HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Science » Science (Group) » I learned a new German wo...

Thu May 13, 2021, 09:22 PM

I learned a new German word today that's relatively new even to Germans, "Dunkelflaute"

I learned it here: Variability in Deeply Decarbonized Electricity Systems (John Bistline, Environmental Science & Technology 2021 55 (9), 5629-5635)

The context:

These resources exhibit variability across different time scales, including subhourly resource fluctuations, larger ramps across multiple hours, sustained periods of high or low output for multiple days (the German term dunkelflaute or “dark doldrums” refers to extended periods with limited sunshine or wind), seasonal effects, and even variability across years and decades (e.g., interannual variation in hydro and wind resources).

While my German is very, very, very, very rusty - it's been years since I did anything significant with that language - I have a feeling that Dunkelflaute worries some people, pisses others off:

Das heißt: In vier Jahren werden nur noch rund 67.000 Megawatt gesicherte Kapazität zur Verfügung stehen, obwohl Deutschland in Spitzenzeiten 81.000 Megawatt verbraucht. Kommt es zu einer „kalten Dunkelflaute“ ohne nennenswerten Wind- und Solarstrom, wäre die deutsche Stromversorgung in diesen Stunden, Tagen oder Wochen auf ausländische Lieferungen zwingend angewiesen.

Die Zeiten, in denen solche Knappheiten am Markt neue Investitionsanreize auslösten, sind vorbei. „Stattdessen sind wir schon heute auf eine Reihe von Reparaturmaßnahmen angewiesen: Netzreserve, Kapazitätsreserve oder netztechnische Betriebsmittel kaschieren mehr schlecht als recht die Defizite der deutschen Energiepolitik und Marktkonditionen“, schimpft Kapferer: „Auf Dauer wird das nicht funktionieren.“

In der „kalten Dunkelflaute“ rächt sich die Energiewende

With my bad German, I translate this as: The Energy Transition Is Taking Revenge in Cold, Dark, Doldrums.

I could be wrong though, maybe it doesn't translate that way. Maybe it translates as "Don't worry; be happy."

Here's another reference to Dunkelflaute, in English from another journal, Mesoscale modeling of a “Dunkelflaute” event (Basu et al., Wind Energy, Volume24, Issue1 January 2021 Pages 5-23)

An excerpt from this open source journal:

Unlike fossil fuel‐based energy sources, some of the renewable energy sources (especially, wind and solar) strongly rely on meteorological conditions. As such sources of energy play a larger role in electricity networks, this presents an increasing challenge in terms of balancing supply and demand. Therefore, it is important to increase our understanding and forecasting capability of certain weather phenomena which can result in adverse renewable energy production from a system operator perspective. Such advanced knowledge and tools will further support the continuing growth of renewables in the foreseeable future.

In this paper, we focus on one such weather phenomenon called “Dunkelflaute” as it is rapidly becoming a major concern for the renewable energy community.6 The word Dunkelflaute was coined by combining two German words “Dunkelheit” (darkness) and “Windflaute” (little wind) to describe heavy overcast skies and weak wind conditions. These meteorological events can last from a few hours to a few consecutive days. It is needless to say that under the influence of such a meteorological condition, little or no wind and solar energy can be produced.

On the 30th April 2018, an unexpected Dunkelflaute event occurred over the southern part of the North Sea and caused a large imbalance in renewable power generation and overall consumption. Given the acuteness of the situation, TenneT—the main transmission system operator for Germany and the Netherlands—had to issue an emergency alert in the Netherlands.7, 8 The crisis could not be avoided by simple load management or by making use of reserve power; instead, a substantial amount of electricity had to be imported from neighboring countries at high market price.

This Dunkelflaute event was not an isolated episode. As a matter of fact, over the past few years, several Dunkelflaute events occurred in Belgium,9-12 Germany,6, 13-15 and other neighboring countries. Some of them caused significant impacts on the power grids and electricity markets. There is no reason to believe that the occurrences of Dunkelflaute will subside in the future. Instead, with the ever increasing penetration of renewables in the power grid, the (negative) impacts of Dunkelflaute events will likely become more and more detrimental.

Germany by the way, is famous for phasing out nuclear energy, which will be complete by the end of next year. They have announced the intention to phase out coal "by 2038." At the current rate, of 2.4 ppm per year of carbon dioxide accumulations , as determined from the weekly Mauna Loa CO2 data from last week using a 12 month running average of weekly data, "by 2038," the carbon dioxide concentrations on this planet will be 444 ppm, up from 420.01 ppm recorded in the week beginning April 25, 2021.

In 2011, when the Energiewende plan was first published, including a nuclear phase out, the rate of increase in the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere, again as a 12 month running average of weekly data, was 2.03 ppm/year, as recorded on May 8, 2011.

(The figures rely on the average difference between the weekly reading and the reading of the same week 10 years earlier.)

In the year 2000, for the week beginning May 7, 2000, the figure was 1.50 ppm/year. The concentration of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere as measured at Mauna Loa for the week beginning May 7, 2000 was 371.70 ppm.

Don't worry, be happy.

Air pollution from coal kills people by the way. Air pollution deaths worldwide easily outstrip, on a daily basis, Covid-19 deaths.

So called "nuclear waste," hasn't killed anybody in recent times, but lots of people pull their hair out claiming it could, some day, somewhere. In modern times could is a much scarier word than is, as in "nuclear waste could kill someone someday" as opposed to "coal air pollution is killing people every day.

