Solar update – technology is an ‘unstoppable’ force, according to the latest headlines.
Perhaps the most eye-catching was a report published in the Financial Times called ‘The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable’. The report delves into a range of areas surrounding renewable energy and the global markets, including the rise in electric vehicles and battery storage, as well as long established generation technologies like solar and wind.
Impressive solar figures include an electricity company in Chile that lost out in an auction where a solar scheme undercut the fossil fuel bids with a record low price of $29.10 / MWh. According to the report the US solar industry employs twice as many workers as the coal sector, China has a quarter of the world’s solar capacity and India has one of the world’s largest solar PV farm.
The report does highlight that oil, gas and coal still account for about 86% of the world’s energy supply and that this figure has barely changed in 25 years. It then goes on to say that in 2015, wind and solar accounted for just 4.4% of global electricity and electric vehicles last year represented just 0.9% of all vehicles sold. Yet renewable energy capacity is expanding at a phenomenal rate. Worldwide renewable capacity saw a 9% increase last year with more than a 30% increase for solar. Renewables accounted for more than half of all new generation capacity and sales in plug-in electric vehicles were up 42%, growing eight times faster than the overall market.
These changes are not insignificant and the Financial Times excellently summarises significant impact that these technologies are already having on the oil, gas and automotive industry. A quote from the chief executive of Ireland’s Mainstream Renewable Power, Eddie O’Connor, hits this point home; “Fossil fuels have lost. The rest of the world just doesn’t know it yet.”
In other news Tesla’s solar roof tiles sold out ‘well into 2018’, exceeding their expectations. According to reports, Tesla started taking orders from US customers on the 10th May. The innovative roof tiles come with a 30-year power generation guarantee and potential long-term cost savings, although the report also highlights potential barriers to overcome with installation.
What about the UK?
In the last few months National Grid has shared several landmark announcements over Twitter about our changing grid supply. On the 25th March, transmission demand dipped below the overnight demand for the first time ever thanks to solar generation. Then on the 21st April the UK experienced 24 hours of coal free supply since the use of the fossil fuel first began. Last week on the 26th May NG Control Room tweeted that solar had broken yet another record in Great Britain, providing 8.7GW (24.3%) of demand.
Prior to the announcement, Solar Power Portal had predicted a record-breaking weekend for solar and suggested a possibility for negative energy pricing similar to those that have occurred intermittently in Germany.
Meanwhile the Solar Trade Association (STA) is seeking to work with the next government to increase solar capacity by another 10GW. Its ‘Great British Solar Manifesto’ aims to reach the CCC (Committee on Climate Change) goal of 40GW of solar by 2030, building on the 12GW that is thought to have already been added in the last five years.
STA chief executive Paul Barwell commented, “Whichever party wins this election, they should remember that solar has already won the public vote on energy by a landslide. Every day people recognise the overwhelming benefits solar offers, from cheap power to very real control over energy bills.”
“Unlocking the benefits of solar will be easy for the next Government because we are not looking for new subsidies. But the industry now urgently needs energy policy to work on a level playing field, with the grain of market forces, while properly costing carbon. We also need fair tax treatment and effective regulation, including for new build, smart networks and business carbon performance.”