Holshousers switch from raising cattle to solar panels – See more at: http://www.salisburypost.com/2015/10/31/holshousers-switch-from-raising-cattle-to-solar-panels/#sthash.NUoAm81L.dpuf

   31st Oct 2015

Monthly Archives: October 2015

Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post - Tim and Tammy Holshouser have converted 20 acres of land in the Gold Hill area into a solar farm. It's projected to be the second solar farm to be fully operational in Rowan County. - See more at: http://www.salisburypost.com/2015/10/31/holshousers-switch-from-raising-cattle-to-solar-panels/#sthash.NUoAm81L.dpuf

GOLD HILL — Tim and Tammy Holshouser are preparing to grow a new kind of crop on land once used to raise cattle.

Starting in November, the Holshousers will use 21.85 acres of land near their southeastern Rowan home to produce electricity. They’ll be the owners of Rowan County’s second solar farm. The Holshouser’s solar farm is slightly larger than one west of Rockwell on N.C. 152. Two more solar farms are planned for the Cleveland area.

Like other solar farms, power lines transmit electricity generated from sunlight to Duke Energy’s grid. Electricity from the Holshouser’s solar farm is then distributed to nearby houses in a circular radius.

Tim Holshouser said he was first contacted more than two years ago by Asheville-based FLS Energy about placing solar panels in Gold Hill.

“I almost just threw it in the trash can,” he said.

After a another look and a bit of reading about solar energy, Tim Holshouser said he seriously considered the company’s proposal.

“There’s just so many more pros to solar energy and using the sun for electricity,” he said.

When compared to previous method of generating electricity, such as coal, he said there’s no negative effects on the environment.

Until recently, the land was consistently used to raise cattle, Holshouser said. A number of economic factors contributed to his choice to switch to solar energy.

“Economically, you can do a lot better with solar farms,” he said. “It’s becoming harder and harder for a small-time farmer to pay taxes. Now, if you don’t make $10,000 in profit, you lose tax incentives from North Carolina.”

Tim Holshouser said he still plans to raise cattle, but not as many. If he decides to switch back to farming, he said the panels could easily be removed with relatively little effect on the surrounding property.

Construction on the solar farm started in July and is scheduled to wrap up within the next month. The 21-acre plot of land is already filled with solar panels. Tim Holshouser said the site should start generating power in mid- to late November.

When the panels start pumping out power, the farm will generate enough electricity to power a few hundred houses. The panels will generate electricity during cloudy weather at a lower rate than if its clear and sunny.

Later, once vegetation begins growing around the panels, sheep will be used to keep grass low, said FLS Energy Policy and Public Affairs Director Frank Marshall.

Compared to cattle farming, there’s little to no maintenance required, Tim Holshouser said.

“It’s a new type of farming and I see it really taking off,” he said. “What better way to produce energy than with the sun.”

Solar farms have already taken off around North Carolina.

A 2015 report from Duke University ranks the state as fourth in the nation for solar energy capacity. California, Arizona and New Jersey place above North Carolina for installed solar capacity. Duke University’s report found more than 450 companies are involved in the state’s solar energy industry.

Solar energy has resulted in $2 billion worth of direct investment in the state.

Marshall said North Carolina’s solar energy boom is attributed to a requirement that Duke Energy purchases a certain amount of its electricity from renewable sources and a state investment tax credit.

Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce, who attended a recent luncheon and tour of the solar farm, said he views the projects as a positive for tax revenue. It helps farmers pay taxes on land where they might not previously have generated any revenue, Pierce said.

– See more at: http://www.salisburypost.com/2015/10/31/holshousers-switch-from-raising-cattle-to-solar-panels/#sthash.NUoAm81L.dpuf

Article By: Josh Bergeron

Article Via: http://www.salisburypost.com/2015/10/31/holshousers-switch-from-raising-cattle-to-solar-panels/

Solar is all the rage… well, maybe not yet, but based on the growing number of solar-powered objects out there, it will be soon. From chargers to cars to bridges, here are some of today’s and tomorrow’s coolest solar-powered gadgets. Sadly, you can’t buy them all — Blackfriars Bridge in London is probably out of most people’s price range — but they can still be marveled at as they light up the world with renewable energy.

1. Solar Shingles

Instead of installing bulky solar panels on a house, green-minded homeowners can go for the more sleek look of Dow Powerhouse’s solar shingles, which are miniature panels containing photovoltaic cells. The shingles lie flat just like regular shingles, and provide the same weather protection while also generating energy. In fact, Scientific American writes that depending on the brand of shingle, homeowners could save 40 to 70 percent on their electric bills according to Dow.

Image via DOW POWERHOUSE

2. Solar-Powered Bike Locks

The Skylock is one of the most futuristic-looking bike locks out there. It actually has a built-in solar panel that, according to the company, will provide enough power for a week after just one hour of charging. The Skylock uses Bluetooth technology so owners can unlock their bikes using a smartphone; it also has a whole bunch of security features that can alert people if their bike is being tampered with or alert the authorities if you get into an accident.

Image via Skylock

3. WakaWaka Power

Feeling guilty about owning a high-tech phone that was probably built in a sweatshop? Get a solar charger! The WakaWaka charger requires 12 hours in the sun to build up a full charge, but once it’s juiced, it can power three MP3 players, 1.3 smartphones and one e-reader. It reportedly can charge an iPhone 5S in just two hours, and is made of high impact-resistant plastic. The company also donates one of its solar-powered lights for every lamp or charger that is purchased, so you can make a difference to others while getting yourself a cool new charger.

