Why This Part of Coal Country Loves Solar Power – James Higdon June 18, 2017

Whitley County sits atop a seam of coal crucial to making solar panels and smart phones. So why isn’t the mine open?

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WILLLIAMSBURG, Kentucky—The first few months of 2017 haven’t been especially kind to the coal miners of Kentucky. Eighty-eight of them lost their jobs when a single company, Mountainside Coal, laid off its entire work force.

Deb Moses was one of them. “I volunteered for the layoff because somebody had to go,” she told POLITICO Magazine. “I was the one that could handle it because I didn’t have a mortgage.”

Whitley County, in the Appalachian foothills, was one of the hardest-hit counties in a state that saw an overall loss of 216 coal jobs during the first quarter, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. In a region where coal still dominates a sagging economy, even small fluctuations like this are parsed for signs of larger trends.

But there is a surprising amount of optimism in Appalachia these days. The recent job losses weren’t nearly as painful as the relentless declines the industry has felt over the past six years, which in itself was a kind of good news. Then, six days after I spoke to Moses in Whitley County, President Donald Trump announced that he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, honoring a campaign pledge to revive the coal industry by removing the yoke of environmental regulations. The announcement, met largely with anger and frustration in America’s coastal cities, was cheered in this part of Kentucky.

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How California Utilities Are Managing Excess Solar Power – By  Cassandra Sweet March 4, 2017 7:00 a.m. ET

‘Virtual power plants’ would store renewable energy in batteries by day and redistribute it when demand surges after sunset

As California ramps up renewable energy, utility companies are looking to batteries to solve a supply-demand mismatch, storing excess solar power and feeding it as needed to the grid. Here, a solar farm and wind turbines in Palm Springs Calif.

As California ramps up renewable energy, utility companies are looking to batteries to solve a supply-demand mismatch, storing excess solar power and feeding it as needed to the grid. Here, a solar farm and wind turbines in Palm Springs Calif. Photo: Moment Editorial/Getty Images

California utilities including PG&E Corp., Edison International and Sempra Energyare testing new ways to network solar panels, battery storage, two-way communication devices and software to create “virtual power plants” that manage green power and feed it into the power grid as needed.

The Golden State is ramping up renewable energy as it pledges to be a bulwark against the Trump administration’s pro-fossil fuel policies. But first, it has to figure out what to do with all the excess power it generates when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.

California’s solar farms create so much power during daylight hours that they often drive real-time wholesale prices in the state to zero. Meanwhile, the need for electricity can spike after sunset, sometimes sending real-time prices as high as $1,000 a megawatt-hour.

Utility companies are looking to correct that supply-demand mismatch and ease the strain on the electric grid as California considers retiring its last nuclear plant in 2025 while nearly doubling the power it gets from renewable sources to 50% by 2030.

Last month, power company AES Corp. flipped the switch on a bank of 400,000 lithium-ion batteries it installed in Escondido, Calif., for Sempra Energy. Sempra’s San Diego utility plans to use the batteries, made by Samsung SDI Co. Ltd., to smooth out power flows on its grid.

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Obama to roll out new climate change measures – The White House Published on Aug 13, 2016

President Obama’s administration has unfinished business fighting climate change, which the president called “one of the most urgent challenges for our time.”

“We know that 2015 surpassed the hottest year on record – and 2016 is on pace to be even hotter,” Obama said in his weekly address. “There’s still so much more to do.

“And if we keep pushing, and leading the world in the right direction, there’s no doubt that, together, we can leave a better, cleaner, safer future for our children.”

Obama said he plans on debuting new tools for combating climate change before he leaves office.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll release a second round of fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles. We’ll take steps to meet the goal we set with Canada and Mexico to achieve 50 percent clean power across North America by 2025,” Obama said.

“And we’ll continue to protect our lands and waters so that our kids and grandkids can enjoy our most beautiful spaces for generations.”

Obama added he remains proud of his achievements battling climate change, namely the international Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’ve multiplied wind power threefold. We’ve multiplied solar power more than thirtyfold,” Obama said.

“And carbon pollution from our energy sector is at its lowest level in 25 years, even as we’re continuing to grow our economy. We’ve invested in energy efficiency, and we’re slashing carbon emissions from appliances, homes and businesses – saving families money on their energy bills.”

Obama’s potential successors diverge wildly on the threat climate change poses worldwide.

GOP nominee Donald Trump on Thursday downplayed the influence climate change has on mankind. He has previously called climate change a “hoax” pushed by China.

“I don’t believe it’s a devastating impact,” he told The Miami Herald. “[I’m] not a big believer in manmade climate change.”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, in contrast, said late last month she wholly believes scientists urging for immediate action.

“I believe climate change is real and that we could save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs,” she said at the Democratic convention in July.


