How Can We Tap Solar for Energy?

The US has climate goals and the world has climate goals.  So, what of them?   We aren’t seeing much change to meet those goals.   The goals seem arbitrary to the informed and to the average person.  Is the average person concerned or knowledgeable significantly?

Maybe not.  Whether climate change is a real issue or fabricated one is still in the thoughts of many.  However, many people would love to see the world go greener.  Most believe that is a positive direction and disconnect green from climate change.

So, here I am taking a look at just one element.   The main article referenced here says that to contain temperature rise, 7 strategies must be fully deployed.  Those strategies include: energy efficiency, wind power, coal-to-gas power switching, carbon capture and storage, biofuels, nuclear, and slowing deforestation.   (Per the last strategy: slowing deforestation–why are we not hearing more about that?)

Inside Climate News tackled solar power in a 2016 article and revealed some interesting findings.

The U.S. hit 1 million solar installations at the end of February, amounting to roughly 27.2 gigawatts of solar power capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a trade association based in Washington, D.C. That’s enough power to supply about 6 million homes.

By comparison, there were 285 gigawatts of coal capacity in the U.S. at the end of 2015 according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Natural gas, which is playing a much more prominent role in the U.S. energy mix, has a capacity of 440 gigawatts, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Government data also shows 98 gigawatts of nuclear capacity and 80 gigawatts of hydroelectric capacity in the US. The U.S. generated more wind power than any other country last year, finishing 2015 with 74 gigawatts of installed capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

China and Germany are taking a stab at installations of solar in country.

China recently outstripped Germany as the global solar leader with 43.2 gigawatts of capacity at the end of 2015. That’s a lot of solar, but in a country of 1.4 billion people that relies heavily on coal, it amounts to less than 1 percent of the country’s more than 1,500 gigawatts of total power generation capacity.

Germany has also emerged as a leader in solar as it pursues its ‘Energiewende’, an ambitious plan to largely break from both fossil and nuclear energy by 2050. The country’s 40 gigawatts of solar make up only 7.5 percent of the country’s net electricity consumption. On particularly sunny days, however, solar has met 50 percent or more of momentary demand because grid operators are directed to prioritize solar as they balance supply and demand.

What about all the other countries of the world?  Other initiatives were not addressed.

So how is America doing adapting solar?  Slow.   But there is another problem also.

Is there a game-changing step ahead to unlock renewable power on a large scale?

In a word: storage.

Without it, solar can only generate power when the sun is shining. The race is on to develop batteries to squirrel away power at night and cloudy days. Electric carmaker Tesla Motors is building a gigafactory in Nevada to manufacture batteries for homes, businesses and utilities, and it’s far from the only major corporation trying to dramatically improve energy storage.

So to make solar energy viable battery technology has to greatly improve.  America has a long way to go in deploying solar and we have a long journey to get to the battery capacity to manage the solar energy produced.

We are waiting but not holding our breath!

Read more here.

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