Renewable Energy Emerging Global Juggernaut

August 1, 2015

Orlando Sentinel:

 Orlando’s electricity provider struck a deal this week for solar energy that will cost less than energy from the utility’s coal and natural-gas plants.

“We really are at a tipping point where solar is the least-cost option,” said Tom Hunton, president and CEO of American Capital Energy, which will build, own and manage the plant for Orlando Utilities Commission.

A standard panel puts out 310 watts today compared with 265 watts about five years ago. Also part of the equation, panels cost less than 80 cents per watt today and about $2 per watt five years ago. The industry expects continued declines in cost.

The resulting numbers are telling: OUC will pay 7 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity from the new solar plant, which is a steep drop from the 19 cents per kilowatt-hour from a solar plant built for OUC less than four years ago.

It costs OUC 8 cents per kilowatt-hour to generate electricity by burning coal and natural gas. In turn, the utility charges its more than 200,000 residential customers at least 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.

A kilowatt-hour is enough power to turn on 10, 100-watt bulbs for an hour.

“Alternative energy is always alternative energy until it’s cheaper than the cheapest energy,” said Jim Fenton, Florida Solar Energy Center director. “Now solar is cheaper than coal.”

Dave Roberts in Vox:

There’s a new poll of eight key swing states out, and it shows that — surprise! — voters in swing states love clean energy.

Specifically, the poll (done by Hart Research on behalf of NextGen Climate Action) shows that 70 percent of swing state voters have a favorable reaction to the goal of 50 percent clean energy by 2030, including 54 percent of Republicans. Similar majorities support a target of 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Somewhat smaller majorities look favorably on several other clean energy policies, including upgrading the power grid and raising state renewable energy standards.

At this point, polls showing robust, bipartisan support for clean energy and pollution reduction are so common that they come as no surprise (see here, here, here, here, here, here, etc. forever). Americans love clean energy!

Most Americans, that is. The one demographic that remains steadfast in its support for fossil fuels and skepticism toward alternatives is — surprise! — Tea Party Republicans, i.e., hyper-conservative older white guys.

No sweat. They’ll be dead soon.
Like the US Republican Party,  if it continues to ignore climate and energy.

Wall Street Journal – Renewable Energy Powers Up Rural India:

Hoping to ride India’s cellphone revolution, some small Indian startups are trying to bring more reliable power to the country’s rural regions using mini electricity plants, powered by renewable alternative-energy sources such as solar, wind and biogas.

But reaching out to the subcontinent’s backwaters can be expensive and risky, so Gurgaon-based Omnigrid Micropower Co. has developed a business model where it sets up its small solar-power plants near cellular towers to guarantee reliable income from telecommunications companies before it starts serving villagers.

indiasolar

Kamlesh Kumar, 34 years old, who has a small general store in Hardoi, has seen sales soar as the affordable and reliable power now lets him stay open at night. “When it used to become dark in the evening, we would just shut shop early,” he said. “Now we close late.”

Omnigrid is part of a growing network of small renewable-power companies trying to light up India’s hard-to-reach rural regions. Roughly 40 companies already serve remote villages and businesses with small plants that use renewable energy, according to a report from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and the Climate Group, a U.K.-based environmental organization. They help bring power to approximately 100,000 households, a number that is expected to grow to reach millions.

Craig Morris for Energy Transition:

On July 25, Germany surpassed the old record of 74 percent renewable electricity. But perhaps the most interesting aspect is power trading between France and Germany on that day. Craig Morris explains.

At the end of July, the storm Zeljko passed over northern Europe, causing considerable wind damage and flooding in some areas. Here in southern Germany, however, it was a relatively sunny day. In the north, where it was windy, Germany has most of its wind turbines installed. In the south, it has most of its solar. The combination of sunny weather in the south with strong wind throughout the country is rare – and led to a new record.

germanrenew_78

The chart above visualizes the situation well, but we still need to include biomass (4.85 GW) and hydropower (2.4 GW). The total renewable electricity on Saturday afternoon was therefore 47.9 GW. We then also need to exclude the 8.75 GW of net power exports below the baseline in the chart above to calculate total domestic power demand, which then comes in at 61.1 GW. In that calculation, Germany had roughly 78 percent renewable electricity as a share of domestic demand for a few hours.

The figures are still preliminary, however. On the Energy Charts website, you can switch from the view above to “all sources,” and you get slightly different (lower) numbers for both wind and solar during the exact same timeframe. In addition, the data will probably still be tweaked because they are so new. But in all likelihood, further revisions will still have a new record posted that day. The preliminary figures given at Agora also have renewables making up 79 percent of domestic power consumption that day.

We don’t need to look far for a very low share of renewables, however. In the wee hours of July 22, wind power dropped to 2-3 GW, with solar at 0. Add in hydropower and biomass, and we have around 9.5 GW of renewable electricity out of just under 40 GW of domestic demand. In other words, it is now hard for renewable electricity to be pushed far below 25 percent of domestic demand in the summer.

Though Germany was a net exporter of electricity at the time, the trading situation with France is illustrative. The chart below from French grid operator RTE shows that France was a tremendous net exporter of electricity on Saturday, July 25 – at a time of low power demand. During the early morning, Germany (orange bars on the left) imported a tremendous amount of electricity – not because it needed it, but because French nuclear plants do not like to ramp down any more than the German ones do, so they were selling power to the Germans cheaply. This situation once again disproves the common notion that Germany can “rely” on French nuclear when it needs power. In reality, trading takes place based on price, not dire need to prevent blackouts. The Germans import nuclear power when demand – and hence the spot market price – is low.

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7 Responses to “Renewable Energy Emerging Global Juggernaut”

  1. mbrysonb Says:

    Encouraging stuff. We are pressing our adminstration to change their plans for a new natural gas power plant and develop an alternative-energy based plan (aside from good wind and solar potential, we have a large, dam-cooled river we could draw on for cooling). I hope we can get them to shift tracks…

    Slightly obsessive side-note: is it really too much to ask reporters to understand the difference between power and energy? A kilowatt is power; a kilowatt-hour is energy, it takes a certain amount of energy to power light bulbs for a given period of time, not a certain amount of power, etc… If you don’t understand the units and their relations, you can’t think straight about these issues.

  2. daryan12 Says:

    Greenman,

    I might be going off topic here but we’ve got an anti-renewable Tory majority government here who seem to be taking their environmental policy from the Tea Party. They’re slashing subsidies to renewables while promising all sorts of subsidies towards both nuclear and fracking (apparently wind energy is now “mature”….but nuclear isn’t even tho we’ve been massively subsidising that for 50 years!).

    In addition policy’s aimed at greater energy efficiency of homes and vehicles are being ditched or watered down. Many warn we are entering into a “dark age” in terms of climate policy.
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/24/green-policies-conservative-tory-attacks-environment

    And its not just the environmentalists who are worried
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/27/green-cuts-renewable-energy-risk-uk-dark-ages

    I thought you might want to do an article on it in future.

  3. Nick Tedesco Says:

    Thank you for helping spread the word that solar power is now very cost effective. More homeowners would make the switch if they knew that they could save thousands over the long term. Very few Americans pay less than 8 cents per kilowatt hour for their electricity, and yet that’s where solar is right now. I’m happy to share plenty of information about residential solar power here – http://solar-power-now.com/


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