PV fires up, gas plants cool down23. March 2012 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets | By: Jonathan Gifford
In an apparent confirmation that photovoltaics have the potential to supply electricity demand peaks and therefore reduce the cost of peak power, a German utility has shut down a 55 megawatt (MW) gas-fired power plant.
Utility RWE has put on "cold reserve" its "block 1" gas power plant in Werne Gersteinwerk-Stockum, in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as it was being used so infrequently. In reporting the shut down a spokesman said that midday power consumption peaks were being provided by photovoltaics and therefore the plant was obsolete.
Midday peaks previously lead to the gas power plant being fired up several thousand hours a year, however this had declined to a few hundred hours, within a period of two or three years. As such, the Gersteinwerk facility was no longer economically viable. A company spokesman added that replacement gas generation facilities unlikely.
The effect of solar power smoothing off peak electricity demand during daylight hours is known as the "merit order effect". Through this process, electricity prices during peak periods are reduced significantly. As is evidenced with the Gersteinwerk gas power plant closure, under these conditions more expensive electricity options are no longer viable, as more photovoltaics are added to the grid.
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