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Solar booms in Australia, Tesla to build world's largest lithium ion battery

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

A second boom in rooftop solar is taking place in Australia. Nearly one quarter of all households have installed solar panels. Batteries are going to make rooftop solar invulnerable, writes David Roberts in Vox.

The largest solar park in the world at Kurnool, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, is due to be fully grid-synchronized this week, making it the first ever solar park to reach 1GW. Google will purchase all the electricity generated by the largest solar park in the Netherlands over the next decade to power a recently opened data center housing thousands of servers. The new North American headquarters for Toyota features 20,000 solar panels making it the largest commercial solar array in the state of Texas.

The world’s first hydro-solar power station is now operational in Portugal. While a relatively modest development, the project could be a good model for other countries with existing hydro generation. The UK Coal Authority is turning to solar power to offset the cost of pumping water at 75 mine water treatment sites.

Unscrupulous utility officials appear to be behind rumours aimed at slowing the uptake of solar in Pakistan. One customer reports he was told the growing use of solar panels was to blame for the more frequent and intense heat waves that Pakistan has experienced.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Tesla will build the world’s largest lithium ion battery in South Australia to improve the security of the state’s grid supply. Paired with a wind farm, Tesla says it will provide enough power for more than 30,000 homes.

The NZ government has been working to circumvent environmental protections and public involvement to enable new coal mining on conservation land, according to documents released to Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act.

Climate change

Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.

World leaders have made clear the US’s isolated stance on climate change, with 19 of the G20 countries affirming their commitment to the “irreversible” Paris climate agreement. The fast dropping costs of renewable energies, like solar and wind power, suggest that the US will exceed its commitments in the Paris agreement regardless of its president, say research analysts at Morgan Stanley.

With a sweeping commitment to solar power, innovative solutions and energy efficiency initiatives to supply its people with 24x7 electricity by 2030, India is emerging as a frontrunner in the global fight against climate change, says the World Bank.

More frequent heat waves and rising temperatures due to global warming may ground up to a third of airplanes worldwide during hot days in decades to come.

An iceberg, eight times the size of Auckland, has split off Antarctica. While the Antarctic Peninsula has been one of the fastest warming places on the planet throughout the latter half of the 20th century a Nasa scientist says based on current evidence the calving of the iceberg is not directly linked to climate change.

The growing global population and the accompanying increase in human consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are causing the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history, says Stanford professor Paul R Ehrlich. Alpine plants are at risk of extinction as climate change and tourism spread weeds to higher altitudes, according to new research, and scientists say New Zealand should be worried.

Kiwi scientists have helped build the most complete database yet on how the planet's climate has changed from 1AD to the present.

Power prices

Hundreds of people have switched power companies - and the number contemplating doing so is growing - as winter's icy grip sends electricity bills skyrocketing, reports Stuff. And this week’s cold weather caused electricity spot prices to increase eightfold, reports RNZ.

Electric vehicles

Electric cars will outsell fossil-fuel powered vehicles within two decades as battery prices plunge, turning the global auto industry upside down and signalling economic turmoil for oil-exporting countries, according to a new forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And a Dutch bank predicts all new cars sold in Europe will be electric by 2035. 

Chinese automakers are on track to produce 49 of the 103 new electric car models that will be launched globally by 2020, as part of China's push to accelerate the switch to battery power from oil, reports Reuters. The UK plans to invest millions of pounds to explore how the batteries in thousands of electric cars could help the power grid and drive take-up of the cleaner vehicles, reports the Guardian.

The public is getting its first look at Tesla's completed Model 3, more than a year after the electric car was first announced by chief executive Elon Musk.