Big plans for large scale solar, climate change shatters environmental records

We're all about saving you energy and have rounded up the latest solar, climate and energy news so you don't have to.

Solar and batteries

There are six signs that the big global switch to solar has already begun, reports a leading oil industry publication. The UK’s solar panels generated more electricity than coal in May and July this year, highlighting major changes going on in the UK electricity system, according to analysis by Carbon Brief. 

Two of India’s leading oil refining companies are planning to develop large-scale solar power projects to meet electricity demand. Australia’s most famous mining town, Broken Hill, is now home to Australia’s second largest solar farm with 600,000 panels. The Climate Council talks to some of the locals about how that happened. See the video. The contaminated nuclear wasteland around Chernobyl could be turned into one of the world’s largest solar farms, producing nearly a third of the electricity that the stricken plant generated at its height 30 years ago, according to the Ukrainian government.

Lithium-ion batteries will become the mainstream energy storage technology, and will account for 80% of all global energy storage installations by 2025, says information and analysis company IHS Markit. Already a world leader in renewable energies, Germany is expected to see a substantial growth in its energy storage market over the next five years. A new report says much of the growth will be driven by homeowners connecting energy storage to new or existing solar systems. By linking together networks of energy-efficient buildings, solar installations, and batteries, a growing number of companies in the US and Europe are helping utilities reduce energy demand at peak hours and supply targeted areas with renewably generated electricity, reports the Guardian.

Tesla Motors' possible acquisition of leading US residential PV installer SolarCity has been sealed with an all-stock transaction valued at around US$2.6 billion. Management of both companies have approved the deal, although SolarCity has been granted a 45-day timeline to potentially seek alternative buyers.

A team of US researchers is working on a way to convert CO2 into synthetic fuel using the sun’s energy. It has filed a provisional patent for the technology and further research will determine if it can be economically viable.

Power prices

Sue Chetwin the chief executive of Consumer NZ says by changing power companies recently she’ll be saving more than $1000 a year. A new online power plan comparison service was launched this week on

A survey of Australian power consumers shows they’ve have had enough of high and unpredictable electricity prices. And not just that; they seem also to have lost faith in the ability of the key market players and regulators to fix the problem, so they are taking matters into their own hands. One Step Off the Grid takes a detailed look at three of the major themes the survey turned up.

Renewables and fossil fuels

One of New Zealand energy's big four, Mercury, thinks it is unlikely to have to build any new power stations for several years. Instead it is increasing output from its existing electricity generating systems. Easier access to renewable energy and smarter appliances will change the patterns of domestic demand for power, says University of Otago senior lecturer Michael Jack who is involved in the six-year research programme.

New York has approved a plan to generate half its power from renewable sources by the year 2030 and it will rely on big subsidies to nuclear power plants to help reduce the state's reliance on fossil fuels. US crude tumbled below US$40 per barrel on Monday for the first time since April.

Climate change

The world is careening towards an environment never experienced before by humans, with the temperature of the air and oceans breaking records, sea levels reaching historic highs and carbon dioxide surpassing a key milestone, according to the State of the Climate in 2015 report.

In the last five years the New Zealand’s Franz Joseph Glacier has retreated 1.5km and the Fox Glacier has retreated 750 metres, reports the Herald. Pure Advantage’s board trustees Victoria Ransom and Phillip Mills say climate change is the greatest threat to NZ business. They say transitioning away from fossil fuels is not going to be enough to keep global warming to less than 1.5 degrees and that we we have to find ways of taking greenhouse gases back out of the atmosphere.

Norway faces the paradox of being a leading nation on fighting climate change while at the same time it's pushing ever farther into the Arctic Ocean in search of more oil and gas, reports AP.

Electric vehicles

Two US companies have announced a major deal to bring wireless electric vehicle charging, pioneered by University of Auckland professors, John Boys and Grant Covic, to a range of electric and hybrid plug-in vehicles across the globe. Panasonic (the producer of battery cells for Tesla cars) is crushing the competition in overall electric vehicle battery production.

Motorists in the UK are buying more electric vehicles than ever, with latest figures confirming continual quarterly rises in plug-in car uptake. Mercedes has unveiled the world’s first fully electric heavy truck although the company says its commercial release will probably be after 2020. A prototype all-electric Corvette has set a world record for the top speed street legal electric car category for a standing mile (1.6 kilometres) at 330.8 kmh. A new all-electric car, the Solo, is about to go on sale in Canada for about NZ$16,000 and it looks a little different to other electric cars in the works.