germany and China are dealing with, because their grids can’t handle all that power.
Leaked plans from the German federal network agency show that the European country, which has been heralded as a leader in wind energy, will halve its target for expanding wind farms because their grid isn’t up to the task, according to The Guardian.
Northern Germany is a windy place, and ideally, the country would be able to send the energy generated by countless turbines up there to manufacturing hubs in the south like Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. The problem is that the means to transport it just aren’t there. Above-ground pylons were deemed too ugly, and new underground cables are taking too long to build. How much is being left on the table? Well, in 2015 northern Germany generated 4,100 extra gigawatt hours — enough to power 2.1 million houses for a year — that couldn’t be used.
China, meanwhile, has a similar problem. BBC News reports that the country has a ton of coal-fired power plants in addition to its numerous wind turbines, but the grid can’t deal with both sources of energy at once. Since coal power plants are significantly harder to turn off, it’s the wind turbines that have to take a break. They’re off for up to 15 percent of the time. A report in the MIT Technology Review found that some provinces can only use half of the energy generated from solar power.
Grids are expensive, complicated, and necessary even though they’re not as flashy as a fleet of wind turbines. But, as a wise uncle once said, [“with great power comes great responsibility.”](marvel.com/universe/Parker,Ben(Uncle_Ben)