Solar surges in the US, city mayors unite on climate action

Hamilton law student Sarah Thompson is suing the NZ government over what she claims are its inadequate greenhouse emission targets. Photo: Greenpeace

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 energy continues to be the fastest growing energy source for US electricity, and now accounts for 2.2 per cent of the country’s generation. There are some days when California can’t use all the solar power it generates. This highlights the sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power, reports the LA Times.

Shares of solar companies soared last week after US President Donald Trump broached the subject of placing solar-power panels on his proposed wall along the Mexican border. Building a massive solar wall bordering Mexico wouldn’t be easy and makes little economic sense, say solar experts.

A solar project run by a city in Canada has caught the attention of the mining industry as an innovative method of re-purposing old mining sites and generating revenue, even if the land is contaminated. Jamaica has commissioned its first large scale solar plant which will power up to 20,000 homes. Even though Iceland already has a 100% renewable electricity supply and receives minimal sun during the winter, the country is finding ways to use solar power. 

India’s growing solar industry is predicted to create 238,000 jobs over the next five years. In addition to the development of large-scale solar projects and rooftop solar power systems on its rail stations, Indian Railways is now planning to install solar panels on top of its trains.

Renewables and fossil fuels

The Make Power Clean campaign, launched in Europe this week, aims to promote a European electricity market designed to deliver cleaner electricity across the region. The new French government is going to stop granting licences for new oil and gas exploration.

As the White House kicked off “Energy Week,” in the US, Bloomberg looks at how energy markets, in particular coal, crude oil and natural gas, are faring so far this year — and how the Trump administration stands to change them. A bipartisan group of mayors from across the US has unanimously backed an ambitious commitment for US cities to run entirely on renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2035. Wind and solar energy are replacing gas-fired electricity generation in Texas. The switch to clean energy means the price of grid power has been cut by 55% in the past five years.

The Chinese province of Qinghai, with a population of 5.8 million, has run entirely on renewable energy for seven days in a row as part of a test to show if the electricity grid can cope without fossil fuels. The world’s first floating wind farm will soon be generating power off the coast of Scotland.

The NZ government released its strategy for the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy over the next five years.

Climate change

Mayors of more than 7,400 cities across the world have vowed that Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord will spur greater local efforts to combat climate change.

Hamilton law student Sarah Thomson took the NZ government to court this week over what she claims are its inadequate greenhouse emission targets. The outcome of the hearing is expected in about two months. A team of University of Waikato academics has launched a new research project that will engage with a wide range of New Zealanders about how we can all better prepare for the future impacts of climate change.

Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change is still just about possible, but will require unprecedented effort and coordination from governments, businesses, citizens and scientists in the next three years, a group of prominent experts has warned. Scientists are concerned that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are rising while emissions have stabilised.

Kiwi scientists are soon to lead one of the most ambitious projects ever attempted in Antarctica: probing the Spain-sized Ross Ice Shelf to better understand how the frozen behemoth will respond to a warming world.

Power prices

'Spot' power prices, paid by wholesale customers, look set to keep rising this winter as hydro lake levels drop across the South Island, reports the Timaru Herald.


The NZ government announced new measures to support the uptake of electric vehicles and improve energy efficiency. The decision to de-electrify KiwiRail will more than negate all the emissions reductions from all the electrical vehicles in New Zealand, says a renewable energy expert.

A survey of European and North American electric vehicle owners reveals 28-40% also have solar panels on their homes so they are essentially “fueling” their electric cars with sunshine, reports Clean Technica.

From the late 90's through the mid-2000's, the Hummer and its offspring were poster children for gas-guzzling luxury. Now a US Hummer factory is getting turned into one that makes electric cars.

A solar electric catamaran, designed by Dutch company Soel Yachts and built in New Zealand, was launched in Auckland last week.

Are shuttles, travelling in low pressurised vacuumed tubes, the future of public transport? Clean Technica looks at two projects under development - the hyper chariot and the hyperloop.