Clean, Renewable Energy Continues Amazing Drop in Costs



The cost of installing solar energy systems of every type has seen double digit decreases in cost since 2008. This reduction is astonishing because it means that solar becomes competitive with coal (which we’ve already seen) and that arguments against using solar get less powerful every year. There’s also a compounding effect too. The more solar gets supported by institutions that more widespread the technology becomes and the spin of effects of that technology will spur more renewable production. The same is true for other forms of clean energy.

This makes it much clearer that the trends are not “flattening.”
Again, this is no surprise. The International Energy Agency released a whole report on this subject back in 2000, titled, “Experience Curves for Energy Technology Policy.” In it, the IEA explained that accelerated clean energy deployment policies were creating economies of scale and bringing technologies rapidly down the learning curve. As long as those policies continue, the price drops would continue.
And they did continue — with especially large investments by Germany and China. The result is that over the past four decades, for every doubling in scale of the solar industry, the price of solar modules has dropped roughly 26 percent.

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Using Seawater to Farm in the Desert

The future of farming in much of the world could look like something out of science fiction. Sundrop farms in Australia has a farm up and running that produces food using seawater pumped into a desert location where they use the power of the sun to power the entire process. Solar energy desalinates the water while purifying the environment (so no pesticides) of the greenhouse – the entire process is form renewable sources!

Seawater is piped 2 kilometres from the Spencer Gulf to Sundrop Farm – the 20-hectare site in the arid Port Augusta region. A solar-powered desalination plant removes the salt, creating enough fresh water to irrigate 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouse.

Scorching summer temperatures and dry conditions make the region unsuitable for conventional farming, but the greenhouse is lined with seawater-soaked cardboard to keep the plants cool enough to stay healthy. In winter, solar heating keeps the greenhouse warm.

There is no need for pesticides as seawater cleans and sterilises the air, and plants grow in coconut husks instead of soil.

The farm’s solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 115-metre high receiver tower. On a sunny day, up to 39 megawatts of energy can be produced – enough to power the desalination plant and supply the greenhouse’s electricity needs.

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China is Getting Serious about Climate Change

China rightfully gets a lot of flak for its environmental policies; they are listening and acting on received criticism. Previously we noted that China started to close coal plants and that there is increased concern about climate change in the country. Over at Grist magazine they have catalogued seven ways which show China’s efforts in greening itself. Every little bit helps and at the scale of China’s economy little things go a long way.

— Cleaning up cars and trucks. China is the largest car market in the world. Cutting pollution from automobiles, like cutting pollution from coal plants, is essential not just to reducing CO2 emissions but to clearing the air in cities: The government estimates that roughly one-third of Beijing’s epic smog is from automobiles. China is pulling old, inefficient cars off the road, providing incentives for buying hybrids and electric cars, and enforcing stricter fuel-efficiency standards for new cars.

— Making buildings more energy efficient. Two years ago, China started issuing requirements for buildings to be given energy-efficiency upgrades. The energy savings are just beginning to be felt, but given that buildings can last for decades or even centuries, there could be a long payoff period.

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Complaints About Police Drop 93% Thanks to Body Cameras

Policing has become a hot issue in recent years thanks to the efforts of groups like Black Lives Matter bringing discriminatory actions by the police to light. In many jurisdictions police forces are already using (or considering) body cameras that record what officers are seeing and doing. It turns out that using them can decrease complaints about police behaviour by 93% – even if the police aren’t using them all the time.

“It may be that, by repeated exposure to the surveillance of the cameras, officers changed their reactive behaviour on the streets — changes that proved more effective and so stuck,” explained the study’s lead author, Barak Ariel, in a Cambridge news release. “With a complaints reduction of nearly 100 percent across the board, we find it difficult to consider alternatives, to be honest.”

The researchers dub this effect “contagious accountability” — learning to do the right thing even when no one is watching.

Specifics on how exactly this is happening are unclear. Is the officer less confrontational to begin with, avoiding escalation? Or are suspects and complainants more wary of their conduct? Is it some combination of the two, or are even more factors involved? To determine these things would be a far more complex and subtle piece of research, but the study does suggest that officer behavior is probably the most affected, and that other effects flow from that.

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Environment Destroying CEOs Held Accountable by Shareholders

ShareAction is an organization that is tired of letting CEOs and companies harm the world and are doing something about it. The organization campaigns on behalf of shareholders to represent environmental, health, labour, and other concerns. They leverage their combined representation of shareholders to ensure that the companies return a profit while not destroying the world.

One of their recent campaigns is focussed on getting oil-based companies to figure out what to do in a world that relies more on renewable energy. Next year will be a big year for the UK based ShareAction.

For the first time in 2017, shareholders will get a binding vote on corporate pay policies in the UK.

Share Action is urging them to use it at BP and Shell to stop bonus structures that reward high carbon strategies.

Catherine Howarth, chief executive at Share Action, said: “Responsible investors who are serious about climate risk have a crucial opportunity to ‘walk the talk’ at BP and Shell next year, by pushing for remuneration policies designed make these major companies commercially resilient in a low carbon world – and voting down policies which fail that test.”

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