Renewable electricity provided just shy of 100% of California’s electricity demand on Saturday, a record-breaker, officials said, much of it from large amounts of solar power now produced along Interstate 10, an hour east of the Coachella Valley.
Environmentalists over the weekend celebrated as an official online supply tracker surged to 101%, but a power official said late Monday that they had doublechecked the data, and adjusted it slightly due to battery charging and reserves and other resource needs.
While partygoers celebrated in the blazing sunshine at the Stagecoach music festival, energy demand statewide hit 18,672 megawatts at 2:45 p.m., “and at 2:50, we reached 99.87% of load served by all renewables, which broke the previous record … of 97.58%,” said Anna Gonzales, spokeswoman for California Independent System Operator, or CAISO, a nonprofit that oversees the state’s bulk electric power system and transmission lines.
An astonishing 82% decrease in the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy since 2010 has given the world a fighting chance to build a zero-emissions energy system which might be less costly than the fossil-fuelled system it replaces. The International Energy Agency projects that PV solar generating capacity must grow ten-fold by 2040 if we are to meet the dual tasks of alleviating global poverty and constraining warming to well below 2°C.
Critical challenges remain. Solar is “intermittent”, since sunshine varies during the day and across seasons, so energy must be stored for when the sun doesn’t shine. Policy must also be designed to ensure solar energy reaches the furthest corners of the world and places where it is most needed. And there will be inevitable trade-offs between solar energy and other uses for the same land, including conservation and biodiversity, agriculture and food systems, and community and indigenous uses.
Colleagues and I have now published in the journal Nature the first global inventory of large solar energy generating facilities. “Large” in this case refers to facilities that generate at least 10 kilowatts when the sun is at its peak. (A typical small residential rooftop installation has a capacity of around 5 kilowatts).
Solar Water Solutions (SWS), a Finnish water technology company, has come as close as anyone to being able to offer the world essentially unlimited fresh water through its unique, zero-emissions, zero-running cost, and non-polluting desalination technology.
Now it’s being deployed, thanks to backing from the Dutch group Climate Fund Managers, in Kitui County, Kenya as part of a long-term goal to provide water for 400,000 rural Kenyans by 2023.
SWS has packed up their desalination plant into a shipping container, making it easy and efficient to ship 200 units to the shores of Kitui, where the technology will convert between 4,000 and 7,000 liters per hour from seawater, or 10,000 liters per hour from brackish water, powered entire by solar panels.
When Aptera debuted plans for their electric vehicle in 2007 the solar panels were only powerful enough for climate control, but now, 14 years later, Aptera’s 3-wheeled rig relies on just the sun for most of its charging needs.
To achieve this “never charge” status, they created a hyper-efficient vehicle and added 700 watts of solar power, capable of covering most commuting needs just on the solar, bringing the car’s range to 1,000 miles of autonomy on a full charge.
“It starts with a math equation,” explains Aptera co-founder Chris Anthony, “which means first aerodynamics, because what you don’t realize is that with a typical sedan you use 60% of your fuel just pushing air out of the way…”
“Then, if you couple it with an electric power train which gets much more power to the wheels versus an internal combustion engine, and then if you make it lightweight you decrease rolling resistance and other things and you end up with a math equation that is very, very efficient. And when you’re very efficient you can do things like put solar panels on your vehicle to charge your vehicle with a reasonable amount of range.”
China is Germany’s largest trading partner, leaving Germany exposed.