NZ solar generation more than doubles, the electric highway is coming

Quick facts for 2015: Energy in New Zealand report

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

Solar PV generated an estimated 33GWh of electricity in NZ last year, more than double the output of 2014. The solar generation from 2015 was about enough to supply every household in the Central Hawke’s Bay District, says the annual Energy in New Zealand report.

The argument that US solar customers are avoiding paying for the upkeep of the grid and those costs are being shifted to non-solar users is 100 percent false, says Renewable Energy World citing 16 recent studies. It says having solar on the grid is a net benefit to everyone. We agree. 

The UK’s Solar Trade Association has published its position paper on the interaction between solar and energy storage. “Solar + Storage Opportunities” covers the wide array of services that storage will increasingly provide to homeowners, the networks and to utilities in the next few years. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has set new targets for both energy storage and solar capacity in the city, of 100MWh of energy storage by 2020 and 1GW of solar capacity by 2030.

The world’s largest solar PV farm is being built in China, reports Fortune. When complete it will stretch across the equivalent of 7,000 city blocks and produce two gigawatts of energy. Falling technology costs are likely to result in a solar PV installation boom in Africa, says the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The team behind Solar Impulse, the solar powered plane that flew around the world, says it’s planning to develop and launch a solar-powered satellite that would provide affordable accessibility for Wi-Fi and GSM connections to the masses.  Over the past 10 years SolarAid has been distributing solar lights to rural communities in Africa and has helped more than 10 million people. Now it has launched its #Powerof10 campaign to raise awareness and funds as there are still almost 600 million people in Africa who lack access to electricity.

In the first US Presidential debate candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could not have made their differing opinions on solar and climate change clearer, reports PV Tech.

Energy efficiency

It’s World Green Building week and Stuff profiles two homes that rate high on sustainability and energy efficiency and both use forms of solar energy. The first home uses about 10 kwh of power a day, less than half the 22kwh used by the average family home, due to its design and insulation. And the second home is officially the greenest renovation project in New Zealand.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Governments that permit or profit from the expansion of the fossil fuel industry are like people selling cigarettes in a cancer ward, says a US think tank Oil Change International. Forty-nine per cent of chief executive respondents to a Herald survey say New Zealand is not doing enough to transition to a low-carbon future. There was a clear sense that little would happen without setting firm targets such as 100 per cent of electricity generation from renewables by 2030.

South Africa shows how quick an energy transition can be. In four years, with coal and nuclear power stations on hold, South Africa’s renewable energy programme has nearly 100 plants in development. Energy Transition takes an in-depth look. The number of active participants in the U.K. energy market is forecast to grow to 24 million by 2050 as Europe’s "energy citizens" mobilise on the back of cheaper and more distributed power, says the European Renewable Energies Foundation.

A new study from researchers at Stanford University says a 4.8 magnitude earthquake recorded in East Texas in 2012 was triggered by the injection of large volumes of wastewater from oil and gas activities into rocks deep beneath the surface.

An Australian island, off the coast of Perth, will soon host the world’s first renewable energy microgrid that integrates wave energy, solar PV and energy storage technologies. Severe storms and thousands of lightning strikes knocked out power to the entire state of South Australia leading to port closures and commuter chaos. ABC reviews what happened.

Climate change

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change appears likely to enter into force with India announcing that it has ratified the agreement and the EU signalling it may ratify within the next few days, reports AP

The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said at a University of Oxford conference on how to achieve the 1.5 degree goal. The longest continuous reconstruction of the Earth's surface climate suggests that current greenhouse gas levels could commit the planet to as much as 7 degrees of warming in the next 1000 years. Global warming could rapidly threaten grasses including staple foods such as wheat and rice that provide half of all the calories consumed by humans, say scientists.

The aviation industry is supporting a United Nations proposal to limit pollution from international flights. Companies would compensate for any emissions growth after the accord begins in 2020 by buying credits that back renewable energy development, forest preservation or other environmental endeavours. New Zealand will support the international agreement provided other developed countries and the majority of major aviation states also agree to do so, says Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

Electric vehicles

BMW New Zealand and Charge Net will establish an ‘electric highway’ of 100 DC-fast-charging stations that will enable a pure-EV to drive all the way from Kaitaia to Invercargill. Charge Net already operates 20 such stations; the next 80 will be completed by the end of next year. Electric car prototypes and plans are set to dominate the Paris auto show, this week, as the Volkswagen diesel scandal and falling battery costs persuade executives and investors that plug-in vehicles are ready to go mainstream.

An Australian solar racing team is currently evaluating the level of interest in its prototype ‘commercial’ solar car that it plans to have completed and road registered by the second half of 2017.