Solar power could “fully substitute” coal-fired power generation in European coal regions in transition, according to a study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Researchers analysed the potential for PV solar on mining sites, rooftops and agricultural land in the European regions where open-cast coal mines are to be shut down and found that, as a whole, they could generate enough power to replace coal in the regions. In Germany – where coal still makes up more than a third of all power production – close to 120 terawatt hours (TWh) of solar power could be generated – slighty over half of the 228.7 TWh produced from coal in the entire country last year.
Europe-wide, the researchers estimate that installing 580 gigawatts of solar capacity could provide 135,000 construction jobs per year over the next 15 years. Mining companies are responsible for restoring former open-cast mines, and installing PV arrays on them would make use of the fact that they tend to be close to grid infrastructure already in place for coal-fired power plants.
A government coal exit commission recommended ending coal-fired power generation in Germany by 2038 at the latest. Now, the government coalition must decide how to implement the non-binding proposal and draft necessary legislation.