Solar power is a lifesaver, new NZ govt signals clean energy growth

Tesla has installed solar panels and battery storage to restore power to the children’s hospital in Puerto Rico. Image supplied by Tesla.

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 power is quickly becoming a literal lifesaver in Puerto Rico. After their devastating hurricane, many people inside the solar industry are sending panels and batteries to help get the island back to full speed. That includes a solar panel installation and battery storage project installed by Tesla at the children’s hospital.

Egypt’s fledgling solar industry has attracted $1.8 billion of investment in 29 solar projectsSaudi Arabia has announced a US$500 billion investment for an industrial and business zone spanning 26,000 square km over three countries, to be fully powered by solar energy and wind power. Singapore has announced a plan to install photovoltaic panels wherever it can, including at sea. And in the Netherlands  solar energy will soon be used to make snow at massive indoor facility.

Researchers in Switzerland have developed a new form of molded roofing capable of harvesting solar power. The design is expected to help a residential building produce more energy than it uses up. The wings of a butterfly have inspired a new type of solar cell that can harvest light twice as efficiently as before and could one day improve our solar panels, reports The Verge.

Climate change

Climate change action has emerged as a winner in deals just signed between Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First. The parties have agreed to introduce a new Zero Carbon Act and launch a new independent Climate Commission. The new government's target of 100% renewable electricity target by 2035 is largely achievable, according to analyst John Kidd. He says energy decentralisation is shaping as the dominant energy sector macro theme of the next two decades. The Labour and Green Parties have said in their governing agreement that solar panels on schools will be investigated. It's estimated that installing solar on the country’s 2500 schools could cut their power bills by $20 million a year.  And the head of South Canterbury's lines company predicts an increase in residential and commercial solar due to the 100% clean energy target.

A report looking at the impact climate change will have on Kiwis warns a warmer world will bring heat waves, diseases, water contamination and air pollution. Several degrees of warming this century could also have alarming implications for our mental health and social inequality - hitting Maori particularly, says New Zealand's leading body for science, Royal Society Te Aparangi. 

A global citizen science project has handed scientists fresh insights into how climate change might affect ocean species and their ecosystems. The Herald’s Jamie Morton looks at the effect rising sea levels are already having on parts of New Zealand and what may happen in the future.

Power prices

NZ electricity costs are creeping up to the second highest level in 13 years.

The Labour/NZ First coalition deal included plans for a full review of retail power pricing, although no further details have yet emerged.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Twelve major cities, including Auckland, have committed to buy only zero-emissions buses from 2025 and to make major areas free of fossil fuel emissions by 2030 to protect the environment, reports Reuters.

Auckland lines company Vector is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2030, says its CEO Simon Mackenzie.

Jacinda Ardern has signalled this year may be the last a block offer is made for petroleum exploration.

Even in the age of coal enthusiast President Donald Trump, clean-energy developers are finding plenty of interest in wind and solar power from businesses with sustainability targets, especially technology companies, reports Bloomberg.

Pollution around the globe now contributes to an estimated 9 million deaths annually - or roughly one in six - according to an in-depth new study published in the Lancet.

Electric vehicles

China’s electric vehicle production could touch 1 million units next year and 3 million units by 2020, reports Reuters.

Electric cars emit significantly less greenhouse gases over their lifetimes than diesel engines even when they are powered by the most carbon intensive energy, a new report from Belgium has found.

Nissan has revealed a completely artificial sound that will be played by its electric cars when driving so as to alert people of their presence.