Image via Twitter/WakaWakaLight

4. Organic Transit ELF

Called a velomobile by some and a “big white egg” by others, the ELF is one of the most daringly weird offerings out there. Essentially a cross between a stripped-down electric car and a bicycle, this three-wheeled vehicle boasts a 100-Watt solar panel on its roof, an aluminum alloy frame, headlights, taillights, break lights, turn signals, and a gasoline equivalent of 1,800 miles per gallon. Its electric speed is about 20 miles per hour, and it can go over 15 miles on a charge, which can be achieved either by plugging it in or putting its solar panels to work — and even if its power is completely drained, you can always pedal it.

Image via Organic Transit

5. London’s Blackfriars Bridge

Although technically too big to be considered a “gadget,” Blackfriars Bridge is now officially a solar-powered structure; in fact, it’s the world’s largest solar bridge, according to Solarcentury. After being fitted with 4,400 photovoltaic panels, Blackfriars Bridge is expected to reduce the CO2 emissions of Blackfriars Station by about 563 tons per year. CNN reports that on a sunny day, the bridge can generate as much as a megawatt of electricity.

Image via Flickr/

6. Solar Backpacks

There are actually a few companies making solar backpacks these days, including BirkSun andEclipse. Even though they might not be the most stylish of accessories, they pack quite a wallop when it comes to technology; thin-film solar modules are attached to the outside of the backpacks, which provide power in the range of about 4 Watts. Charge phones, tablets, cameras and more while simply walking around in the sun — and while they might look a little dorky, you can actually carry a lot of stuff in these packs.

Image via Birksun

7. Solio Charger

Solio’s petal-shaped charger powers phones, tablets and more, with its multiple panels allowing for multiple devices to charge. It connects with a regular USB charging cable and can hold a charge for up to a year, says the company. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can also stick a pencil in it!

Image via Solio

8. Solar-Powered Cars

Among the new concepts for solar cars is the Ford C-Max Solar Energi concept, which sports roof-top solar panels that contain a special “solar concentrator lens” that Ford says will work like a magnifying glass to concentrate solar power and provide hybrid plug-in benefits without needing to plug in. The Stanford Solar Car Project, begun in 1989, produces even more futuristic vehicles, although none of them are commercially available… but if the solar car trend catches on, these bad boys might be cruising the streets someday.

Image via Stanford Solar Project

9. Sonic Bloom

Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is home to a Dr. Seuss-ian exhibit called Sonic Bloom: five 33-foot flowers with solar panels on top. According to the Seattle Times, the flowers hum when visitors approach and use the daylight to suck up energy that makes them glow at night using changing patterns of small LED lights. The exhibit is intended to inspire people to think about solar energy and renewable resources. What could be more inspiring than giant, singing flowers?

Image via Flickr/

10. Solar-Powered Tents

Inspired by England’s Glastonbury Music Festival, design and engineering companyKaleidoscope teamed up with telecommunications company Orange to create a concept for a tent that powers mobile devices — and itself. The tent, which would feature three banks of photovoltaic cells and fit four people, was designed to soak up sun during the day and illuminate itself at night, even generating surplus energy for vendors’ carts, sound equipment, and more, says Kaleidoscope. Goal Zero has also recently announced a partnership with Edie Bauer to create a tent with enough energy to power small appliances. Even the U.S. Army has its own version: a flexible, solar-powered shade that produces 2 kilowatts of power a day. If the Army’s doing it, it must be trendy!

11. Moser Lamps

These lamps are one of the coolest gadgets because they’re also one of the simplest. Created by Brazilian mechanic Alfred Moser, these lamps are actually just plastic bottles filled with water and bleach. Yet when installed in the roof of a house, the lamps produce light with a strength of 40 to 60 watts, which is stronger than some light bulbs, according to the New York Daily News. Sunlight refracts through the bottles to make them glow like lamps, providing a cheap and renewable source of light to poor families all over the world.

Image via Facebook/Alfredo Moser

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Article Via: http://wallstreetinsanity.com/11-of-the-coolest-solar-powered-gadgets/

Where the Tides Ebb and Flow is an installation of 35 blue clone sculptures by Argentine artist Pedro Marzorati at the Park Montsouris in Paris, France. This artwork illustrates the theme of rising sea levels due to the global warming as part of the COP21 Paris conference next in December in Paris. Photograph: Chesnot/Getty Images

At least 80 world leaders, including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, David Cameron and Narendra Modi, will attend a summit tasked with agreeing a global climate pact in Paris in December.

Diplomats endorsed the outlines of the proposed deal in Bonn on Friday after five days of fraught negotiation that highlighted just how much work remains to be done in Paris.

The aim is to unite all the world’s nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change, with the goal of capping warming at 2C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

For the opening day on 30 November, “we have already received 80 confirmations, including from the presidents of the United States and China, and the Indian prime minister,” French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told journalists in Paris on Tuesday.

The leaders of Germany, South Africa, Brazil and Canada have also accepted, he said.

The last attempt at sealing a global climate pact, in 2009, saw about 110 world leaders descend on a UN summit in Copenhagen for the two final days, only to leave frustrated when the negotiations collapsed.

“Together with president Francois Hollande, we decided to invite heads of state to attend the first day and not the end as in Copenhagen,” said Fabius.

This had been partly to blame for the failure, he said, “as the negotiators were waiting for heads of state to negotiate, and the heads of state failed to resolve anything.”

This time, “the idea is to provide a political impetus at the beginning” of the conference – which will see the leaders take turn to make statements.

The French government has undertaken a global diplomatic effort to prepare the ground for the crucial talks and ensure they are a success.

The Bonn round of talks last week signed off on a much-expanded, 55-page draft for the deal. While negotiators were satisfied it reflected everyone’s views, they admitted it was unwieldy.

