Germany: Lots of solar, too much CO2

BRANDENBURG, GERMANY - Germany unveiled the world's second-largest solar power plant amid reports that the country won't reach its ambitious CO2-emissions reduction targets.

The giant solar power plant in Brandenburg is made up of 700,000 shiny photovoltaic modules that cover an area of roughly 210 soccer fields. Located on Soviet-era military training grounds, the 53-MW plant can produce power for an estimated 15,000 households. It is topped globally only by a 60-MW plant in southern Spain. America has a hand in this: Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar operates the plant together with a German project developer. The consortium has invested more than $200 million.

Local officials hailed the plant as a further milestone in the positioning of Brandenburg as a renewable-energy champion. The eastern German state, once heavily reliant on dirty coal, today banks on the solar, wind and biomass industries to drive down its carbon dioxide emissions and boost job growth.

Some 40 percent of the electricity consumed in Brandenburg comes from renewable sources, and numerous top-notch wind, solar, biomass and biofuel companies have settled here, including First Solar, Conergy and Danish wind turbine maker Vestas.

Brandenburg is a neat example how to "green" a fossil-fuel-based economy. Germany has not yet succeeded in doing so on a larger scale — while the country is among the world's top nations when it comes to installed renewable capacity, it also has an energy-intense industry that consumes a lot of natural resources.

That's one reason why Germany won't reach its ambitious targets to reduce emissions until 2020 by 40 percent compared with 1990 levels, according to a new study.

Only a 30-percent reduction is achievable, according to the study compiled by consultant EUTech for Greenpeace, Der Spiegel reports in its latest issue.

The German government's climate-protection plan, adopted in 2007, has been watered down because of industry lobbying, the magazine writes. Several energy-efficiency and CO2-reduction measures were not realized because of opposition from large companies. Moreover, the study cites the delay of offshore wind farm construction as one reason why the ambitious targets likely won't be reached.

In a bid to drive down emissions and reduce its dependency on oil imports, Germany just unveiled a strategy to make the country a world leader in sustainable mobility and have 1 million electric cars cruise its Autobahn highways by 2020.

"In 2030, this could be over 5 million. By 2050, traffic in towns and cities could be predominantly without fossil fuels," the National Electric Mobility Plan reads.


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