NZ’s solar & battery revolution, Arctic warms as Europe freezes

The world's largest solar park under development in Egypt. Credit: Egypt Independent

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

Our CEO, Andrew Booth, talks to Idealog about New Zealand’s solar and battery revolution and the benefits of switching to clean energy. The residential solar market in NZ has grown by about 240% over the past three years. In January 2015 there were 4,796 small scale solar connections in New Zealand. By the end of Jan 2018 there were 16,435 residential solar installations, according to the Electricity Authority.

The first phase of the world’s largest solar park in India started generating power this week. The Pavagada Solar Park is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Meanwhile, Egypt is constructing what it says will take the the title of world’s largest solar park. The Benban Solar Park is expected to be producing 20% of the country's power by 2020. And Tesla has finally started construction on what could become the world’s largest solar rooftop array at Gigafactory 1 in Nevada where it produces battery cells with Panasonic and energy storage products.

The US could reliably meet about 80 percent of its electricity demand with solar and wind power generation, according to a new report. And scientists are looking to combine silicon and perovskite to create the next generation of solar cells.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Auckland, Wellington and Kapiti have been singled out in a global report highlighting 100 towns and cities whose electricity was at least 70 per cent sourced from renewable energy. 

There is sufficient consented generation available to ensure a reliable electricity supply until at least 2027 – assuming the industry continues to rely on thermal generation, says Transpower. Greenpeace is calling on the new Government to discount gas expansion and to use the Regional Development Fund to back up its promises of a just transition to clean energy. 

New Zealand could slash its greenhouse gas emissions by kick-starting a major biofuels industry, a new Government-funded investigation has found.

The European Union can boost the share of renewables to one third of its energy mix by 2030, says the International Renewable Energy Agency. Millions of heavily polluting vehicles could eventually disappear from roads across Germany after its top administrative court ruled that cities have the right to ban diesel motors in an effort to improve deadly air quality levels. And Rome plans to ban diesel cars from the centre by 2024.

Climate change

An alarming heatwave in the sunless winter Arctic is causing blizzards in Europe and forcing scientists to reconsider even their most pessimistic forecasts of climate change. And in NZ a "trifecta" of forces combined to make this summer what will be our hottest ever - and experts say the influence of climate change now can't be ignored.

NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions may have risen more slowly than general economic growth over the past 25 years, but our emissions have still increased by 24%

Climate change and overfishing could push Antartica's king penguin populations to the brink of extinction by the end of the century, a new study shows.

Two young Kiwi entrepreneurs have responded to Donald Trump's decision to withdraw America from the Paris climate agreement by releasing silicone ice cube trays moulded in the exact shape of the 45th President's head.

Power prices

Dry weather in the South Island and wet weather in the North Island has had an impact on the profits of four of the main electricity generating companies.

Electric vehicles

Researchers have claimed a breakthrough in energy storage technology that could enable electric cars to be driven as far as petrol and diesel vehicles, and recharge in minutes rather than hours.

China will make manufacturers of electric vehicles responsible for setting up facilities to collect and recycle spent batteries, as part of its efforts to tackle mounting waste in the sector, reports Reuters

Porsche expects to release its first electric sports car, the Mission E, in 2019. Meanwhile a Dutch firm is converting old Porsche 911s into electric cars.

Led by Norway, Europe is beginning to electrify its coastal vessels – but the task of greening the high seas fleet is far more daunting, reports Yale Environment 360.