The document will be given to ministers and heads of state for the difficult political compromises needed to unlock an ambitious, universal climate agreement.

“In Bonn there were detailed discussions, and we now have a base of negotiations for Paris,” said Fabius.

The next step is a meeting of ministers from some 100 nations in Paris from 8-10 November.

“It will be an important occasion,” said Fabius, to “advance along the road to compromise.”

The right to alter text is reserved for bureaucrats at official negotiating sessions, which this will not be, but it is hoped the ministers will be able to start bartering on the key sticking points – and divisions run deep.

Developing countries insist rich nations should lead the way in slashing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions, arguing they started polluting earlier, and should bear a heavier duty for fixing the problem.

They also want assurances of financing to help decarbonise their economies and shore up defences against climate-induced impacts – superstorms, drought, flood and sea-level rise.

But industrialised nations balk at being saddled with a higher burden of responsibility.

They point the finger at rising carbon emissions from emerging giants such as China and India as they burn coal to power expanding populations and economies.

The much-anticipated final deal would be the first to include all the world’s nations into a single arena for climate action.

The pact will be supported by a roster of national pledges for curbing greenhouse gases, but over 150 commitments submitted to date still put Earth on track for warming of 3C, scientists say.

Article By: AFP

Article Via:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/28/world-leaders-to-attend-paris-climate-summit

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My friend Ray Kurzweil projects the U.S. will meet 100 percent of its electrical energy needs from solar in 20 years. Elon Musk is a bit more conservative, pegging it at 50 percent in that timeframe. While the growth of solar may seem slow to some, it’s fair to say it’s in the midst of its “deceptive phase,” on the road to disruption. For example, a 30 percent increase in solar energy production per year, means 1 percent today grows to 1.3 percent in 3 years. It also means that in 20 years (7 doublings), we’ll see a 128-fold increase. Either way, if Ray and Elon are even close, there is a trillion dollars up for grabs (as well as the future of our planet), and the future is bright. Let’s take a closer look at the converging technologies driving this future… The cost of solar panels is dropping exponentially. The first and most important technological change is the falling cost per watt of silicon photovoltaic cells over the past few decades. Check out the plummeting cost from $76 in 1977, to less than $0.36 today.

The International Energy Agency predicts that we will produce 662 GigaWatts of solar energy by 2035 following a $1.3 trillion investment in this area, but frankly this estimate is “highly conservative.” The second technology at play is satellite-Earth imaging, which enables companies like solar City to make rapid and accurate decisions on solar panel installations. These days, an installer can check out your rooftop on Google Earth and determine in minutes if you are a good candidate. Super-simple. Energy Storage Mechanisms Are Improving Rapidly The third key technology transforming our energy economy is battery storage. The ability to take solar energy captured during the day, and time-shift it into the night. Here to the change has been very significant, with a 50%+ reduction over the past four years, and an additional 50%+ reduction by 2020.

In addition to this ongoing cost reduction, we’re about to see a massive increase in battery production. Tesla’s Gigafactory alone will produce 35 Gigawatts worth of the batteries by 2020, more than 2013′s total global battery production capacity.

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Electric Vehicles (EVs) Tesla’s Gigafactory also supports the production of 500,000 electric vehicles per year. The rapid rise (see below) of Electric Vehicle (EV) production will play a critical role as well.

6 D’s: Tying It All Together The convergence of solar, batteries and EVs will democratize energy production and offer billions of people access to cheap, carbon-neutral energy. Looking at solar energy thru my 6 Ds paradigm of exponential technologies may offer some added insights:

  • Digitized: How we manufacture, measurem and control solar electricity has become digitized, and therefore hopped on an exponential growth path.
  • Deceptive: Today we are in the deceptive phase of solar growth. Remember, a 30% increase per year means we are only 7 doublings, or 21 years, away from a 128-fold increase.
  • Disruptive: With 5,000 times more solar hitting the Earth’s surface in a year than humanity uses today, solar has plenty of ‘head-room’ for growth. The UBS study said it well: “Our view is that the ‘we have done it like this for a century’ value chain in developed electricity markets will be turned upside down within the next 10-20 years, driven by solar and batteries.”
  • Dematerialized: a distributed, pervasive solar grid will create a far more robust and capable energy grid. Again, from the UBS report, “(Today’s) large-scale power generation, will be the dinosaur of the future energy system: Too big, too inflexible, not even relevant for backup power in the long run”.
  • Demonetized: Ultimately, energy from the Sun is free. Better yet, the poorest countries in the world are also the sunniest. Imagine a world where there is a squanderable amount of cheap and clean energy?
  • Democratized: As said above, solar scales globally, available to everyone, even in the poorest countries in the world.

It’s Time to Join the Revolution UBS continues:

“By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power. And it will be green and cost competitive, i.e., not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities. It is also the most efficient way to produce power where it is consumed, because transmission losses will be minimized. Power will no longer be something that is consumed in a ‘dumb’ way. Homes and grids will be smart, aligning the demand profile with supply from (volatile) renewables.”

UBS predicts the payback time for unsubsidized investment in electric vehicles plus battery storage plus rooftop solar will be around 6 to 8 years by 2020 (see below).

From my perspective, solar must be considered a central driver for our future economy. How will this affect your business? Industry? Life?

Article By: Peter Diamandis

Article Via: http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdiamandis/2014/09/02/solar-energy-revolution-a-massive-opportunity/

Photo By: Andie Migden

Steven Thomsen, co-founder and vice president of United Solar Initiative, discussed USI’s vision for using solar energy to provide clean water to various countries throughout Africa. USI’s recent partnership with World Vision, an international non-profit organization, has given USI this unique opportunity.

