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Green Germany, allows a question?


A lignite-fired power plant in Germany

German friends will not mind if we comment on this news. The electricity company RWE announced the construction of a lignite coal-fired power station 2.2 GW of power with 43% efficiency. The plant, which will be built in Grevenbroich-Neurath, near Cologne, will cost 2.6 billion euros, one of the largest investments ever made by RWE.

The announcement makes us understand that for the green Germany it still makes sense to build coal power plants on the threshold of 2013, which many doubt, and leads us to ask some questions. I agree that the new plant will serve to compensate for the intermittency of thewind energy and solar; I also agree that this is a new generation plant, more advanced than the traditional coal-fired ones that reach 30% efficiency; but why not bet on one methane power plant which would have 60% efficiency? Why invest 2.6 billion euros, an enormous sum, in a technology that we would like to leave behind?

The intermittence of renewables, wind power is solar, it is certainly a problem. Valid reasons certainly lie in Germany's national energy policy, but this is enough to justify a 17% lower efficiency than a methane gas power plant? What will the environmental impact of the new Cologne plant be?

Even the methane it pollutes, of course. By burning it releases CO₂ and contributes togreenhouse effect, it is certainly less clean than the gas companies tell us. But methane is also being researched and the results are beginning to show.

In recent days, see the case, theUniversity of Trieste announced the development of a new type of catalyst which, thanks to nanotechnologies and the chemistry of materials such as palladium and cerium, reduces the pollution of the methane and proportionally increases its efficiency.

The new catalyst is already the subject of technology transfer to some companies and should soon be adopted by an Italian company producing methane gas burners. Other applications of the discovery will be i car engines and the turbines of power plants for the production of electric energy.

What to say? Either the German friends didn't know it yet, or maybe we need to understand something better than green Germany, a country that already had 600 MW installed in 2005 photovoltaic and which today confirms its leadership in the production of cells with 23% of the world share.

Edited byMichele Ciceri


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