Germany’s Coal Plants May Be Converted to Giant Batteries – by Brian Parkin and William Wilkes (Bloomberg News – April 10, 2019)

Germany’s dirtiest power plants may avoid the scrap heap in the nation’s coal exit by getting refashioned as giant batteries for storing wind and solar power.

The Energy Ministry proposal is being weighed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition to help ease the phaseout of coal-fired generation in two regions where the fossil fuel is a major prop to the economy and jobs. Her administration promised in February some 40 billion euros ($45 billion) in aid to smooth coal’s 18-year wind down that starts next year.

The Rhine lignite belt in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and Lusatia in Brandenburg and Saxony host eight big power plants owned by RWE AG and LEAG GmbH. The plants and mining operations support thousands of jobs and Merkel is seeking a smooth transition to a clean-energy economy for both areas.

The storage units “could be converted from the mid-2020s to innovative, long-term power plants storing surplus wind and solar power,” the Economy and Energy Ministry said in its 32-page report on coal phaseout planning. No particular storage technology has been selected for the switch yet, according to the April 4 report.

Demand for energy storage is expected to jump to as much as 50 gigawatts by 2030 in step with the expansion of wind and solar generation, according to the Fraunhofer research group. Last year, just 314 megawatts of capacity was on line, mainly linked to balancing the intermittent flows of renewables to the grid. One gigawatt, or 1,000 megawatts, is enough to power 2 million European homes.

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