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Australian solar booming, solar plane makes history

Average savings made by Australian solar owners in financial year 2014–2015. State of Solar report.

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

Solar and batteries

Greenpeace NZ has pooled together its renewable energy and legal experts to create a solar hot desk service that will assist people penalised by Unison Energy’s solar tax. And a petition calling on the Electricity Authority to take responsibility for protecting solar power and to ban electricity providers from penalising solar users, has topped 22,000 signatures over the past eight days.

Concept Consulting released the second of three reports looking at the likely benefits and challenges for New Zealand associated with solar, batteries and electric vehicles. This second report examines the benefits and costs of those technologies: both to consumers based on current electricity and emissions prices, and for the New Zealand economy as a whole. Sustainable Electricity Association New Zealand says the report shows emerging technologies in the electricity and transport sectors are being stifled by outdated policies and signals from power companies.

Solar Citizens, an Australian NGO released its State of Solar report presenting the impacts of the country’s solar boom. In less than a decade, 1.5 million Australian households and small businesses have invested more than $8 billion of their own money into rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation. This disruption to the traditional electricity sector has created tens of thousands of jobs, saved over $4.4 billion in household energy bills and averted millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution. 

The amount of electricity generated using solar panels stands to expand as much as sixfold by 2030 as the cost of production falls below competing natural gas and coal-fired plants, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. PVTech profiles 20 companies and technologies making waves in the fast-changing world of stationary energy storage. Elon Musk is seeking to build a clean energy powerhouse as his electric car maker, Tesla Motors Inc makes an offer to buy his US solar installation firm SolarCity Corp in a stock deal worth as much as $2.8 billion. Musk, who is the largest shareholder of both businesses, says that combining the two would create a company that can sell customers an electric car, a home battery and a solar system all at once.

A concentrated solar plant in Nevada is using molten salt for energy storage to provide clean, green solar energy to 75,000 homes even when the sun isn’t shining. A new report highlights that recycling or repurposing solar PV panels at the end of their roughly 30-year lifetime can unlock a large stock of raw materials and other valuable components.

Solar Impulse 2 made history this week when it completed the first flight by a solar-powered plane across the Atlantic. The 5,700km non-stop trip from New York to Seville, in Spain, took about 70 hours hours and was the latest leg of a round-the-world journey without using a drop of fuel. A NASA spacecraft, powered by solar energy, is bound for a Fourth of July encounter with Jupiter in the latest quest to study how the largest planet in the solar system formed and evolved.

Renewables and fossil fuels

New Zealand has been ranked third for energy security amongst the top 25 energy users in the world but our carbon dioxide emissions trend is worse than the OECD average. Fonterra has been given the go ahead to build a 30-tonne/hour coal-fired boiler at its Studholme factory in South Canterbury although it has not published a start date. Environmental group Coal Action Network Aotearoa says the boiler will be a blow for climate change and over-extend the environmental capacity of the area.

Lebanon plans to bulk up on renewable-energy assets beyond just rooftop solar in a move that could wean reliance on fossil fuels and avoid blackouts, according to a government agency. Those plans include wind, hydro and a big utility-scale solar development scheduled to start next year.

Power prices

Any saving on the monthly power bill is always welcome - especially during the pricey winter months. Stuff reviews some new technological advances and gadgets to help keep money in your pocket. Electric Kiwi is seeking disciplinary action against the country's largest power generator, Meridian Energy, following price spikes in the wholesale electricity market on June 16 that saw prices as high as $4,000 per Megawatt hour. It claims that while here was a genuine power shortage in the North Island, Meridian caused an artificial shortage in the South Island.

Climate change

May was the 13th month in a row to break temperature records according to figures published this week that are the latest in 2016’s string of incredible climate records which scientists have described as a bombshell and an emergency, reports the Guardian. The scorching temperatures mean 2016 is all but certain to be the hottest year ever recorded, beating the previous hottest year in 2015, which itself beat 2014.

The Listener reports that local councils and communities around New Zealand are beginning to confront the likely consequences of a changing climate, which is expected to bring more frequent extreme storms and rising sea levels. Rachel Brown, the CEO of the Sustainable Business Network, spells out what climate change means for New Zealand businesses and why they need to take it seriously. She lists a series of steps any company, large or small, can take. And an international report, 2016 Sustainia100, provides a glimpse into a global business landscape that is seizing a world of opportunities that arise from the UN’s newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals. It includes 100 innovations from health solutions that tackle climate change to renewable energy products that alleviate gender inequality.

Ontario's action plan on climate change will include financial incentives to get cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks on the roads and to convince homeowners and businesses to lower their carbon footprints, reports The Canadian Press.

Transport

Tolling Auckland’s roads will penalise the poor without solving the cause of its congestion, says the editor of the car review website dogandlemon.com. Clive Matthew-Wilson says New Zealand is perfectly suited to a train system powered by renewable energy. That would ease congestion, reduce the number of accidents involving trucks and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Eleven international teams, driving 100% electric vehicles, are on their way to travel around the world in 80 days or less. The 80edays Challenge aims to prove that the EV technology is mature and ready to become a driver's first choice with its eco-sustainable outlook and infrastructure.

If electric cars gain more than 35% market shares by 2035, the US could see a cut from nine million to two million barrels of oil used a day, according to a new report. Japanese and European customers buying Toyota’s next-generation of Prius plug-in hybrid will have the option to get one with a built-in solar roof, that will help charge the car and power its appliances. The South Korean government is enhancing its policy support for purchases of electric vehicles, with the aim of boosting their sales and making Seoul's air cleaner. A team of 30 students in Switzerland has built the fastest-accelerating electric car in the world recording 0-60 miles per hour in just 1.513 seconds.

NASA has announced that it's developing a futuristic, all-electric airplane for its X-plane Series. And it says a commercial passenger plane with a fully electric propulsion system could be ready as soon as 2035.