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Using the sun to film the sun and global warming goes into overdrive

Solar eclipse photograph by Ojo Bala, EPA

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

A total solar eclipse this week, best seen from Indonesia, was broadcast worldwide via live stream by Panasonic using only solar energy. In other words, using the sun to film the sun. 

Plunging oil prices have forced New Zealand Oil & Gas to shed workers, prune its board and will lead to the shutdown of an offshore field four years early.

The world is on track to reach dangerous levels of global warming much sooner than expected, according to new Australian research that highlights the alarming implications of rising energy demand. Preliminary February and early March temperatures are in, show warming is going into overdrive. As of March 3, it appears that average temperatures across the northern hemisphere breached 2°C above pre-industrial levels for the first time in recorded history, and probably the first time since human civilisation began thousands of years ago. Climate change doubters may have lost one of their key talking points: a particular satellite temperature dataset that had seemed to show no warming for the past 18 years. The Remote Sensing System temperature data now shows a slight warming since 1998. Ground temperature measurements, which many scientists call more accurate, all show warming in the past 18 years. 

Climate change would cost the Pacific nearly 72 billion US dollars if issues are not addressed appropriately, according to Papua New Guinea's Climate Change and Development Authority acting director. The professional body of NZ doctors has come out with its strongest statement yet on climate change, saying it “unequivocally acknowledges” it as a threat to health and equity in New Zealand and that GPs will be among the first to deal with the expected impacts. A drilling project in the South Island’s Lake Ohau has revealed climate data going back 18,000 years.

Here are three ways solar is taking to the sky - airports, planes and drones. South Africa has unveiled the continent's first solar-powered airport. Located halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, George Airport will meet 41% of its energy demand from a brand new 200 square meter solar power plant built on its grounds. Climate-damaging emissions from aviation will continue to rise despite the best efforts of the airline industry to make air travel sustainable, a new study co-authored by a University of Otago researcher suggests.

China aims to keep energy consumption within five billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent by 2020, marking the first time the world's second-biggest economy has set such a target. The solar and wind energy capacity increased by 74% and 34%, respectively, in 2015, while coal consumption dropped by 3.7%. Denmark aims to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and 100 percent renewable energy in all sectors by 2050. And a parliamentary committee in Sweden has created a proposal outlining how the nation could be carbon neutral by 2045.

Fossil fuel millionaires collectively pumped more than $100m into US Republican presidential contenders’ efforts last year in an unprecedented investment by the oil and gas industry in the party’s future. Three of Nevada’s largest casino companies have announced plans to buy and produce more renewable energy for their hotels, a move driven both by increasing demand for responsible energy use from the companies that rent their conference halls, and a surplus of cheap power from solar farms. A new record for silicon-based PV module recycling has been achieved in Europe.

More than half a million plug-in electric vehicles were delivered to buyers globally in 2015 which was an increase of roughly 70% on 2014 figures. Nissan has shared its vision of an electric future at the Geneva Motor Show, and there are no cables in sight. Instead, we’ll be using a mix of solar panels, wireless EV chargers and autonomous driving to charge your car - and your home as well. Meanwhile many fleet managers wanting to buy more electric vehicles have been left without an affordable option after Nissan pulled its Nissan Leaf electric car from the New Zealand market in November, says Drive Electric. Toyota will reveal its newest concept car, a roadster called Setsuna, at the Milan Design Week. This reveal comes with a twist – the electric car is made of wood.

A Dutch team has developed a prototype for a new electric bike that charges itself using solar cells on its front wheel, so you’ll never need to plug it in. And a team of architects and researchers in the US has designed a 3D printed house and car that generate, store and wirelessly share energy with each other.