Clean Technica reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of solar power in comparison with other energy sources.

Daily Finance commented on a potential PV solar boom in the UK. The nation’s energy minister hopes to bring solar installations from the current 2.4 gigawatts  to 20 GW by 2020. However, irrespective of what a future government might do to change this policy goal, there are geographical limitations to solar in this part of the world.

One of the U.K.’s biggest problems is its location. It is quite far north, and this limits the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground. In Spain unsubsidized solar systems are profitable, but the U.K. is simply more challenging. 

The Wall Street Journal told us electric utilities in the US want residential solar PV customers to pay higher prices for their electricity. Their argument is that these customers are not paying their share of the cost of maintaining the grid, which they still rely on. The result is that this drives up costs for nonsolar customers who end up subsidizing solar customers. This, of course, is an unintended consequence of government feed-in tariffs that were put in place to encourage the use of solar in the first place. Utilities warn that this burden will continue to grow as the number of solar customers increases. To rectify this utilities are proposing changes to the current feed-in-tariff models.

One change utilities have proposed is to credit solar customers for the power they feed into the grid at the wholesale rate, which is much lower than the retail rate—or at least to credit them at some rate in between the two. Another would be to charge all customers a monthly fee to cover utilities’ fixed costs.

Japan would like to have a space-based solar powered system in place by 2030 according to CleanBiz Asia. Japan’s space agency, JAXA, is developing a method to gather solar energy from geostationary satellites sitting 36,000 km above the Earth, and sending it down to the surface in the form of either laser beams or microwaves. The agency hopes to launch a this system by 2030 and is currently conducting ground-based experiments to determine the most efficient way to transmit the energy  across large distances. The wireless energy beam would need to travel 36,000 km and hit a receiving stations just 3 km in diameter on the surface of the planet.


JALOPNIX had a chart that shows how much energy is in each kind of fuel.


The Energy Collective compared electricity costs around the world. The author looked at average electricity prices from 17 countries around the world for the year 2011 and compared them according to purchasing power parity based on the US dollar. This method found Canadians had the cheapest electricity (8 cents per kw-hour) and Germans the most expensive (32 cents per kw-hour).  This is before Germany began to shut down its nuclear facilities and move aggressively to renewable sources. See chart below.

Relatively electricity prices

OILPRICE examined the problems stemming from exponential population growth. First raised by Thomas Malthus in 1798 in his book An Essay on the Principle of Population, the topic continues to fascinate and worry scholars and activists alike. This post focuses on the ideas of Albert Bartlett in his 1969 talk Arithmetic, Population and Energy. Bartlett said: “”The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” His primary conclusion is that exponential growth in the consumption of finite resources (food, energy, minerals) is unsustainable. At some point growth in the rate of extraction will cease. And, given the dependence of the economy on continuous growth of resource inputs including energy, this leads to instability and finally decline. Economists have argued that technological change offsets the exponential growth equation and todate this has been the case.  However, the author of this post thinks technological change itself has limits and cannot compete with infinite exponential growth functions. “Humans are not infinite in their powers of reason. Even with computers, we cannot innovate at infinite speeds.”

Can you think of any problem on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted or advanced by having larger populations at the local level, the state level, the national level, or globally?

So far, I can’t think of any.

In a related discussion of the future impact of population growth on our planet, see The Conversation, Fixing climate change: the future isn’t what it used to be


The BioenergySite told us about geothermal energy.


Market Watch said coal will continue to be the largest generator of electricity until 2035. The International Energy Agency reports that coal will remain the top fuel for generating electricity for the next 20 years, with growth in coal-fired power in emerging markets outweighing its decline in the developed countries, like Europe and the US. (See chart below)

From Clean Technica we learned that Europe has a major energy storage project underway. The trial of an intelligent battery storage network, the largest in Europe, will take place at an electric power station in Bedfordshire in the UK. The goal is to assist the UK in developing a commercially viable storage network that will enable all solar and wind generated electricity to be accommodated by the national grid. Researchers at the Imperial College of London project UK cost savings of £3 billion ($4.8 billion) a year by the next decade based on the installation of 2 GW of energy storage. As more renewable energy is introduced into the network, these energy cost savings could reach £10 billion ($16 billion) a year by 2050. It is hope this trial will highlight the benefits and limitations of large scale energy storage and identify ways of making it a viable part of Europe’s energy future.

DVICE wondered if it is possible to harness energy from lightning. “All that lightning, all those kilojoules of power, just waiting to be harnessed, if only we knew how do it!” Experiments are underway in the UK to see if we can do this.  See the video. A lightning strike produces one billion to 10 billion joules, but it is only useful energy if it can be stored.

, research from Imperial College London identifies savings from energy storage of £3bn ($4.8 billion) a year by the 2020s, based on the deployment of 2GW of energy storage
It aims to transform the UK electricity grid while boosting renewable energy and helping the UK develop the commercial-scale energy storage it needs to add wind and solar plants, which provide intermittent power flows.

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