United Solar Initiative: What is your vision for United Solar Initiative, in terms of how solar energy can help others?

Steven Thomsen: Our vision at USI is to see the solar industry united in leveraging their collective resources to help bring power to people living without access to electricity. This electricity in turn can be used to pump water for communities that do not currently have a clean water source. The electricity can also provide much needed lighting to schools and hospitals in under-resourced communities throughout the world.

USI: When people in developing countries finally receive access to energy and power, what kind of physical impact does that have on them?

Thomsen: So, in terms of physical effects, if students don’t have access to solar power, they’re forced to study by the light of either a kerosene lantern or a candle, which means they’re breathing in the fumes from both of those for hours every night. That has a huge physical impact on them. Another thing is that lanterns and candles can cause a lot of burns if they get knocked over. We’ve even heard of instances where people’s houses will catch on fire from a lantern that gets knocked over. Any time you have an open flame it can be a safety hazard.

In terms of water, having a clean source in a safe location can have a huge impact, because the alternative is having to go and fetch water from somewhere else. Sometimes that has to be done at night, when it’s not safe to be out. You have to go down into a ravine to get to a river, which can be dangerous. Then you have to come back up with really heavy water, oftentimes 40 pounds of water.

I went to Ethiopia in May, and one of the ladies actually took us to this village to see where the women used to collect water, and they had to go up this really narrow rock face, probably 30 or 40 feet up. She said that several women had died in the past few years, because when women would go and get their water they would slip and fall and die. Additionally, in this little village, when you get down to the ravine to get the water, you have to go into a cave to get it. One day, the cave collapsed and trapped somebody and they died as well. It’s just risky having to get water from places like that.

USI: Is there already a well in this village for people to fetch water from?

Thomsen: It’s something that will be installed through World Vision. Instead of going to fetch water from far away, you can go nearby to a water point that’s on nice, level ground in a safe, central place in the community.

USI: Are there any other experiences youve had abroad with people from different communities that demonstrates what USI and World Vision are trying to accomplish?

Thomsen: I think one of the coolest things that happened to me in the conference from back in May was that the traditional hand pumps that are kind of ubiquitous across Africa, that most people think about where they see the kids pumping water … World Vision has traditionally installed them. But they’ve realized that in order to provide clean water on a greater scale they need a mechanized pump. So, they’ve done pumps powered by diesel generators and they’ve done pumps powered by the national power grid, but neither of those sources are very reliable. So, World Vision, one of the biggest non-profit providers of clean water in the world, kind of sees solar as the future for powering these large-scale water pumps, so it’s really exciting to be a part of USI and be on the forefront of that at a time when the global water crisis is really coming to a head. I think we as an organization are uniquely positioned to be a major player in the fight to end water scarcity.

Article: Lydia Odom

Photo: Andie Migden

Ouarzazate solar plant will create enough electricity to power a million homes once it is finished. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

World’s largest concentrated solar power plant, powered by the Saharan sun, set to help renewables provide almost half the country’s energy by 2020

The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is used to big productions. On the edge of the Sahara desert and the centre of the north African country’s “Ouallywood” film industry it has played host to big-budget location shots in Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, The Living Daylights and even Game of Thrones.

Now the trading city, nicknamed the “door of the desert”, is the centre for another blockbuster – a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco’s electricity from renewables by 2020 with, it is hoped, some spare to export to Europe. The project is a key plank in Morocco’s ambitions to use its untapped deserts to become a global solar superpower.
When the full complex is complete, it will be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world , and the first phase, called Noor 1, will go live next month. The mirror technology it uses is less widespread and more expensive than the photovoltaic panels that are now familiar on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down.

The potential for solar power from the desert has been known for decades. In the days after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 the German particle physicist Gerhard Knies, calculated that the world’s deserts receive enough energy in a few hours to provide for humanity’s power needs for a whole year. The challenge though, has been capturing that energy and transporting it to the population centres where it is required.

As engineers put the finishing touches to Noor 1, its 500,000 crescent-shaped solar mirrors glitter across the desert skyline. The 800 rows follow the sun as it tracks across the heavens, whirring quietly every few minutes as their shadows slip further east.
When they are finished, the four plants at Ouarzazate will occupy a space as big as Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, and generate 580MW of electricity, enough to power a million homes. Noor 1 itself has a generating capacity of 160MW.

Morocco’s environment minister, Hakima el-Haite, believes that solar energy could have the same impact on the region this century that oil production had in the last. But the $9bn (£6bn) project to make her country’s deserts boom was triggered by more immediate concerns, she said.

“We are not an oil producer. We import 94% of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and that has big consequences for our state budget,” el-Haite told the Guardian. “We also used to subsidise fossil fuels which have a heavy cost, so when we heard about the potential of solar energy, we thought; why not?”
Solar energy will make up a third of Morocco’s renewable energy supply by 2020, with wind and hydro taking the same share each.

“We are very proud of this project,” el-Haite said. “I think it is the most important solar plant in the world.”

Each parabolic mirror is 12 metres high and focussed on a steel pipeline carrying a ‘heat transfer solution’ (HTF) that is warmed to 393C as it snakes along the trough before coiling into a heat engine. There, it is mixed with water to create steam that turns energy-generating turbines.

The HTF is made up of a synthetic thermal oil solution that is pumped towards a heat tank containing molten sands that can store heat energy for three hours, allowing the plant to power homes into the night. The mirrors are spaced in tier formations, to minimise damage from sand blown up by desert winds.
Technicians say that the Noor 2 and 3 plants, due to open in 2017 will store energy for up to eight hours – opening the prospect of 24/7 solar energy in the Sahara, and the surrounding region.

