Apple achieved a milestone recently, powering 100% of its operations via renewable energy! That includes all offices, data centers, and stores…and they’ve accomplished this without having to pay more for electricity, either. Next up, they’re putting pressure on their suppliers to follow suit…and with a customer as large as Apple asking, I doubt much pressure at all will be needed! It’s cool to see tech companies like Apple and Alphabet leading the charge here. Read more here.
A draft UN science report, expected to be approved this week, warns that we’re on the path toward irreversible climate change. We can still avoid that by making significant cuts to CO2 emissions, but the question is, will we? Unless you’re a Republican (sorry, but I call it like I see it), you’ve probably already accepted that the current situation is unsustainable and that immediate change is needed. What will it take? Fortunately, the answer is ‘not much’…well, apart from a decision to change (which in this political climate in the US, is no small feat!). A report from Deutsche Bank finds that rooftop solar will reach grid parity in all 50 states in the US by 2016. This means the cost will be the same or less than getting power from the electric grid (10 states have already reached grid parity). Removing the ‘cost’ argument from the debate will help a ton. What about the reality that solar power is not a 24/7 energy source? Good news there, too. Many companies have been working on energy storage systems, and they’re looking more and more promising (meaning, closer to production!). The latest is interesting…a company called Alevo has been operating out of the spotlight (sort of in stealth mode, though not like some startups)…and expects to be producing hundreds of utility-scale (read:massive) energy storage systems within a year. These 1MWh containers use lithium ferrophosphate and graphite batteries..cool tech. It’s easy to perhaps dismiss Alevo as yet another company with dreams and promises…except this one has raised a billion dollars from Swiss investors. Whoa. So they have the technology, they have the money, and they’re taking over a former Phillips Morris plant in North Carolina. This is a company to watch. Then of course you have Solar City looking to include battery storage systems with every home solar installation within 5-10 years.
So the future is bleak if we do not act…yet advances in technology along with greatly decreased costs is looking to push renewable energy to the forefront, despite the best efforts of Republicans opposing it. Now, just imagine how awesome that industry could be if it actually had broad support! Oh well. It’s a tsunami that can’t be stopped, I think…fortunately!
Is it a solar panel with integrated battery, or a battery with an integrated solar panel? No matter which way you look at it, this new technology being developed at Ohio State is pretty cool. This solar panel has a layer inside that acts as an energy storage medium. No separate charge controllers like an external battery would require. It’s just a solar panel that can continue to supply power once the sun goes down. Since it’s still in the research stage there’s no word on capacity and those details, but it’s a really neat idea that I hope takes off. Read more at ExtremeTech.
The fight has begun. Solar and ‘old energy’ are increasingly butting heads, as the old business model breaks in the face of new distributed solar generation. Old energy is fighting back with the help of governments reducing incentives for distributed solar installations and even increasing fees for grid-tied systems. It seems to be slowing down solar adaption in areas, but I think this is just a temporary blip…once energy storage drops in price, people will have a viable solution for going entirely off-grid, and then Old Energy will be faced with the same infrastructure costs, yet with fewer customers to spread that cost over. The inevitable collapse of Old Energy will be fascinating to observe…I can’t wait! Read more at Business Insider.
Cool news…using batteries from the gigafactory Tesla is building outside of Reno, Solar City will be including battery backup systems in 100% of the rooftop solar systems they install within 5-10 years. This is significant partly because it helps illustrate the rapidly decreasing costs of both solar panels and battery backup systems, but also because it is likely to have a major impact on our current energy production and distribution systems…the old grid will become obsolete eventually, but the transition won’t be easy for the larger energy companies. Read more at climaterocks.com.
Bosch is selling a near plug and play energy storage system for home use, the BPT-S 5 Hybrid, a refrigerator-sized cabinet that houses a large battery, charge controller and inverter, to simplify integration with a house’s existing solar and grid lines. Installation is estimated at a mere two hours! It’ll charge up when your solar panels are producing excess energy, and discharge that into your house as needed at night. Unfortunately…it’s only available in Germany at this point. 🙁
Solar panels take space, but just how much land area would need to be covered with solar panels to provide 100% of this planet’s power needs (including transportation)? The answer is pretty surprising, as the image here shows (click on it for a larger version). It helps show just how much energy the sun is sending our way, and what a small percentage of that is actually required to power our civilization.
There’s still a matter of energy storage with solar panels, but I wonder, if long range transmission efficiency could be boosted to the point where we have a global power grid? The sun is always shining on about half the planet…if that power could be transmitted to the dark side of the planet, there would be no need to store electricity. Nikola Tesla suggested that just such a system could be possible. The drawbacks are obvious though…it would be difficult or even impossible to employ Tesla’s system in a way that would allow companies to control who uses that energy. The business model falls apart, sadly, and we live in a world controlled by business and profit.
Does the production of solar panels require more energy than the panels will produce in their lifetime? That’s a question you may hear now and again, especially when talking to those who aren’t really on board with this whole clean energy idea. So, time to set the record straight. There’s a great article over at Care2.com that addresses just this subject. The bottom line is that depending on what technology of panel you’re talking about, the energy payback point (they’ve produced as much energy as it took to manufacture the panel) is from one to four years. Check out the full link above if you want all the details.
To address concerns over solar and wind power fluctuations, the UK is installing a 10MWh battery…it’s not huge in terms of typical grid power usage, but is another big milestone in weaning us off of fossil fuels. Read more over at gizmag.