Roofs, Parking Lots Alone Enough to Power California with Solar

May 10, 2015

solarflareSolar exploding above the already blistering pace of development.  Tesla’s new Powerwall energy storage device is just one indicator.

FastCoExist:

Solar plants keep getting bigger: The new Topaz Solar Farm, in a remote part of southern California, sprawls over an area about a third of the size of Manhattan. In February, another solar farm of roughly the same size—with 9 million solar panels—opened in the Mojave Desert. Later this year, an even larger project will open in Antelope Valley.

Together, the three new projects will provide enough power for over half a million homes. But there’s a downside: They’re all in former open spaces that once provided habitat for wildlife, and because they’re in remote areas, some of the energy they produce gets lost along the way to consumers. A new study in Nature Climate Change says that plants like these actually aren’t necessary: We can get more than enough solar power by building in cities instead.

The study looks at California, because the state is aggressively increasing renewable energy, and finds that by using land that’s already developed, like rooftops and parking lots, solar power could provide the state with three to five times as much energy as it uses.

EndGadget:

On Tesla’s quarterly earnings call, CEO Elon Musk announced “crazy off the hook” demand for its just-announced Powerwall battery product. He said over 38,000 reservations have been received, which should take up the expected production through mid-2016, and demand is high enough to account for all of the Gigafactory’s production if they devoted it just to stationary batteries. That includes some 2,500 companies that are interested in the commercial-ready Powerpack (with orders averaging around 10 units each), and Musk said he estimates that commercial interest in Tesla Energy will account for 5-10 more megawatt hours than residential.

Bloomberg:

The numbers are impressive. In the first few days of reservations since the battery announcement on April 30, Tesla took orders worth roughly $800 million in potential revenue, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg Business.

There’s also no way for Tesla to keep up with the level of demand reflected by the early reservations. The company is sold out of storage batteries until mid-2016. Musk claimed the production of storage batteries alone could “easily” take up the entire capacity of Tesla’s $5 billion factory in Nevada, which is scheduled to open next year. The massive facility was originally slated to devote about two-thirds of its output to electric-vehicle batteries.  “We should try to make the factory bigger,” Musk said.

As for profit, Tesla is probably making very little from early battery sales. Musk said the gross margins will initially be “low” but will rise to “somewhere around 20 percent” after production ramps up at the new factory.

And more good news from over the pond.

Aljazeera:

Engineers in the Netherlands say a novel solar road surface that generates electricity and can be driven over has proved more successful than expected.

Last year they built a 70-metre test track along a bike path near the Dutch town of Krommenie on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

In the first six months since it was installed, the panels beneath the road have generated over 3,000kwh. This is enough to provide a single-person household with electricity for a year.

“If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kwh per square metre per year,” says Sten de Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad,   which has been developed by a public-private partnership.

We predicted [this] as an upper limit in the laboratory stage. We can therefore conclude that it was a successful first half year.”

The project took cheap mass-produced solar panels and sandwiched them between layers of glass, silicon rubber and concrete.

“This version can have a fire brigade truck of 12 tonnes without any damage,” said Arian de Bondt, a director at Ooms Civiel, one of consortium of companies working together on the pilot project.

“We were working on panels for big buses and large vehicles in the long run.”

Whether or not every initiative becomes wildly successful is not important.
The solar industry is undergoing the same kind of explosive creation and destruction that we saw in the early days of the internet boom. Stay tuned.

11 Responses to “Roofs, Parking Lots Alone Enough to Power California with Solar”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Maybe this here could go hand in hand with the solar revolution and is interesting in particular for farmers: Audi has successfully made diesel fuel from carbon dioxide and water

    Carbon-neutral diesel is now a reality. German car manufacturer Audi has reportedly invented a carbon-neutral diesel fuel, made solely from water, carbon dioxide and renewable energy sources. And the crystal clear ‘e-diesel’ is already being used to power the Audi A8 owned by the country’s Federal Minister of Education and Research


  2. […] Roofs, Parking Lots Along Enough to Power California with Solar. “The solar industry is undergoing the same kind of explosive creation and destruction that we saw in the early days of the internet boom.” […]


  3. […] Solar exploding above the already blistering pace of development. Tesla's new Powerwall energy storage device is just one indicator.FastCoExist: Solar plants keep getting bigger: The new Topaz So…  […]

  4. Gingerbaker Says:

    “They’re all in former open spaces that once provided habitat for wildlife, and because they’re in remote areas, some of the energy they produce gets lost along the way to consumers.”

    1) They are still open spaces – because no people want to live there. And if these spaces were developed for solar would the habitat for the flora and fauna be degrades, stay the same, or be improved? The above statement assumes they would be degraded. I doubt this. These installations would provide useful shade and possibly dew collection for the animals and plants there. The habitat would be different, yes, but it might actually be more healthy.

    2) It’s not like there isn’t enough desert to go around. A lot of that area is protected, and solar would not be going in there. Supplying clean energy would be a wonderful use for that area, imo.

    3) The fact that some of the energy produced would be lost in transmission is irrelevant. Transmission is plenty efficient. And its not like rooftop solar has no problems – it has plenty which more than offset the negligible transmission loss.

