Solar is a bit different in that the overall grid needed does not decrease when we have more solar. Indeed, it is doubtful that photovoltaics will be able to reduce peak power demand, which comes at a time of total darkness in Germany anyway – at around 8 PM on November workday evenings – some four hours after the sun has gone down, and hence long after daily power storage in home battery systems will make much of a difference.
Proponents of solar, especially distributed power, rightly point out that the grid does not have to be expanded when distributed solar and wind generators go up. That statement is true, but it is not the same as the one in the previous paragraph. Distributed solar does not require the grid to be expanded as much as large solar arrays; and indeed, we have reached 4.6 percent solar power without expanding the grid much at all. It does not follow, however, that distributed solar allows us to make the grid smaller.
Here’s an extremely bullish report on the future of the solar industry from Deutsche Bank, suggesting that the PV industry will be able to stand and grow solely on its own (without government support) by 2014. Such growth, in the face of continuing price declines in modules and balance-of-system will soon put solar at grid-parity, the point at which an incremental megawatt of solar comes at the same price as a megawatt from other forms of electricity generation in the region.
Hans De Keulenaer's insight:
Good news from a conservative source is very good news.
Energy is a crucial ingredient in every aspect of our lives, whether at home, school, or work. Fortunately, over the long-term, energy has become more affordable for Americans, measured in various ways. This is not a surprise, as human ingenuity and (relatively) free markets allow entrepreneurs to multiply the gifts of nature, even for so-called “depletable” resources.
However, in recent years energy has become less affordable. This too is not surprising, as the federal government has impeded the ability of firms to develop domestic energy resources, and as the Federal Reserve has weakened the dollar. If policymakers wish to raise U.S. (and world) living standards, they should move back in the direction of stable monetary policy and unfettered capitalism. The natural forces of innovation in a market economy will lead to more abundant supplies, in the economically relevant sense.
If wind and solar have long-term ambitions of displacing fossil fuels as the dominant energy sources in America or the world, fundamental innovation challenges remain, the panelists stressed. Getting beyond 10, 20 or 25 percent shares for wind and solar though will require continued innovations to further reduce costs and address the challenges associated with the intermittent or variable nature of wind and solar energy output.
GE hopes to make wind turbines far cheaper, and open up new ways to design them, by ditching the stiff fiberglass blades they use now in favor of turbine blades made out of fabric. GE says the project, which recently received nearly $4 million from the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, could lower wind turbine blade costs by 40 percent.
Hans De Keulenaer's insight:
Hopefully, there will not be too many maintenance issues.
In my view it is a myth that cheap energy – “affordable energy” as many people like to say is vital to growth. The idea that there is a lockstep relationship between growth of GDP and use of energy is widespread, but the data simply does not bear it out. Instead, what they show is that the world’s best-performing economies have become dramatically more energy efficient over time.
Based on improvements in cell efficiencies and production economies of scale, today’s manufacturing cost per watt can range from as low as US$0.82 to $1.05. With a continuous progression of cost reduction inherent in production, supply chain and module technologies, the reality of mainstream global grid parity is close. In fact, continuing cost declines in PV power production are enabling unsubsidised markets to grow in emerging economies and in meeting the peak power demands being amplified with the decommissioning of old, polluting power stations. In the US we see homeowners seizing the initiative, one rooftop at a time, to break free of the wired world.
Launched today, the 2012 Corporate Renewable Energy Index (CREX) ranked over 300 companies globally according to their voluntary renewable energy procurement, as well as how and why they do it. The report found that CREX companies tend to fall into two extremes, with an emerging group of companies choosing to buy 100 per cent of their energy from renewable sources.
When we discussed our home solar panel project in mid-2011 with friends, one of the first questions everyone asked was, “What’s the payback period before you break-even?” The second question was unsurprisingly, “How much is it costing you?” but the focus always ended up on the payback.
After all, if you’re going to invest in green technology, you’re hoping that at some point in the near future, you get ahead of the game. It turns out that something we didn’t plan for — our Chevrolet Volt — is actually helping us boost the ROI and cut our payback time in half.
A person might think from looking at news reports that our oil problems are gone, but oil prices are still high.
In fact, the new “tight oil” sources of oil which are supposed to grow in supply are still expensive to extract. If we expect to have more tight oil and more oil from other unconventional sources, we need to expect to continue to have high oil prices. The new oil may help supply somewhat, but the high cost of extraction is not likely to go away.
In 2011, residential solar system installers paid a little over $1.80 per watt for solar panels in both Germany and the United States. In Germany, installers added $1.20 to the cost of the solar panel to complete an installation. But in the U.S., they tacked on $4.36 per watt, more than three times as much.
A report released this month by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory explains why.
The real picture — solar PV power is a good venture to invest in, surveys predict. However, there isn’t much publicity of what may be the actual financial benefits, so many are left simply guessing what they could save… if they are even asked or ask themselves. And, apparently, the large majority of citizens don’t realize how much money they could save if they installed a solar power system on their roof.
Hans De Keulenaer's insight:
Good implementation of policy is as important as good policy design.
In this first round of auctions, UI and CL&P solicited bids for large and medium ZREC projects and LREC projects of any capacity. The bids were expressed as prices for renewable energy credits that the projects would be assigned on the basis of one REC per megawatt-hour of electrical generation.
The bids were limited to $350 per REC for ZREC projects and $200 per REC for LREC projects. However, the utilities won't have to pay anywhere near those numbers for the 31 megawatts that the winning bidders will produce from their 97 projects.
The resulting RECs will cost UI and CL&P a total of $8.1 million annually, which works out to an average weighted price of $90 per REC – or far less than REC prices in many other states.
Hans De Keulenaer's insight:
How markets can help technologies to achieve grid parity.
The electric car obviously has its limitations. However, the truth is improvements are being made in the technology all the time. Batteries are lasting longer and charging times are diminishing. The electric car is becoming ever-more viable. To be viable right now you must ask yourself the following:
How far do I drive a day?
Will I save money buying an EV?
How convenient will it be to charge my car?
If the answers are positive you could look into buying an EV today. For the rest, it may be a case of waiting a little longer for it to be truly viable. Don’t bet against it though – the change to electric cars may be gradual but, unlike many that predicted ‘the electric car is dead’, far from impossible.
Even as more affordable photovoltaics and government incentives for adopting renewable energy sources have made solar a financially attractive alternative in some areas, it can still be hard to find accurate, easy-to-understand information to help make the leap. The Solar Tool, developed by the Sustainable Design Lab at MIT and Boston-based design workshop MoDe Studio, aims to solve that problem for the city of Cambridge. Simply enter your address, and a comprehensive satellite map of Cambridge shows you how efficient your own
rooftop is for soaking up the sun’s rays, from excellent to poor, down to the square meter.