“The biggest challenge we faced was being able to finish the project on time with the performance [level] we needed to achieve,” said Rashid al-Bayad, the project director.

But even as the first phase of the project nears completion, Morocco is eyeing grander international ambitions. “We are already involved in high tension transportation lines to cover the full south of Morocco and Mauritania as a first step,” says Ahmed Baroudi, manager of Société d’Investissements Energétiques, the national renewable energy investment firm. But he says the project’s ultimate impact will go far wider – even as far as the Middle East. “The [ultimate] objective given by his majesty the king is Mecca.”

Whether that ambition is achieved remains to be seen but exporting solar energy could have stabilising effects within and between countries, according to the Moroccan solar energy agency (Masen). Talks are ongoing with Tunisia, and energy exports northwards across the Mediterranean remain a key goal, despite the collapse in 2013 of the Desertec project, a German plan to source 15% of Europe’s energy from North African desert solar by 2050.

“We believe that it’s possible to export energy to Europe but first we would have to build the interconnectors which don’t yet exist,” said Maha el-Kadiri, a Masen spokeswoman. “Specifically, we would have to build interconnections, which would not go through the existing one in Spain, and then start exporting.”

Spain has itself prohibited new solar projects because of a lack of interconnectors to transmit the energy to France. The EU has set a target of ensuring that 10% of each member country’s power can be transported abroad by cable by 2020.

In the meantime, Morocco is focused on using solar to meet its own needs for resource independence. This could one day include water desalination, in a country that is increasingly being hit by drought as the climate warms. Officials are keenly aware of the running they are making in what is the most advanced renewable energy programme in the Middle East and North African region.

“We are at the avante-garde of solar,” el-Kadiri says.

About $9bn has been invested in the Noor complex, much of it from international institutions such as the European Investment Bank and World Bank and backed by Moroccan government guarantees. Undisclosed energy subsidies from Morocco’s unelected ruler, King Mohammed VI, have prevented the cost from being transferred to energy consumers.

One month before launch, over a thousand mostly Moroccan workers are still racing to fix electric wires, take down scaffolding and wrap rockwool insulation around steel pipelines. They bustle past in yellow and orange bibs, working 12-hour shifts against a backdrop of the Atlas mountains. Harnesses with hammers and gloves strapped to their belts swing by their sides. Ubiquitous hard hats, safety shoes and ear plugs give the scene an air of theatrical camp.

For Hajar Lakhael, a 25-year-old environment and security manager from Meknes, rehearsals are almost over and the blockbuster production is nearly ready for action.

“We’ve done the construction and now we will see how these projects look when they start,” she says. “It is exactly like the preparation for a grand performance.”

A global audience will be watching with interest.

Article By: Arthur Neslen

Article Via: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/26/morocco-poised-to-become-a-solar-superpower-with-launch-of-desert-mega-project

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The prime minister wants India to grow as fast over the next 20 years as China has over the past 20. Does that mean Chinese levels of pollution?

EVERY so often a country comes along whose economic transformation has a vast impact on the world’s climate system. For the past generation that country has been China. Next it will be India.

Given India’s size and population (1.3 billion), its emissions of carbon dioxide are in relative terms still tiny. At 1.6 tonnes of carbon per person each year, they are roughly the same as China’s per-head emissions in 1980, when that country dived into economic reforms. Now India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, wants to emulate China’s sizzling growth. He has set India a target of expanding GDP by 8% a year. If it comes close to meeting that target, emissions will soar, just as China’s have done. Today, Chinese emissions per head are four times those in India.

Government planners think that, with economic growth of 8-9%, India’s total emissions of carbon dioxide would more than triple by 2030, from 1.7 billion tonnes in 2010 to 5.3 billion tonnes. Per-head emissions would increase to 3.6 tonnes. And that assumes a fair amount of energy savings. If India were to use the same amount of energy per unit of GDP in 2030 as it does now, then emissions would top 6 billion tonnes by 2030. India is on the way to becoming the biggest contributor to increases in greenhouse gases within 15 years—a powerful reason for caring about its progress on environmental matters.

On October 1st Mr Modi’s government filed its emissions plans in advance of a UN climate conference to take place in Paris in November. Unlike most other big countries, India refused to set a date at which the absolute amount of carbon it pumps out would peak and start to fall. Instead it promised that its carbon intensity—that is, carbon emissions per unit of GDP—would fall by a third before 2030.

By setting a relative rather than an absolute target, India has come in for criticism. That is unfair, for to cap emissions would be to deny many Indians the chance to better their hard lives. The country has more poor people than anywhere else in the world: 230m living on $1.90 a day or less—the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty. Almost half of rural households, or 250m-300m people, have no electricity. For the poor, growth is essential—and carbon comes with it.

Yet to accept that is not to give up on curbing emissions. India has huge potential to change its trajectory. To put this in context, consider that plans announced by Barack Obama’s administration would cut American emissions by 26-28% by 2025, or just under 2 billion tonnes of carbon a year. By contrast, the difference between a good and a bad outcome in India over the same period, depending on whether good policies are adopted or not, would amount to almost 3 billion tonnes. In other words, India could do more good for the climate, as well as more harm, than most.

If there is reason to be optimistic, it is that the environment matters to Indians themselves. Thirteen of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities are in the subcontinent. Smoke from cooking with wood or dung in Indian homes may be responsible for 500,000 early deaths a year, mostly of women and children. Climate change could do grave harm to India. Some two-thirds of its agriculture depends on the monsoon, which may become less reliable as a result of global warming. Some Himalayan glaciers are retreating, sending less water to rivers that feed hundreds of millions of people downstream. A quarter of Indians live near coasts that are vulnerable to sea-level rises. Many countries suffer one or more of these problems. Few have all of them. So while Indians need growth, they cannot ignore the consequences of it.