    The fact is that the American southeast is a treasure trove for humanity because it has some of the best solar irradiation characteristics of anywhere in the world. We could run the entire U.S. on just the solar power it could produce. We likely could power 100% of the power needs of the world just from there, if we had the desire or will.

    4) Rooftop solar simply doesn’t compare well with large-scale installations. You put up a PV farm in the desert and its per-watt finished cost is tiny compared to rooftop. It sits there in the sun, and could well last for 80 years. No wind storms, no earthquakes, no tornadoes, no hail storms. No wild fires. A superb investment.

    Meanwhile, every rooftop, in the scenario being promulgated by this study, would need to have its own, customized system. Millions and millions of custom installs, with enormous duplication of electronic materials and possibly batteries. It might work out, but…. Very expensive to build, Very expensive to integrate and share power. And all those panels are sitting on roofs! Have a fire – lose a roof. Need new shingles? It all has to come down and be reassembled. Want to put up an addition? Problems. Hurricanes? Tornadoes? Break out the wallet.

    And who is going to pay for all these rooftop systems? Individual home and business owners? That’s not progress – that’s governmental dereliction of duty. Is government to pay? If that is so (and I believe it should), then our energy system should come in at the lowest, not the highest cost. And it should be for everybody, not just the rich. And it should be intelligently designed.

    • toddinnorway Says:

      Hi Gingerbaker,
      I would like to point out on your claim 4 that every house and building is full of custom-installed systems, e.g. plumbing, electric wiring and circuits, fire safety, heating/cooling ducting and prime movers, and yes the original roof. Any additions or modifications of the building will in any case affect these and costs will reflect that, even with NO PV on the roof.

      If the original roof is designed for and planned to include PV, the incremental cost of the rooftop PV is really modest, and this initial investment can be rolled into the mortgage to give lowest possible financing costs. So as a ‘no-brainer,’ every new building roof should be obligated to include some PV. Waivers and exceptions might include locations with excessive shading or similar.
      Retrofits must be considered case-by-case, but a rough look at the cash flow for a larger, flat commercial building rooftop with retrofitted PV looks almost risk-free and very positve. Try to find that in the stock markets, cash savings or real estate!

      But otherwise, the rooftop PV can enable the building owner to capture more of the future value of the investment in its own power generation and consumption. The alternative is that the new power generation capacity investment is done by a utility and it captures the return on investment and distributes it to Wall Street owners and top management.

      And finally, the rooftop PV displaces in many cases the need for new power transmission system capacity. This is a major cost reduction and it directly benefits all ratepayers to the electrical grid.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        Standardization of rooftop solar installs would be great.

        “The alternative is that the new power generation capacity investment is done by a utility and it captures the return on investment and distributes it to Wall Street owners and top management.”

        The plurality of utilities are public, non-profit, or quasi-public. Not for-profit, as you describe. Now, the *rhetoric* coming out of the mouths of rooftop solar enthusiasts and for-profit purveyors makes it seem like rooftop is all about energy independence, freedom, and taking the profit motive out of our energy future – nothing could be further from the truth.

        These people are selling a product. Or, they are homeowners or business owners who think they are helping the planet by putting up their own energy systems for themselves. And perhaps they are helping the planet.

        But, if you really want to save the planet and solve AGW *in time*, then rooftop is only a small part of the answer – publicly-owned large-scale energy farms are more important.

  5. andrewfez Says:

    The study looks at California, because the state is aggressively increasing renewable energy, and finds that by using land that’s already developed, like rooftops and parking lots, solar power could provide the state with three to five times as much energy as it uses.

    I got trolled on Twitter about ‘energy density’ just the other day. Some smarty posted a cartoon, in response to my troll hunting philosophy, that had a picture of a nuclear power plant with 1 wind turbine and 2 or 4 solar panels on its main stack and said ‘Feasibility of renewables comes down to energy density,’ to which i replied, ‘Considering the earth has more than enough sun and wind to power humanity, feasibility is not a function of density’. Then the guy from Green Peace made a guest troll appearance and our exchange ended briefly when his reply failed to make any sense.

    I later screen-capped it, after i realized who the second troll was:

    But the point is that even if solar owned only 10% efficiency, there’s still enough space on the earth to provide us with solar energy. Efficiency in power production is neither here nor there, and comparing source efficiencies is rather meaningless, especially when the source has an almost limitless free fuel at hand.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Exactly. It’s like taking pills – some medicines are more potent, some less. So, you take a larger pill.

      The fact is solar alone could power our entire planet – if 1%-3% of the surface was used for solar farms. And there are very large equatorial deserts sprinkled across the globe as if they were put there for a purpose besides growing the occasional sidewinder and beetle.

  6. MorinMoss Says:

    Have been saying this for years about the entire Southwest – and Texas, who should throw far much money at solar installs even if they have to slow down somewhat on wind farm buildouts.


  7. […] rooftops, single-family residence rooftops, parking lot rooftops, and parking lot canopies can provide space for solar power systems […]


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