New Concentrating Solar Tower Is Worth Its Salt with 24/7 Power – By Knvul Sheikh on July 14, 2016

A California firm is converting sunlight to heat and storing it in molten salt so it can supply electricity when the wind is calm or the sun isn’t shining

The 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility in Nevada is the first utility-scale concentrating solar plant that can provide electricity whenever it's needed most, even after dark.  --  Credit: SolarReserve

The 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility in Nevada is the first utility-scale concentrating solar plant that can provide electricity whenever it’s needed most, even after dark. — Credit: SolarReserve

Deep in the Nevada desert, halfway between Las Vegas and Reno, a lone white tower stands 195 meters tall, gleaming like a beacon. It is surrounded by more than 10,000 billboard-size mirrors focusing the sun’s rays on its tip. The Crescent Dunes “concentrating solar power” plant looks like some advanced communication device for aliens. But the facility’s innovation lies in the fact that it can store electricity and make it available on demand any time—day or night.

Crescent Dunes, the flagship project of Santa Monica–based firm SolarReserve, has achieved what engineers and proponents of renewable energy have struggled with for decades: providing cheap, commercial-scale, non–fossil fuel electricity even when winds are calm or the sun is not shining. The facility is touted as being the first solar power plant that can store more than 10 hours of electricity, which translates into 1,100 megawatt-hours, enough to power 75,000 homes. “We can ramp up electricity generation for utilities based on the demand. We can turn on when they want us to turn on and we can turn off when they want us to turn off,” SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith says.

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How cheap does solar power need to get before it takes over the world? – Updated by Brad Plumer on April 18, 2016, 9:40 a.m. ET

Taking over a rock is one thing. Taking over the world is something else entirely. -- - (Parinya/Shutterstock)

Taking over a rock is one thing. Taking over the world is something else entirely. — – (Parinya/Shutterstock)

It’s easy to get ridiculously excited about solar power these days. The panels keep getting cheaper and cheaper as technology improves. Large photovoltaic arrays are sprouting up around the globe. Sure, solar still produces only 1 percent of the world’s electricity, but it’s growing at double-digit rates each year.

So with all this momentum, you’d think the solar industry could kick back and celebrate, right? Domination is only a matter of time!

Well … not so fast. A provocative recent essay in Nature Energy by two solar analysts, Varun Sivaram and Shayle Kann, argues that solar still has some hard economic obstacles to overcome before it can become a major energy source and provide (let’s say) one-third of our power. Overcoming these hurdles could mean the difference between solar leveling off as a niche technology and solar taking over the world.

Thanks to a little-discussed phenomenon known as “value deflation,” the electricity generated by solar panels gets less and less valuable as more panels come online. The corollary is that over time, solar panels continuously need to get much, much cheaper if we want them to scale up significantly.

How cheap? Sivaram and Kann argue that the industry should set a goal of pushing the installed price of solar to 25 cents per watt by 2050 — down from around $3 per watt today. That’s a mind-bogglingly low number, and it could require thinking about solar innovation in a radically new way. The industry’s current approach to cutting costs might not get us there. We may need experimental new technologies. Or novel ways of integrating solar into our walls and windows. Or robot installers.

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Rural electric co-ops, traditionally bastions of coal, are getting into solar – Updated by David Roberts on February 26, 2016, 9:00 a.m. ET



In the US, rural areas and constituencies have typically weighed against progress on clean energy. But that may be changing.

A new story out of Wisconsin illustrates that a slow, tentative shift is underway, as rural electricity consumers and the utilities that serve them take a new look at the benefits of solar power.

In fact, if you squint just right, you can even glimpse a future in which rural America is at the vanguard of decarbonization. The self-reliance and local jobs enabled by renewable energy are of unique value in rural areas, and rural leaders are beginning to recognize that solar isn’t just for elitist coastal hippies any more.

To appreciate what’s happening, let’s back up a bit.

How rural America gets its power

In the early 1930s, the US was behind its wealthy European allies on rural electrification, with just over 10 percent of farms electrified, to France and Germany’s 90 percent.

Part of the problem was that private electric utilities did not think it worth the capital cost to extend power infrastructure to rural areas. When they did, they charged exorbitant rates.

As part of the New Deal, FDR created the Rural Electrification Administration, charged with electrifying rural areas. Rather than create government-owned competitors to private utilities, the REA made loans available to rural residents who wanted to band together and create consumer-owned cooperatives to serve as local utilities.

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Analysts: Solar energy is on the verge of a ‘global boom’ – HENNING GLOYSTEIN AND AARON SHELDRICK, REUTERS APR. 25, 2015, 10:19 PM

SINGAPORE/TOKYO (Reuters) – One by one, Japan is turning off the lights at the giant oil-fired power plants that propelled it to the ranks of the world’s top industrialized nations.

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Edmund Tse/flickr

With nuclear power in the doldrums after the Fukushima disaster, it’s solar energy that is becoming the alternative.

Solar power is set to become profitable in Japan as early as this quarter, according to the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (JREF), freeing it from the need for government subsidies and making it the last of the G7 economies where the technology has become economically viable.

Japan is now one of the world’s four largest markets for solar panels and a large number of power plants are coming onstream, including two giant arrays over water in Kato City and a $1.1 billion solar farm being built on a salt field in Okayama, both west of Osaka.

“Solar has come of age in Japan and from now on will be replacing imported uranium and fossil fuels,” said Tomas Kåberger, executive board chairman of JREF.

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Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/solar-energy-is-on-the-verge-of-a-global-boom-2015-4#ixzz3YPfuGhr3