Given the environmental pressures, gloom is not hard to find. Jairam Ramesh, environment minister in the previous Congress-led government, shakes his head as he reflects on the near-total local opposition to a plan to protect the Western Ghats, a mountain range that is one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions. “We are losing the battle of ideas,” he says. Although tree plantations are growing in India, old-growth forests are still shrinking. Pressure to cut down more trees will increase because most of India’s untapped coal reserves are underneath its forests. Coal accounts for more than half of India’s power generation—and India plans to double coal output by 2020.

As for water, another crucial environmental resource, for the moment India is one of the lucky large developing countries with adequate supplies. But according to a study in 2013 by two UN agencies, it will go from having 1,800 cubic metres of water per person per year in 2001 to only 1,340 cubic metres in 2025—and little more than 1,000 cubic metres per head by 2050, which is the international definition of water scarcity.

As if all that were not enough, Mr Modi came to power in 2014 vowing to sweep aside regulatory obstacles to growth (including, by implication, environmental regulations). He vowed to expand a manufacturing sector which, at 17% of GDP, is half the relative size of China’s. Factories pollute more than services do.

If India faces a trade-off between growth and greenery, then the only likely outcome is that growth wins. Yet it is not a simple swap. Rather, the government has multiple objectives, and this multiplicity makes pro-environment policies more likely to stick.

To see how, look at energy. The government has four main goals beyond increasing power to cities and industry. First, it wants to bring electricity to those without it. Total electricity production has risen sharply in recent years, but the number of people without power has fallen only slowly. Something needs to change.

Next, India wants to improve its energy security by buying less from abroad. At the moment, the country spends about half its foreign-exchange earnings on fuel imports, an unusually high share. Though the world’s third-largest coal producer, India imports a fifth of its coal because domestic mines cannot keep pace. And it imports four-fifths of its oil. That leaves the country vulnerable to oil shocks, even if right now it is a beneficiary of cheaper supplies.

Third, with 10m-12m young Indians entering the labour market each year, the country needs jobs, and factories without power are no way to create them. And lastly India needs to reform the inefficient electricity-distribution system. Blackouts and brownouts are rife, and almost all the state utilities are bankrupt.

India needs to do all these things regardless of environmental considerations. But research by the Centre for the Study of Science, Technology and Policy (C-STEP), a think-tank in Bangalore, suggests that the energy mix you get if you try to improve access, security and so on is similar to what you get if you just concentrate on cutting carbon and preventing deforestation. In other words, the trade-off between doing the right thing for the economy and the right thing for the environment is not as stark as it looks.

Again, the energy sector shows why. Given the atrocious quality of the electricity grid, the quickest way to improve energy access is to supply power away from the grid through “distributed energy”—things like solar panels on houses or a micro-grid for a particular village linked, say, to a wind turbine. Distributed energy can use various sources of power, but renewable energy is particularly suited to it. Providing villages with reliable energy would allow families to switch from burning wood and dung to electric stoves, saving many of the lives now cut short by filthy air.

Solar and wind power are domestic energy supplies, so they help conserve foreign exchange. Import substitution is usually a bad idea, because it keeps prices high and makes producers lazy. But in many parts of the country solar and wind are competitive on price. Electricity from power stations that run on imported coal costs about 6 rupees (9 cents) per kilowatt-hour. In Karnataka state, in the south, new providers of solar power are selling it for 5.5 rupees per kilowatt-hour, while wind costs about 6 rupees per kilowatt-hour. The solar business also provides jobs, typically more than from generating power through burning fossil fuels. Arunabha Ghosh of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a think-tank in Delhi, the capital, reckons that building 100 gigawatts of solar capacity would produce 1m jobs, albeit most of them short-term.

Lastly, alternative forms of energy might even help solve those problems of the grid which have their roots in India’s unwise decision to supply farmers with free electricity to pump water for irrigation. A huge lobby for subsidised power exists as a consequence, along with neglect of the electricity infrastructure, the beggaring of utility companies, which lost a staggering $300 billion in 2012, and a catastrophic overuse of water for farming. Because pumping water is in effect free, farmers are using groundwater faster than it can be replenished. In north-west India states are withdrawing up to nearly three times more water from aquifers than is being recharged by rains. The perversities of the power sector damage many parts of economy. So expanding solar and wind power could help with a range of things that have little to do with the environment but are essential for other reasons. That is the main justification for thinking greenery can take off even in a country that is trying to grow as fast as it can.

But the big questions are whether India’s environmental policies are the right ones and whether they will be overwhelmed by the demands of growth. The government’s signature policies are a huge expansion in solar and wind power, a sketchy “100 smart cities” plan to improve urban design and infrastructure, and a “clean-up India” campaign which includes everything from better waste management to building over 100m lavatories (about half of Indians defecate in the open—an environmental crisis in its own right, since it causes a panoply of diseases).

Soon after coming to office, Mr Modi promised to increase renewable energy more than fivefold by 2022. This would require doubling solar capacity every 18 months for the next seven years and cost about $100 billion. At a big conference on renewable energy earlier this year, investors said they would be happy to build all that and more, but they made financial commitments to less than a third of their proposals. Mr Modi’s plan would save perhaps 170m tonnes of carbon a year compared with adding the same amount of power using the current energy mix. At about 3% of emissions forecast for 2030, that is something, but not a huge amount.

