25% of Australian Homes have gone Solar and other Green Triumphs this Week

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Renewables continue to take the world by storm, which is good news for the climate.

Because of less expensive and more efficient technology, about one quarter of all Australian households now have solar panels. This process is uneven, with a rush to put them up recently because of a fall in the price of the panels. The adoption of solar may slow next year. But the technology is such that there will certainly be more periods of rapid adoption. Before you know it, all Australian homes will be run on solar power. Incidentally, if you run an electric car off the solar panels, it causes the payback period to fall for both. Even OPEC and big oil have vastly increased their estimate of the number of electric vehicles on the road in 2040.

Case Western Reserve University scientists have found a way to boost panel output by 10%, and the breakthrough is now being tested for durability. If you follow these things, such reports of improved solar efficiency or fall in costs (which is the same thing) are quite common. The potential for technological breakthroughs is so high given the R&D money being thrown at solar research that all projections about the future are ‘way too conservative.

A new University of Minnesota study finds that solar power plus battery storage is now, in summer 2017, already cheaper than natural gas.

There will be resistance to this march to solar, but it can be overcome. Big Carbon and the utilities had bought up Florida politicians and put in punitive taxes on home solar installations. But as the cost of the panels has fallen in recent years, homeowners began really minding this punitive policy. So they got a pro-solar law on a referendum and it passed. Even governor Rick Scott, who probably gargles with gasoline, felt constrained to sign the law approved in the referendum into law. Popular insistence on cheap energy where it is available will over time undermine the hold that Big Carbon has on our politicians. It is expected that the new legislation will much increase the number of commercial solar installations; businesses with no fuel bill are better positioned to compete. And solar jobs in Florida are soaring.

Scientific and commercial expertise in solar power, of which Trump wants to rob us, will turn into large overseas contracts. An Indian firm has been hired by Japan to install 150 MW of solar-driven electricity.

I have solar panels and my average power bill over the past two months has been $15 a month.

This march to solar is heartening. The 35 billion metric tons of toxic carbon dioxide gas we are spewing into the atmosphere like an open sewer are melting the world’s ice cover and will raise sea levels. We are already locked in to some amount of rising sea level because we’ve raised the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere from 270 ppm to over 400 ppm since the Revolutionary War. Carbon Dioxide is a deadly greenhouse gas that prevents the heat striking the earth’s surface from radiating back out into space.

James Hansen, the father of contemporary climate science, worries that since half of the world’s large cities are on the seacoasts, as people flee inland there will be a good deal of social turmoil and countries could become “ungovernable.”

Climate change should be thought of as on a spectrum. We have a choice of going up by 3.6 degrees F. (2 degrees C.) or of going up by 15 degrees F., which would melt all surface ice over several centuries and make the tropics and sub-tropics uninhabitable. How hot it gets depends on how much gasoline/ petrol, natural gas and coal you and I burn, releasing CO2 into the air.


Related video:

Sustainable Energy Research Analytics – Australian large scale solar: issues to watch in 2017

12 Responses

  1. You are indeed fortunate to have a monthly bill electricity bill for just $15 a month. Over here in the UK we pay that much for a ‘standing charge’ as they call it and this has to be paid even if you don’t use any electricity at all !! For those of us who live in apartments in the cities, solar panels are not an option so when we get our extortionate bills we just have to grin and pay up.

  2. I don’t subscribe to the school of architecture whose philosophy dictates…. “form ever follows function” which leads me to say, solar panels already look outdated and clunky on the rooftop of a residence, especially among neighborhoods in which they are the exception.

    Mr Musk, on the other hand, has recently developed a clay tile and slate solar powered shingle that will be more readily accepted by the home buying public while also serving to protect the residence from the elements Take a look at this……link to bloomberg.com

    I realize this is a shallow complaint about such an important subject but in order to get the major home builders, who build the majority of our homes, to buy into solar, you will have to make solar less of a Jetson looking rooftop and more compatible with the American dream home.

