A solar powered plane has completed an historic flight across the United States, landing at JFK airport in New York. Events and milestones like this are critical for alternative fuel development, as people can see real progress.
It will be fascinating to see how solar technology can be incorporated into aviation to possibly save jet fuel, or at the very least power many internal and backup power needs.
Here’s some great information about the affordability of installing solar panels. This video focuses on San Diego, but the same principles apply around the country. Learn more at SolarAllianceofAmerica.com.
Nine in ten people in the UK want to see greater use of renewable energy and less dependence on fossil fuels, according to a new survey commissioned by Friends of the Earth. Launching the Clean British Energy campaign, the environmental group revealed that 85 per cent of people want the government to do more to support the generation of clean energy within the UK and import less gas.
The response shouldn’t be too surprising – imported gas is one of the biggest reasons fuel bills are rising. In spite of continued efforts to increase to UK’s uptake of renewable energy through schemes like the feed-in tariff, just 9.5 per cent of the UK’s electricity is generated by renewable energy sources. As prime minister David Cameron gives his first “green speech” at the Clean Energy Ministerial summit this week, Friends of the Earth is calling on him to shift the energy market away from the Big Six energy corporations and help smaller, cleaner companies into the market.
Over the last couple of years, smaller firms have received a boost from the feed-in tariff scheme, which rewards homeowners and businesses for installing solar PV generation systems through a company like EvoEnergy. However, the rate paid for energy generated through the scheme proved to be unsustainable, and a series of cuts have dampened the public’s enthusiasm for home solar power somewhat.
This isn’t to say that solar power is on the way out in the UK – far from it, the solar industry now employs more than 29,000 people, while developing other renewable sources such as offshore wind power could create as many as 66,000 jobs by 2020, according to Friends of the Earth. The UK’s tidal power systems are among some of the most advanced in the world, and the campaign group claims there are further opportunities in exporting our technology and expertise around the globe.
On May 9th, the Queen is due to announce a new government bill that will set the rules for the UK’s electricity generation, but these don’t give renewable sources the prominence that many campaigners would like: they’re still focused on fossil fuels, subsidies for nuclear power and the ongoing domination of the Big Six. Friends of the Earth is urging those who want to see this changed to email energy secretary Ed Davey from its new campaign website and encourage positive change in the market.
One of the more interesting trends in solar involves companies that will install solar panels on residential or commercial real estate with little or no upfront costs to the owner. How can they do that? The idea is simple – you have a situation where the combination of subsidies and the solar power will significantly reduce an owner’s electricity bills. The savings stream can then be used to pay off the costs of the solar panel upgrades.
The plunging costs of solar power are making this trend even more powerful. There is some controversy, as some suspect that the Chinese are dumping panels in the US below cost, so it will be interesting to see if the trend continues on this pace, but either way prices will keep coming down. It’s just a matter of how fast.
Many businesses and consumers are catching on, though again it remains to be seen as to how fast these systems will be implemented. For many, this becomes a real investment opportunity that changes the calculation around certain real estate investments. If you’re looking for investment property, you of course want every advantage you can think of. Every cost saving needs to be considered. Of course you’ll be looking for a bmv investment as you want to save on the initial purchase price, but ancillary costs matter as well. Energy savings should get thorough investigation. This also applies if you’re seeking overseas properties, as many countries are jumping on the renewable energy bandwagon.
The bottom line is that solar power and other renewables will grow even faster when there are economic incentives. And those that see the incentives and their applications first can make profits by acting on them.
The U.S. Navy’s bomb squads have a weight problem. To keep their field gear powered up, the typical explosive ordnance disposal unit has to haul fifty pounds of specialized chargers and related devices around, creating an unwieldy and potentially dangerous drag on the operation.
Now help is coming from an unexpected source: the sun.
The Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit 2 in Virginia has been testing five prototype lightweight field power kits that include solar cells as a key component. The kits replace fifty pounds of equipment with a compact system that weighs only about nine pounds.
The heart of the kit is a one-pound device called a Soldier Power Manager. The Power Manager functions like a smart micro-mini-grid. In contrast to a portable generator that runs only on diesel fuel, the Power Manager can receive energy from various sources including solar panels and fuel cells. It recharges other devices by cable attachments, eliminating the need for individual battery chargers.
Read this article about the battle between natural gas and solar power in Colorado and you’ll get a great idea of the complexity surrounding the clean energy issue. Over time, this stuff will get sorted out, and the subsidies for clean energy clearly have a positive impact. That said, there’s legitimate concern that all the competing interests will create a nightmare set of regulations once Congress gets through with the new climate bill.
This presents another compelling case for a simple carbon tax over cap-and-trade legislation.
Conservatives love arguing that it’s pointless to battle global warming when countries like China are growing and adding pumping more carbon into the atmosphere. In one sense they have a point, but what if China invests heavily in renewable energy? Also, while doing so, what if they take the lead in green manufacturing and technology?
As the United States takes its first steps toward mandating that power companies generate more electricity from renewable sources, China already has a similar requirement and is investing billions to remake itself into a green energy superpower.
Through a combination of carrots and sticks, Beijing is starting to change how this country generates energy. Although coal remains the biggest source of energy and is almost certain to stay that way, the rise of renewable energy, especially wind power, is helping to slow China’s steep growth in emissions of global warming gases.
While the House of Representatives approved a requirement last week that American utilities generate more of their power from renewable sources of energy, and the Senate will consider similar proposals over the summer, China imposed such a requirement almost two years ago.
This year China is on track to pass the United States as the world’s largest market for wind turbines — after doubling wind power capacity in each of the last four years. State-owned power companies are competing to see which can build solar plants fastest, though these projects are much smaller than the wind projects. And other green energy projects, like burning farm waste to generate electricity, are sprouting up all over the country.
This oasis town deep in the Gobi Desert along the famed Silk Road and the surrounding wilderness of beige sand dunes and vast gravel wastelands has become a center of China’s drive to lead the world in wind and solar energy.
A series of projects is under construction on the nearly lifeless plateau to the southeast of Dunhuang, including one of six immense wind power projects now being built around China, each with the capacity of more than 16 large coal-fired power plants.
Each of the six projects “totally dwarfs anything else, anywhere else in the world,” said Steve Sawyer, the secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, an industry group in Brussels.
In one sense, this is not a zero-sum game. We want China to make this progress, and it’s encouraging to see these investments in a country that until recently was becoming an environmental nightmare. Also, green technology will spread quickly around the world, and many green jobs involving installation and maintenance cannot be outsourced.
That said, it’s pathetic to see the Chinese move boldly in this area while we have one political party in the United States that resists investments in green energy for all sorts of reasons.