As record-breaking heatwaves surged throughout the Northern Hemisphere over the past several weeks, energy industry professionals expressed concerns that the highly augmented demand for air conditioning, refrigeration, and other cooling solutions would put European power grids under strain and cause power outages throughout the continent.
But thanks to an unprecedented surge in solar power generation, a more serious spate of power shortages appears to have been averted.
This unique state of things was particularly notable in Spain and Greece where the increase in the use of solar power solutions essentially compensated for the strain imposed on domestic grids by the increased use of cooling solutions.
Prudence Pays Off
Just last month, Spain’s addition of a massive 4.5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity in 2022 finally paid off. In July, essentially one of the hottest and sunniest months of the year, Spain’s power grid operator Red Electrica registered a greater amount of solar power output. Indeed, 24% of all electricity generated in Spain for July 2023 came from solar solutions, a substantial increase from the 16% recorded at the same time last year.
Interestingly, many people and communities in Greece, Italy, as well as Spain chose to go solar due to the shocking increase in energy prices last year, as well as the need to ensure energy security following the fuel embargoes that resulted from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But while solar power means national power grids can weather heatwaves better, scientists also pointed out the sobering truth that the heatwaves experienced this year could only get worse in the coming years and, consequently, wreak havoc on the region’s electric generation systems.
Prior to this year’s spate of heatwaves and wildfires, hydropower generation throughout Europe was compromised by a perfect storm of extreme heat and drought plaguing much of the continent.
Higher ambient temperatures also led to reduced output at nuclear power plants as engineers were hard put to cool them due to hotter temperatures in surrounding lakes and rivers.