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Solar ramps up in India, fossil fuels rejected across US

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

India has installed an impressive 4.8 GW worth of solar in the first half of this year - more than the total for 2016. The country’s renewable energy programme is proceeding at such a rapid pace that its contribution to total power generation will surpass that of coal in 2027, according to new projections.

A giant solar thermal power plant, made up of 12,000 billboard size mirrors collecting the sun's rays, is to be built in South Australia's mid-north. It's expected to be up and running by 2020 when it will start providing the power required for the state government's schools, hospitals and other facilities. 

The green light has been given for what will be Scotland's largest solar farm with about 80,000 panels. All cabling at the site - spread over three fields at an estate - will be underground, allowing sheep to graze around the panels.

Solar panels are not just found on rooftops. The US Department of Energy reviews four unusual places where solar technologies are being used today - including on a camel.

California’s grid operations will be supported by the ramping of an estimated 3,000MW of energy storage, when a solar eclipse expected across the Pacific North-West of the US will cause PV generation to dip for about three hours on August 21.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Across America, families, businesses, churches and other community groups are turning their back on fossil fuels – for good, reports the Guardian.

The massive increase in wind and solar energy helped prevent the premature deaths of up to 12,700 people over a nine-year period in the US, according to new research which illustrates the wider benefits of ditching fossil fuels beyond limiting global warming.

Latin America has the world’s cleanest electricity, having long relied on dams to generate a large share of its energy needs, However, severe weather events like droughts and floods have made hydropower plants less reliable, leading governments in the region to rapidly diversify their power sources to include wind, solar and geothermal, reports the New York Times.

The Dutch advertising standards authority has censured Shell and Exxon for a claim made in a television advert earlier this year that natural gas was “the cleanest of all fossil fuels.”

A gas-fired generation plant in Taranaki that was facing closure is about to undergo its fifth big refurbishment, which will see it though until 2022, says Contact Energy.

Greenpeace activists were arrested by Norwegian authorities after they halted a Statoil rig drilling in the Arctic for several hours on Thursday. 

Climate change

The NZ Super Fund has dumped more than $950 million in investments as part of a move to cut its carbon footprint. It has substantially or completely withdrawn from 300 companies, including Genesis Energy and some of the world's biggest oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Statoil, calling them risky investments.

Military and climate experts have warned that Australia faces potentially “disastrous consequences” from climate change, including “revolving” natural disasters and the forced migration of tens of millions of people across the region, overwhelming security forces and government. 

The largest volcano range on earth has been discovered, two kilometres below the surface of Antarctica.The discovery adds to the growing concern for a region already affected by climate change, and scientists say if one were to erupt it could further destabilise the ice sheets.

Climate change is affecting the timing of river floods across Europe and societies may have to adapt to avoid future economic and environmental harm, say scientists. A bit of mitigation or adaptation won’t save us when it comes to climate change. We have to fundamentally change everything we do so we work with the ecosystem not against it, writes commentator Rod Oram.

The Spinoff catches up with five Kiwi journalists dedicated to climate change, about the challenges and rewards of covering this massive story. The Spinoff also talks to Z Energy CEO Mike Bennetts to find out why NZ’s largest petrol retailer is paying to promote Al Gore’s climate change movie An Inconvenient Sequel.

Power prices

Both input and output prices for electricity and gas supply rose in the June quarter (up 8.5 percent and 6.9 percent respectively). These increases were influenced by higher prices for electricity generation, partly arising from a dry winter, reports Statistics NZ.

Transport

Multimillion-dollar benefits are expected to flow from the creation of an electric vehicle (EV) charging network around the East Cape, reports the Gisborne Herald. Transport lobby group Greater Auckland has produced a proposal to create a rapid rail network linking Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

These pros and cons of electric vehicle ownership in NZ are contained in a document just published by the Productivity Commission. NZ policy-makers should start thinking now about what a really ambitious future strategy for electric cars might look like, says The Press

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems allow electric cars to discharge electricity back into the grid, and a year-long trial in Denmark is showing how owners can use that ability to generate cash. 

Uber wants to introduce flying cars and is looking at Sydney and Melbourne as potential candidates for the Jetsons-style project.