  3. One possible fate for our electricity distribution is that communities will form their own power cooperatives, with some members installing an excess of solar panels in order to sell power to other members. It could mean that some of us would revert back to “farming”, little by little, as we make more and more of our living selling electricity to our neighbors. Income is going to get more complicated in a world where too few decent jobs remain unautomated. Besides electricity, people will have the ability to make a wide variety of simple items for themselves using 3-D printers, but why leave the printer sitting idle after you’ve made what you need? It sort of sounds Medieval, with a household (whether rich or poor) drawing from many different sources to survive.

  4. We also need to re-green our planet and create more urban forests. If you are ever in the Los Angeles area, I recommend visiting TreePeople. They have a beautiful park with a Drought Solutions Tour that contrasts an eco-friendly home and landscaping with an eco-devastating home and landscaping.

    They have a lot of wonderful advice about what you can do to re-green your own community. Here is their website: link to treepeople.org

  5. Is not just that the panels are now cheaper, there was always significant demand.

    Australia is approximately the size of the US (excluding Alaska) with very long transmission lines from the generators located closer to the large cities where most people live. The solar transformation in Oz is not just in urban areas but also on the rural fringes where electricity users have to pay the cost of connection, that includes the power poles and any other infrastructure. This can be quite (prohibitively) high. Developers also face this cost. Some newer subdivisions build houses at the outset with solar panels connected to a central subdivision based power system with storage so that the subdivision does not need a large connection (with ancillary infrastructure) to the grid. Thus lowering costs for the developer.

    Also, the power in country areas (and at city fringes) can be cut off during extreme fire danger periods. So there has been a very high incentive for people to have independent sources of power.

    The feed in tariffs of the past were generous enough that some state governments had to curtail them because they become over subscribed.

    And, a recent report indicates that it is gas generators using the system (by “starving” the system of supply in a manner reminiscent of Enron) that has contributed to the higher prices. This, in addition to the export commitments of the major gas suppliers which has created a domestic gas shortage.

    Also, every time the price of electricity goes up, more people switch to solar, this lowers the profit margins of the fossil generators who in response put prices up on their remaining customers.

    IN SPITE of all this, the aptly named Coalition Govt continues to advocate for and subsidies coal and gas (a large funder of the party). Fracking in sensitive agricultural areas is heavily promoted as THE solution. This is a big issue to the farming communities as Australia is famous for having a surplus of dry areas. Don’t mess with the water.

    One thing that has happened to some extent is that significant numbers of traditionally conservative voters now have solar systems. Any attempt to dismiss solar as the plaything of rich urban hippies is pointless. Even green hating conservatives who liked to play the politics of identity game are shown up as hypocrites. Malcolm “I love coal” Turnbull, the PM, has panels on his roof.

    The Govt recently commissioned a report (The FInkel Review) which they are trying to ignore. Having written the terms of reference it still came out in strong support of renewable energy. In response, several of the larger states are essentially bypassing the Federal Govt and implementing the recommendations of this report.

    And now, trials are being conducted where you can sell your own surplus power to anybody via a blockchain or cryptocurrency system.

  6. I live in Australia and have had solar panels on my roof for 6 years – As I signed up when there was a 40cent rebate for every kilowatt generated, I used to get a rebate of around $20 a month. However the utility, not being able to void our contract , put a $93 “transmission” charge on per quarter…!

  7. only a matter of time before we too have a charge applied for just being connected to the grid.

    Australia also has plan to open the world’s largest coalmine in N.S.W.

  8. We also need to consider the waste stream created by, and resources needed to produce PV panels when assuming this is a green victory.

    • Environmentalists have to prioritize. Nothing is as bad as carbon dioxide emissions. Nothing. PV panels have valuable material in them and large scale recycling will come. But you can’t get back a third of the earth’s land mass that will go under water if you go on burning fossil fuels.

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