More important are a number of actions that usually get short shrift when talking about climate policies. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California calculates that if India switched to using the most efficient air conditioners, with the least-polluting refrigerants, it would save over 300m tonnes of carbon a year compared with expanding sales of current air conditioners—twice as much as the savings from solar power. India’s programme to subsidise the replacement of 400m cheap incandescent light bulbs with dearer LED ones would save 6,000 megawatts of installed capacity—equivalent to the entire electricity-generating capacity of Nigeria.

And now they can do their homework, too

As for urbanisation, India has a “last mover” advantage. Perhaps seven-tenths of the urban infrastructure that it will need in 2030—such as roads, buildings and sewers—has yet to be built. In the meantime, India can learn from the lessons of others as they grow. Building compact cities with efficient transport systems and non-wasteful buildings would go a long way to slowing the rise of emissions.

Greenish India

So how much would all that achieve? Using varying assumptions about future policies and actions, five Indian forecasting groups predicted that emissions in 2030 could be between 3 billion tonnes and 5 billion tonnes a year, compared with a range of 4 billion tonnes to 5.5 billion tonnes on current trends. It is a significant difference, but not a huge one. According to C-STEP, the think-tank in Bangalore, it would be possible to cut emissions by a further 20-30% through more drastic actions, such as having four-fifths of lighting from LED bulbs by 2030 and sending half of all freight by rail instead of road rather than 39%, as is planned. That really might help India avoid the pattern of “grow first, clean up later”.

India has shown that it can enact reforms that have a big environmental impact. In the past two years, for example, it has removed a subsidy on diesel consumption (which subsidised carbon), and replaced subsidised liquefied natural gas with a cash payment for the poor, encouraging people to use gas less wastefully.

India’s emissions are still too modest for it to rival China anytime soon. Modest, too, are its manufacturing sector and middle class, both big polluters. As always, India will go its own sweet way. But it could do more to make that way greener.

Article By:

Article Via: http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21672359-prime-minister-wants-india-grow-fast-over-next-20-years-china-has-over-past-20

The Utah Public Service Commission has approved a new program that will allow customers to subscribe to some or all of their electricity from solar power. The subscriber program gives customers a choice to get their power from solar if they want.

SALT LAKE CITY — The largest electric utility is launching a new sustainable energy program aimed at meeting the growing demand for alternative sources of power.

Rocky Mountain Power announced Friday that the Utah Public Service Commission has approved a pilot program that allows customers to sign up to receive some or all of their electricity from solar power. The utility had sought approval from the state in June to launch the new subscriber solar program, which would give customers the choice to get their electricity from a planned solar generation facility to be located in central or southern Utah, said Gary Hoogeveen, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for Rocky Mountain Power.

The utility is in final negotiations with a developer to build a 20-megawatt solar farm, which is scheduled to be completed and operational by late 2016, Hoogeveen said.

Participating customers will be able to subscribe in 200-kilowatt hour blocks up to their total usage. The facility will provide a total of 20,000 blocks. If demand exceeds the initial production estimates, then another phase could be developed, he said.

“The average home uses 750-800 kilowatts hours (monthly), so if they bought four blocks, they could essentially use solar power for their entire home,” he said.

Residential customers will receive a “locked-in” generation rate of 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour, plus about 4 cents for transmission and distribution, totaling 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour, Hoogeveen noted. A typical Utah customer would pay an additional $1.26 each month on average for one solar block. Individual costs or savings would vary depending on customer electricity usage.

High-volume energy users in the summer stand to receive the greatest benefit and might actually pay less money for their power because electricity costs are as high as 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour, he said. The program has also been set up so that only enrolled customers would have access to the solar energy that is generated.

“The only people paying for this solar array are the subscribers,” he added.

The subscriber solar program is a great alternative for people who are renting, cannot afford solar panels, have homes that are not suited for rooftop solar, are restricted due to homeowner assoiciation rules or simply don’t want rooftop solar systems, said Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Cindy Crane.

Participants will not have to pay upfront costs, make long-term commitments or deal with the ongoing maintenance of installed solar panels, she said.

“Our customers want solar choices and we believe that this program gives them a better, more economic choice than rooftop solar,” she said. “We’re taking advantage of (economies of) scale at a more economical level for customers.”

Salt Lake City has announced its intention to subscribe to a sizable amount of solar power for its municipal operations to lock in the energy portion of the city’s bills for up to 20 years.

The city supports the new program and its efforts to expand renewable energy options for local residents, said sustainability director Vicki Bennett.

“(The) subscriber solar (program) offers a choice for residents and business owners who are unable to install solar, but still desire a direct connection to clean energy sources,” she said. “We believe this program can be a major catalyst for ongoing transitions to renewable energy in Utah.”

When the program comes online, it will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to residential, commercial and industrial customers. Subscribers would have to make a three-year commitment. A termination fee would be charged if they cancel their subscription before the three-year period.

Rocky Mountain Power serves 835,232 customers in Utah — with residential customers representing 89 percent of users, commercial customers representing 10 percent and industrial consumers at 1 percent. Data from the utility also showed that industrial customers use 37 percent of the utility’s energy production, with commercial customers using 34 percent and residential customers using 29 percent.

Article By: , Deseret News

Article Via: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865639783/Customers-could-soon-choose-to-buy-solar-power-from-Rocky-Mountain-Power.html?pg=all

Vision of the future … a resident of Tanghin-Dassouri, near Ouagadougou in central Burkina Faso, looks at a solar panel. Photograph: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Former UN chief Kofi Annan hails Energy Africa scheme as chance for continent to steer away from carbon-intensive practices of rich countries

Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof, Richard Branson and international business leaders have joined politicians from 14 African countries to launch a global campaign to bring solar power to the 620 million people on the continent who must still use kerosene, candles and wood to light their homes and cook.

