Renewable energy innovations are helping power the world
In March 2017 a solar power record was broken. You might expect solar energy record-breaking in places like Saudi Arabia or California. But this particular record goes to the UK. Rainy old “blighty” managed to set new heights for solar energy in one of the more traditionally rainy months of the year, March.
The main takeaway from this news is that renewable energy from the sun can be harnessed even in the cloudiest places on earth. If they can do it, so can the rest of the world.
New Zealand has better weather than North Western Europe so there’s no reason why we can’t emulate or even beat them in the renewable energy game.
Solar is the fastest growing renewable energy source in the world
Our neighbour in Australia will benefit from what’s called the “World’s largest virtual power plant” once it’s constructed by 2022. The project by Elon Musk, probably the decade’s most famous innovator, will generate about half the power of one coal plant. The system will use Musk’s Tesla batteries and excess energy will feed onto the grid and delivered to homes as cheaper energy.
It’s a great start. The good news for consumers is that their power bills will be 30% cheaper if they take part in the scheme.
Solar power farms
Farming solar energy
China is one country that knows all about pollution. Smog levels in Beijing and other major cities reach hazardous levels regularly.
But the government has recognized that using fossil fuels as a primary fuel source can’t continue if the health of the Chinese people is important.
One of the efforts the country is making towards solar power is the construction of the world’s largest floating solar panel farm. Think solar panels all in a row in a desert, but replace desert with a floating mass of panels on a lake.
The 40-megawatt plant can power 15,000 homes. China uses around half the Average Power per capita of New Zealand so that’s roughly 7000 New Zealand homes. That’s around double the number of occupied homes in Wanaka. One plant of this size could give two cities the size of Wanaka its total home power supply needs.
Note: These are rough estimates and not intended to referenced as scientific proof.
China has the manpower and money to make experiments in solar energy and renewable energy sources. We hope that they continue to invest in non-fossil fuel sources and realise that the money is in solar energy.
Looking at solar power
Solar windows are one of those inventions that when you hear it, you wonder why it’s taken so long to become a reality. Almost every building has windows and modern tower blocks in cities are covered from top to toe in windows.
Why not make use of this space for power generation?
Organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells give office windows the ability to generate power while maintaining the standard function of a window (allowing light to pass both directions). Buildings use more energy than transport or industry in the US, so solar windows will make a huge dent non-renewable power requirements.
Researchers at Oxford University found that using Solar windows to cover a 200m tall building generates enough power to run almost 160 homes. And of course, using this energy to power the building would make it almost carbon-neutral.
Moving forward with solar
Would you fly in a plane that powered by the sun’s rays? Sometime in the future, you won't have a choice. So it's worth getting comfortable with the concept.
Solar Impulse is an experimental aircraft that flew around the world in 2016 using only solar energy as fuel for its engines. The experiment shows it’s possible to fly using only the sun’s rays to power your aircraft.
The airline industry is a massive polluter and their contribution to greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere is actually increasing.
Many people try to minimize flying, in order to reduce their carbon footprint. We'd all feel better about air travel if we weren't polluting the skies as we fly around the world.
Solar energy for big businesses
Apple, the company behind the iPhone and iMac, and one of the most valuable companies in the world was recently given the go-ahead to sell surplus energy created at its solar farm in California. The plant is worth almost US $1bn, a huge investment, but the ROI is staggering. The renewable energy generated can power 60,000 homes.
Forward-thinking companies realise that by generating (free to use) energy from the sun’s rays, they will not only deliver power to their businesses, but they can generate revenue at the same time (from surplus energy).
Solar power in NZ
Solar in New Zealand
Wind, hydro, and wave energy are cheap but nothing is as plentiful as the energy from the sun. It is literally the source of power for everything on earth. The future of energy generation is solar.
New Zealand's government wants 90% of electricity generation in the country to come from a renewable source by 2025. The percentage currently stands at 80%, making New Zealand one of the top five countries in the world for renewable energy generation.
Let’s try to make it the top country in the world!