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Growth for NZ solar, power prices spiking over summer

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

Tesla's lithium ion battery in South Australia is the largest in the world but for how long? Tesla Motors: Timothy Artman

Solar

Almost 3,300 Kiwi homeowners have installed solar panels this year, an increase of more than 10% for the same period in 2016, says the Electricity Authority.

Emerging markets now account for the majority of growth in solar power, according to new data reviewed by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The biggest solar power plant in West Africa has been switched on in Burkina Faso, and will power tens of thousands of homes one of the world's poorest countries. A clean tech startup in India has designed a structure that purifies water and generates solar power and looks like an inverted umbrella. 

One of the biggest oil fields in the US is turning to solar power for part of its operations. And, in the UK, solar could provide 10% of the electricity needed to power electrified train routes.

Deep beneath the sea, algae trap light by growing tiny glass shells. Now a Swedish startup is turning them into super-efficient solar panels.

Energy storage

The “world’s largest” lithium-ion battery was officially opened in South Australia last week. Tesla’s much anticipated “mega-battery” made the “100 days or it’s free” deadline, after a week of testing and commissioning. Now Hyundai says it intends to build and install a battery in South Korea that will be 50% larger  than the South Australia facility.

Power prices

Thousands of Kiwi households are experiencing sharp increases in power bills this summer due to low hydro lakes, a lack of wind, and the shutdown of a major power plant, reports Stuff.

Renewables and fossil fuels

New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions economy is an opportunity for economic expansion and innovative growth, says Abbie Reynolds from the Sustainable Business Council.

Coal doesn’t have a long-term role in the New Zealand power system, but Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the future of the dual-fuel units at Huntly is a decision for Genesis Energy, reports Energy News (paywall). 

Forest & Bird is going to court to stop an open-cast coal mine being built on public reserve land on the West Coast. And Greenpeace is taking legal action to stop the Schlumberger operated Amazon Warrior seismic blasting for oil off the coast of Taranaki in the middle of a blue whale habitat.

Climate change

Auckland has been recognised as one of ten international cities that are tackling climate change. The next 100 years could see Auckland's average temperature increase by 3.75C along with an increase in floods, superstorms, coastal erosion and wildfires, says Niwa. It also says climate change is expected to have wide-ranging effects on New Zealand's coastal and ocean ecosystems. And protecting Hawke's Bay's coastline and the communities who live along it from rising sea levels could cost upward of $131 million.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was interviewed by former US Vice President Al Gore as part of his 24 Hours of Reality programme to focus on climate change. She told him New Zealand has a history of standing up on big issues, and climate change is the one at the moment.

Electric vehicles

Some of the world’s established automakers revealed the electric vehicles they've been working on at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The Washington Post highlights some of the best. And Forbes reviews three of the more unusual models including the Revolutionary Electrical Dream Space.

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk says he plans to send his own Tesla car into orbit around Mars - with David Bowie’s Space Oddity playing on the stereo during launch.

China has launched the world's first all-electric cargo ship but has spoilt the positive environmental impact by using it to transport coal, reports Renew Economy. Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are partnering on a hybrid electric aircraft prototype, the E-Fan X, expected to take to the air in 2020.