A dramatic fall in the cost of solar power, combined with growing access to mobile phones, has given Africa the chance to leapfrog richer countries’ polluting energy sources and to kickstart business, said Annan, chairman of the Africa progress panel and former UN secretary general.
“[Lack of access to electricity] is an injustice that robs millions of our fellow citizens of the dignity, opportunity and freedom that comes with access to modern energy. At present rates of progress, 300 million people in Africa will still lack electricity by 2040. This is intolerable, avoidable and profoundly unfair,” said Annan.

“It leaves the world’s poorest people to pay the world’s highest prices for power. Households are losing out as a result of higher prices, investors are losing out on market opportunities and countries are losing out from failure to harness productive technologies and broaden their development base.”

Annan said that Africa did not have to follow the carbon-intensive pathway and energy practices of the rich countries and emerging countries that have brought the world to the brink of catastrophe. “The UN climate change conference in Paris must draw a line in the sand. Major emitting countries should seize the opportunity to put in place credible carbon pricing and taxation systems and to stop wasting billions on fossil fuel subsidies … we must now come together to break the deadly interaction between poverty and unsustainable energy systems.”

On Wednesday, Nigeria and Sierra Leone signed agreements with Britain to fast-track off-grid solar power to households. A further 12 countries, including Malawi, Senegal and Tanzania, are expected to join the Energy Africa alliance shortly.

“Ten years ago this was not possible. Now it can be turned round easily. The lower costs of solar power have made this possible. Nigeria has 96 million people without access to electricity. Most use kerosene. The default energy source should be solar. That was not available 10 years ago. Now it is,” said the Nigerian vice-president Yemi Osinbajo.

Geldof said that mobile phones allowed people even in remote communities to pay for solar electricity as and when they required it. “We needed technologies to exist before you could electrify a continent and with the advent of this thing we all have in our pocket it makes this doable. This is the moment when Africa switches on, powers up and goes for it.”

Without contributing money at this stage, Britain has pledged to use its offices throughout Africa to help cut red tape, unlock new sources of finance and promote policies to expand household-level solar electricity. It plans to work with donors, investors and lenders, industry and NGO groups, said the international development minister Grant Shapps.

“Energy Africa is a new way of delivering aid. It is about using our influence, getting the commercial markets to work for some of the poorest people in the world. This is about more than switching on lights. It means that the day doesn’t end when the sun goes down … it means not having to walk to town when you want to charge your phone … it means saving money because kerosene is one of the most expensive fuels in the world … It means not giving birth by candlelight,” said Shapps.
Branson, who has worked to develop solar power in Caribbean countries and is planning to invest in a number of solar projects in Africa, said: “Energy poverty and economic poverty are two sides of the same coin. Access to sustainable energy like solar can change all that. It fuels entrepreneurship, it boosts educational opportunities and it’s an incredible source of women’s empowerment.

“Solar is also good for business, and is set to take off around the world. As a businessman I view this transition not as a burden but as a historic opportunity, and I feel strongly that universal access to clean, renewable sources of energy can be achieved in our lifetime – even in this generation.”

Kevin Watkins, director of the Overseas Development Institute, added: “Just a few weeks ago governments adopted a new set of development goals, including a pledge to deliver universal access to energy by 2030. Yet on current trends there will still be some 500 million people in Africa without access to modern energy.

“Africa’s energy access crisis is holding back growth and keeping people in poverty. It is also one of the greatest market failures of our day. Renewable energy technologies are affordable and accessible – and Africa has some of the world’s richest and least tapped sources of solar energy.”

Article By: John Vidal and Clár Ní Chonghaile

Article Via: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/oct/22/solar-power-energy-africa-low-carbon-campaign-kofi-annan-bob-geldof-richard-branson

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image captionDelft 

University students celebrated their win with their car, Nuna8A team from Delft University in the Netherlands has won a solar car race in the Australian outback.

A team from Delft University in the Netherlands has won a solar car race in the Australian outback.

The university’s Nuon Solar Team was the first to arrive at the finish line in Adelaide. The 3,000km (1,800 mile) race took four days to complete.

The race, which happens once every two years, started on Sunday in Darwin.

Nearly 50 teams from universities and schools around the world took part. Delft University had also won the last challenge in 2013.

The World Solar Challenge is aimed at promoting research on solar-powered cars which could become a consumer product one day.

Read more: The cars chasing the Sun

The winning team celebrated by jumping into the fountain in Adelaide’s city centre.

The Nuon solar team from the Netherlands celebrate after crossing the line with their Nuna8 solar car to win the World Solar Challenge, in Adelaide, Australia, 22 October 2015.Image copyrightEPA
Nuna8 of Nuon Solar Team Netherlands arrive into Coober Pedy as they race on day four in the Cruiser Class of the 2015 World Solar Challenge on October 21, 2015 in Coober Pedy, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2015 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide.Image copyrightGetty Images

Image captionThe futuristic-looking winning car features a large solar panel on top

In second place was a team from the University of Twente, also from the Netherlands; while Japan’s Tokai University came in third.

A handout photo taken and received on 21 October 2015, shows Red One of Solar Team Twente Netherlands leaving Coober Pedy as they race on day four in the Cruiser Class of the 2015 World Solar ChallengeImage copyrightAFP

Image captionThe cars, including Twente’s car Red One, passed through the town of Coober Pedy in the outback
The Tokai University car from Japan competes during the fourth day of the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Coober Pedy, Australia, on Wednesday, 21 October 2015Image copyrightAP

Image captionThe 1,800 mile (3,000km) race took four days to complete

Article Via: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-34600540