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Australia to triple solar, big solar hits global milestone

An artist's impression of the Heart of New Caledonia shows it will be one of the most beautiful solar farms in the world. Lifegate

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

Twelve new large-scale solar PV plants are set to be constructed across Australia, tripling the amount of energy produced from big solar.

The global installed capacity of utility-scale solar generating stations now exceeds 100 gigawatts, according to figures released by the experts on large scale PV, wiki-solar.org (PDF). Capacity-wise the top three countries are China, US and India. Lifegate profiles what it calls the world’s seven most beautiful solar farms.

Vietnam is set to build a brand new 30MW solar PV plant which will take it one step closer to its aim of generating 10% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Solar will play an important role in helping Luxembourg increase its renewable energy mix to 70% by 2050. 

Tesla has begun taking orders for its new solar roof tiles. A University of Newcastle team of researchers has launched Australia’s first large-scale demonstration of printed solar panels. The low-cost and portability of the technology makes it an ideal candidate for roll-out in developing countries and in cases of disaster relief, where power is needed quickly and temporarily.

Renewables and fossil fuels

China and India have taken top spots in a ranking (PDF) that rates countries on the attractiveness of their renewable energy investment and deployment opportunities. NZ does not feature. Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping - or even slowing - coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle. With both countries now rising to the challenge they look set “overachieve” on their Paris climate pledges, reports Cleantechnica. The Indian government’s focus on green energy has just seen plans scrapped for a mega coal-fired power plant.

Burning coal from potential new mines on the Buller Plateau could put as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as another three million cars on New Zealand's roads for the next 20 years, says Forest & Bird. Medical experts in Australia say air pollution from the country’s coal-fired power stations is a direct threat to public health. In addition CO2 is contributing to climate change.

Climate change

Warming seawater temperatures linked to climate change and El Nino have caused widespread bleaching of Australia's Great Barrier Reef over the past several years. Now scientists are finding similar damage on reefs all over the world, including in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Rising sea temperatures are also having an impact on NZ’s mainland yellow-eyed penguins which face extinction unless urgent action is taken, say scientists.

The world's ocean are at the tipping point of being starved of oxygen leading to mass sea life extinction which could last a million years. Scientists at the University of Exeter say it is 'critical' for modern humans to limit carbon emissions to prevent this. A Dubai firm has plans to harvest icebergs in the southern Indian Ocean and tow them 9200km away to the Gulf, where they could be melted down for freshwater to help offset the effects of climate change in the region.

The NZ government is aiming to phase down the use of powerful greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in the air-conditioning and refrigeration industries to help address climate change.

Electric vehicles

Stanford economist Tony Seba predicts that by 2030, 95% of people won’t own a private car, killing off the auto industry and that electric vehicles will devastate the global oil industry by the same date. Reuters reports demand for gasoline in Asia may peak much earlier than expected as millions of people in China and India buy electric vehicles over the next decade, threatening wrenching change for the oil industry, warn oil and auto company executives.

The New Zealand government is being told to lead from the front by making sure its own vehicles are powered by electricity. Corporate travellers flying into three New Zealand cities are being offered free electric cars for a day in an initiative aimed at "normalising" the cutting-edge technology and testing the public's desire to go electric. Leaked documents throw into question a controversial decision to dump electric trains for diesel locomotives between Hamilton and Palmerston North, reports TVNZ.

Elon Musk’s latest venture aims to deal with traffic congestion. His ultimate vision is for a network of tunnels that would whisk cars underground across great distances at high speeds on electric sleds. Musk’s Boring Company has started construction on a test tunnel.