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Tag: solar (Page 1 of 3)

Solar now costs 6¢ per kilowatt-hour, beating government goal by 3 years

Enlarge / From the Department of Energy: "This photo shows the construction phase of a 16.5 MW DC solar farm built in Oxford, MA. This 130-acre property was previously known as the largest piggery in Massachusetts." (credit: Lucas Faria/ US Department of Energy)

On Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that utility-grade solar panels have hit cost targets set for 2020, three years ahead of schedule. Those targets reflect around $1 per watt and 6¢ per kilowatt-hour in Kansas City, the department’s mid-range yardstick for solar panel cost per unit of energy produced (New York is considered the high-cost end, and Phoenix, Arizona, which has much more sunlight than most other major cities in the country, reflects the low-cost end).

Those prices don’t include an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which makes solar panels even cheaper. The Energy Department said that the cost per watt was assessed in terms of total installed system costs for developers. That means the number is based on "the sales price paid to the installer; therefore, it includes profit in the cost of the hardware," according to a department presentation (PDF).

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a DOE-funded lab that assesses solar panel cost, wrote that, compared to the first quarter in 2016, the first quarter in 2017 saw a 29-percent decline in installed cost for utility-scale solar, which was attributed to lower photovoltaic module and inverter prices, better panel efficiency, and reduced labor costs. Despite the plummeting costs for utility-scale solar, costs for commercial and residential solar panels have not fallen quite as quickly—just 15 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

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While you’re watching the eclipse, solar power companies are going to have a really bad day

Eclipse solar power problems

The internet is about to explode with anticipation for Monday's solar eclipse. Traffic jams have backed up the entire state of Oregon, Harbor Freight is out of welding masks, and vets are issuing guidance for how dogs should deal with the eclipse.

But while everyone is running around in a panic about the sky going dark, the officials in charge of power grids are prepping for a very unusual event. For a few minutes, a large chunk of some states' energy generation will halt completely, requiring replacement. As the sun peeks out again, solar plants will come back online, and thousands of megawatts of power will hit the grid all at once.

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Construction costs are falling for renewable and natural gas plants

(credit: Minnesota.gov)

Numbers from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reflect the extent of renewable energy development in the US over the past several years. Construction costs per kilowatt for solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric projects have fallen, in some cases steeply, since 2013, and natural gas generators are also getting cheaper to build despite getting more expensive year-over-year from 2013 to 2014. Only petroleum liquid generators have shown an increase in cost per kilowatt between 2013 and 2015.

The falling cost of building these renewable plants likely contributed to a peculiarity of the US energy makeup during the months of March and April, as well.

According to the EIA, electricity generation from utility-scale renewable plants surpassed nuclear generation for the first time since 1984 in those two months. The EIA explains that this is a seasonal result as well as a trend outcome—not only is solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biomass electricity produced more than ever before, but nuclear energy also tends to be curtailed in spring and fall. During those seasons, plants are scheduled for maintenance more often because energy demand is lower. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported that “an average of 14 gigawatts and 21 gigawatts of nuclear capacity were offline during March and April, respectively, representing about 14 percent and 21 percent of total nuclear capacity in the United States,” the EIA wrote.

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In March, wind and solar generated a record 10% of US electricity

Enlarge / The large Barren Ridge solar panel array near Mojave, California. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

According to the Energy Information Administration’s Electric Power Monthly, a bit more than 10 percent of all electricity generated in the US in March came from wind and solar power (including both distributed residential solar panels and utility-scale solar installations). That’s a record number for the country, and it reflects continuing effort to install more renewable capacity across the nation.

The EIA shows that eight percent of total electricity generation that month came from wind, and the other two percent came from solar. The administration also predicts that wind and solar will contribute more than 10 percent of the total electricity produced in April, although numbers for that month aren’t out yet.

(credit: EIA)

Renewables have tended to hit records in spring and fall—often called shoulder seasons—because wind is plentiful and the northern hemisphere receives a more even amount of sunlight during those seasons than it does during winter. In addition, electricity consumers tend to use less during the shoulder seasons (mild weather means they’re usually not running air conditioners or space heaters, for example). That means overall energy use is low and peak-demand fossil fuel-burning plants don’t need to come online. All these factors together make it easy for renewable energy to shoulder a larger and larger share of the work.

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Apple publishes Earth Day videos on solar farms, wasteful packaging, and fake sweat

With Earth Day coming up, Apple has published a set of short videos explaining the basics of some of the company's environmental initiatives. Each video lasts about a minute and covers a different topic, and, according to Mashable, they were all illustrated by hand by James Blagden.

First, we have a video about Apple's solar farms. The video explains how the 40-megawatt solar farms that power various Apple facilities across China do so without disrupting the other uses of the land they occupy.

The company also delves into its efforts reduce waste produced by its assembly partners, and how the effort all began because of stacks of plastic packaging.

In this video, Apple's Rob Guzzo reveals what goes into testing products to ensure that the materials used are safe for you to use. As it turns out, 30 gallons of artificial sweat.

Apple's final Earth Day video details how the company's new Apple Park campus keeps cool using natural air movement and water pipes.

So what do you think of these Earth Day videos from Apple? Let us know down in the comments.

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