Faster Than Oil, Clean Energy on the Rise

Economists are really bad at predictions, but their views carry sway over large amounts of capital. Their most recent inaccuracies have been in the energy sector. Clean, renewable, energy is making faster progress than previously predicted.

Renewables have seen faster implementation, more investment, and quite massive technical gains in the past few years. And all of these gains have happened despite the fact that oil is so cheap (in terms of money, not carbon).

Each of these trends — cheaper batteries and cheaper solar electricity — is good on its own, and on the margin will help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, with all the geopolitical drawbacks and climate harm they entail. But together, the two cost trends will add up to nothing less than a revolution in the way humankind interacts with the planet and powers civilization.

You see, the two trends reinforce each other. Cheaper batteries mean that cars can switch from gasoline to the electrical grid. But currently, much of the grid is powered by coal. With cheap solar replacing coal at a rapid clip, that will be less and less of an issue. As for solar, its main drawback is intermittency. But with battery costs dropping, innovative manufacturers such as Tesla will be able to make cheap batteries for home electricity use, allowing solar power to run your house 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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In France New Buildings Need Green Roofs

Green roofs or solar panels are now required on all new commercial buildings in the country of France. This is great because now buildings can have either a zero energy impact or contribute to their local environment.

Rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones in France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels, under a law approved on Thursday.

Green roofs have an isolating effect, helping reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building in winter and cool it in summer

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Austrialian Team Gets Solar Efficiency Over 40%

It’s been said that once solar power efficiency gets to 40% it’ll be a tipping point for the mass use of solar panels. Now we can see if that is true as a team of researchers partnered with industry has developed technology to make it so solar energy conversion can regularly hit 40.4%.

The advance involved two steps. Three solar panels were stacked to capture energy from different wave lengths of sunlight, and then excess light from the stacked panels was directed by a mirror and filters to a fourth PV cell, making use of energy previously discarded.

“This is our first re-emergence into the focused-sunlight area,” said Professor Green, who pioneered 20 per cent-efficiency levels in similar technology in 1989.

The institute was prompted to revisit the technology in part because of Australian companies’ efforts to develop large-scale solar towers using arrays of mirrors to focus sunlight on PV cells.

One of those firms, Melbourne-based RayGen, collaborated with UNSW on the project. It is building a plant in China with an solar conversion rate of about 28 per cent across the year.. “We’d take them to the mid-30s” for future projects with the technology jump, Professor Green said

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The Growth of Solar Power is Shaking Power Companies

Solar panels have come down in price rather dramatically in the last decade and if this trend continues it can be the death of old-school electric utilities. That is, unless the energy companies embrace solar and embed it into their system. Smart companies see the writing on the wall and others will start to falter.

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So even though solar provides just 0.4 percent of America’s electricity, it’s growing at a shocking rate. Rooftop solar generation has roughly tripled since 2010. By some estimates, a new solar system is installed every four minutes in the United States.

To electric utilities, this poses a dilemma. As rooftop solar becomes more popular, people will buy less and less electricity from their local power company. But utilities still have plenty of fixed costs for things like maintaining the grid. So, in response, those utilities will eventually have to raise rates on everyone else. Trouble is, those higher electricity rates could spur even more people to install their own solar rooftop panels to save money. Cue the death spiral.

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Solar Has Won

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In Australia the amount of energy being produced by sustainable systems caused the price to fall so low it went in to the negative. This will not be the last time we see this. As more places adopt renewable energy into their power grids the old models of industry will be forced to change – meaning a better world for consumers, producers, and the environment!

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.

For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

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