Am I crazy for thinking Germany, once the country of Planck, Sommerfeld, Hilbert, Born, Heisenberg and others of similar powers, has things ass backwards?

I guess I am.

Dunkelflaute. Dark doldrums.

For a last comment, I'll excerpt a few remarks from another paper using the word "Dunkelflaute" from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, leaving aside what should be, but perhaps isn't, obvious, that no country that burns dangerous natural gas is "decarbonized."

The role of natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency in decarbonisation in Germany: The need to complement renewables by decarbonized gas to meet the Paris target

Focusing only on renewables in power and not addressing thermal power will not automatically lead to reaching the decarbonisation target and will jeopardise reliability of supply for Germany and its neighbours. In the end, the resulting upcoming shortfall of dispatchable power may even throw into question the nuclear phaseout as fixed by law. With the closing of dispatchable capacity (nuclear – by law, conventional – due to market drivers) Germany will face an increasing gap between available dispatchable power and peak load, according to the NEP 2030. This gap cannot be filled with whatever extra capacity there is in wind and PV. Turning to neighbours for reliable power is not an option, as these countries are facing similar problems, as well as other country-specific problems.

The reason that so called "renewable energy," was phased out in the 19th and early 20th century was that most people, even more so than today, lived short, miserable lives of dire poverty.

Even today, poverty is best defined by a lack of access to energy.

It is possible to provide reliable and clean and safe energy for those who have it as well as those who still lack it except for scraps of "renewable biomass." This is only true, however, if we stop lying to ourselves. Our water is already dependent on the weather, and is in fact, severely threatened by climate change. Is it really a good idea to make the electricity for the computers we run to say how great so called "renewable energy" is dependent on the weather as well? The electricity to run oxygen generators? Surgical lamps? Our much loved television sets? Refrigerators? Freezers.


The wikipedia entry for the word:

Dunkelflaute is a term used in the energy sector for a period of time in which little to no energy can be generated with the use of wind and solar power. The term is German in origin and a blend word of the german ‘Dunkelheit’ (darkness) and ‘Flaute’ (little wind). The periods called Dunkelflaute are a big issue in energy infrastructure in which a significant amount of electricity is generated by wind and solar power. To ensure power during such periods alternative energy sources must be present in a sufficient capacity. When that happens countries use either fossil fuels (e.g. oil, methane gas, coal) or hydroelectricity, nuclear power and, less often, energy storage to prevent a power outage.[1][2][3][4][5]

The first use of the term in an academic paper is in 2014.[6]

Dunkelflaute, some ideology is Dunkelflaute.

6 replies, 1122 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 6 replies Author Time Post
Reply I learned a new German word today that's relatively new even to Germans, "Dunkelflaute" (Original post)
NNadir May 13 OP
hlthe2b May 13 #1
NNadir May 13 #2
hlthe2b May 13 #3
eppur_se_muova May 13 #4
hunter May 14 #5
NNadir May 14 #6

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Thu May 13, 2021, 09:31 PM

1. I guess they would need a term for this, but Dunkelflaute? Dark Flute?

What am I missing?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to hlthe2b (Reply #1)

Thu May 13, 2021, 09:34 PM

2. Check out the Wikipedia reference:


The term is German in origin and a blend word of the german ‘Dunkelheit’ (darkness) and ‘Flaute’ (little wind).

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to NNadir (Reply #2)

Thu May 13, 2021, 09:37 PM

3. got it.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to NNadir (Reply #2)

Thu May 13, 2021, 11:32 PM

4. Interesting! I thought 'flaute' was such a basic noun that it wasn't derived from anything else.

Life is full of surprises, and language especially.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Fri May 14, 2021, 06:20 PM

5. Germany is the world's largest importer of natural gas, a lot of it from Russia.

They also account for much of their industrial coal consumption on separate books, apart from the electricity rates residential users and small businesses pay.

That's how Germany keeps their renewable energy fantasy alive, and their high energy industrial consumer economy humming.

If they lose a few ancient forests and villages to strip mined coal, and their reputation as a nation that's not so corrupt as most, then that's just business as usual I suppose.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to hunter (Reply #5)

Fri May 14, 2021, 06:43 PM

6. Yeah I know. They also buy a lot from that offshore oil and gas drilling hellhole, Denmark.

Actually, the bill's coming do for this terrible fad. Even brainless types like say, little Benny Sovacool are discovering that they have to rip every damned mineral out of the planet - and fuck it if wilderness is in the way - to support their big time fantasy.

The IEA published an account of just this week detailing how much metal has to be refined to be "green." I haven't had a chance to go through it yet, but I may write about it here if I find time.

As for "dunkelflaute," in the very same issue of Environmental Science and Technology as this one from which this paper comes, which I just completed surveying, there was another Dunkelflaute, paper, this one, about that so called "renewable energy" paradise, California: Wind and Solar Resource Droughts in California Highlight the Benefits of Long-Term Storage and Integration with the Western Interconnect (Katherine Z. Rinaldi, Jacqueline A. Dowling, Tyler H. Ruggles, Ken Caldeira, and Nathan S. Lewis, Environmental Science & Technology 2021 55 (9), 6214-6226)

The solution? Dig lots of copper for interconnects, keep the cobalt market hot for warlords in the DRC, and build a pile of batteries to rival Mt. Whitney.

It's getting through, but it's probably too little, too late.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread