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Tag Archives: PV solar

Are we really all going to go off grid?

By Dave Elliott

In 2014, the US Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released a ground-breaking analysis of the potential for ‘grid defection’, looking at when and where it might be economical for customers to disconnect from their utility in favour of using on-site solar-plus-battery systems. With PV solar and batteries getting much cheaper since then, it has become a hot issue. However, fully off-grid options still seem unlikely to be attractive or needed for most people – a grid link allows you to top up when there is a solar input lull and your battery is drained, and to sell any excess at other times. In the US this “net metering” approach is quite widespread, although there are disputes about the prices paid by utilities. In the UK the FiT system has an export tariff. Will consumers be willing to forgo that? Would that be wise? (more…)

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The limits of PV solar

By Dave Elliott

Solar PV has been talked up a lot of late. Its costs have certainly fallen and it has expanded to reach around 300GW capacity globally so far. But is it really going to be the dominant renewable as some have suggested? For example, a recent report from the Grantham Institute/Carbon Tracker has PV supplying 29% of world power by 2050 (PDF), with a massive 10,000GW or so in place. Is that realistic?

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Set the controls for the heart of the Sun

By Dave Elliott

A report from Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute says that by 2050 solar PV could supply 29% of all global electricity. Its 2050 scenario still has a lot of nuclear in it, supplying about the same as PV, but not much wind (about 7%). That’s a bit odd, especially since the report indicates that onshore wind is currently cheaper in capital cost terms than either nuclear or PV. That stays true up to 2050 on its baseline scenario. But in its lower cost prediction, it sees PV undercutting all by 2050 – falling to M$390-643/GW, about a tenth of its rather low estimate for the current (and future) cost of nuclear (M$3706-4200/GW) and also much cheaper than the baseline capital costs for onshore wind (M$1640/GW) and offshore wind (M$2970/GW) by 2050. That does ignore the likelihood that wind costs may fall faster too and, given the low capacity factor for PV, in order to get to 29% of total output, they say 65% of global generation capacity would have to be PV by 2050 – around 10TW!

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The green power switch – all to solar

By Dave Elliott 

A new book ‘The Switch’ (Profile Books) by Chris Goodall suggests that the combination of cheap solar photovoltaics and cheap batteries will be a global winner. It is certainly true that the cost of PV solar has been falling rapidly, outstripping predictions, and even confounding most of the PV optimists, as the technology has improved and markets for it have built. Goodall sees this as a continuing process, at maybe up to a 40% annual growth rate, with PV soon becoming the dominant energy source globally, a view that he notes even some conservative oil companies now share. Lithium ion battery costs have also fallen significantly. So, with wind also providing inputs when there is no sun, we are all set!  A similar line was taken in Tony Seba’s book ‘Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation’. PV and batteries are going to boom worldwide, and electric vehicles too.

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Solar PV and energy storage

By Dave Elliott

Some say that the vision of households and businesses moving largely off-grid by storing solar power generated during the day for use overnight is close to becoming a reality. The prospects for moving entirely off grid may be limited – most projects will still need grid links to allow for top-ups when solar input is low for long periods and the stores are exhausted. However, that still leaves a significant potential for self-generation and storage.                                                                                        (more…)

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Energy in the US: the rise of renewables

By Dave Elliott

Energy use and impacts are changing in the USA, in part due to progressive policies from Obama, but also because of structural changes in the energy economy. Carbon dioxide emissions from US energy sector have fallen 12% since 2005, mainly since there has been a decline in the use of coal, although its fall back has mostly due to an increase in the use of natural gas to generate electricity. However, renewables are also playing growing roles, supplying around 16% of US power, eclipsing nuclear (their output overtook that from nuclear in 2010) and they are expanding fast, hitting 17% in the first part of 2016. But all that could change when Trump takes power. (more…)

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Japan – pressure for more renewables mounts

by Dave Elliott

Japan’s use of both fossil fuels and renewables has increased since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster but, with energy costs being high, improved energy efficiency and massive energy saving drives have pushed national power consumption in 2015 down 12% below the 2010 level. There have been attempts to get approval to restart some the 43 surviving reactors, but so far only 3 have restarted fully – 2 more did, but then closed following court orders. With renewables, including hydro, supplying 14.3% of power in Japan in the year to March 2016, they are producing much more output than nuclear – 139TWh versus 4.3TWh in 2015. Rapid expansion is planned, but even more is being called for.  Meanwhile, the slow and expensive process of cleaning up Fukushima rumbles on, with worries still emerging about leaks and contamination.

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EU Renewables round up

By Dave Elliott

Renewables are roaring ahead in Europe, with wind at over 140GW and PV surpassing 100GW. There have been some spectacular successes, with renewables briefly supplying 87% of German electricity at one point, and Portugal achieving similarly high contributions-something that’s a regular occurrence in Denmark. But progress may soon be slowed as  economic pressures mount and political reaction sets in with support schemes being withdrawn or constrained. For example, in Germany it’s all change as the government revises the Energiewende energy law with a slow down for wind and solar expansion, via annual capacity caps and reduced support levels. Portugal has also started to phase out its support for renewables, although not quite so aggressively as happened in Spain, or, for that matter, the UK. (more…)

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Cities and renewable energy

By Dave Elliott 

Urban areas account for around 75% of the world’s energy use and there are ambitious plans to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Around the world, cities are beginning to think in terms of meeting their energy needs from renewable sources, so as to limit air pollution and climate change problems.  The case for this transition is strong, not least given the likely rise in air-conditioning demand as climate change impacts more,  and there have been many interesting initiatives launched around the world, often led by city governments.  (more…)

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Renewables continue to boom globally

By Dave Elliott

BP says renewables have shown ‘a quicker pace of penetration than any other fuel source in modern history’, and their strong growth meant that they ‘accounted for all of the increase in global power generation in 2015’. BP’s latest review of world energy trends carbon notes that wind power capacity grew by 17.4% and solar by 32.6% last year, with China overtaking Germany and the US as the largest solar generator: www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html  REN21 has come up with equally high figures. And looking to the future, both see renewables booming, as does Bloomberg.

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