#SolarPowerGrowth; #technology; #ClimateGoals
New York/Canadian-Media: A few lonely academics have been warning for years that solar power faces a fundamental challenge that could halt the industry’s breakneck growth. Simply put: the more solar you add to the grid, the less valuable it becomes, https://www.technologyreview.com/ said on Jul 14.
Image: Importance of Solar Energy. Image credit: www.clean-energy-ideas.com
The problem is that solar panels generate lots of electricity in the middle of sunny days, frequently more than what’s required, driving down prices—sometimes even into negative territory.
Unlike a natural gas plant, solar plant operators can’t easily throttle electricity up and down as needed, or space generation out through the day, night and dark winter. It’s available when it’s available, which is when the sun is shining. And that’s when all the other solar plants are cranking out electricity at maximum levels as well.
A new report finds that California, which produces one of the largest shares of solar power in the world, is already acutely experiencing this phenomenon, known as solar value deflation.
The state’s average solar wholesale prices have fallen 37% relative to the average electricity prices for other sources since 2014, according to the Breakthrough Institute analysis, which will be published on July 14. In other words, utilities are increasingly paying solar plants less than other sources overall, due to their fluctuating generation patterns.
Wholesale prices are basically the amount that utilities pay power plants for the electricity they deliver to households and businesses. They shift throughout the day and year, edging back up for solar operators during the mornings, afternoons and other times when there isn’t excess supply. But as more solar plants come online, the periods of excess supply that drive down those costs will become more frequent and more pronounced.
Lower prices may sound great for consumers. But it presents troubling implications for the world’s hopes of rapidly expanding solar capacity and meeting climate goals.
It could become difficult to convince developers and investors to continue building ever more solar plants if they stand to make less money or even lose it. In fact, California construction has already been flat since 2018, the study notes. But the state will need the industry to significantly ramp up development if it hopes to pull off its ambitious clean energy targets.
Why cheaper solar photovoltaics are key to addressing climate change.
The rapidly dropping price of solar power has transformed how we think about clean energy. But it needs to still get a whole lot cheaper.
This could soon become a broader problem as well.
“California is a little sneak peek of what is in store for the rest of the world as we dramatically scale up solar,” says Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, and author of the report.
That’s because while solar accounts for about 19% of the electricity California generates, other regions are rapidly installing photovoltaic panels as well. In Nevada and Hawaii, for instance, the share of solar generation stood at around 13% in 2019, the study found. The levels in Italy, Greece and Germany were at 8.6%, 7.9% and 7.8%, respectively.
So far, heavy solar subsidies and the rapidly declining cost of solar power has offset the falling value of solar in California. So long as it gets ever cheaper to build and operate solar power plants, value deflation is less of a problem.
But it’s likely to get harder and harder to pull off that trick, as the state’s share of solar generation continues to climb. If the cost declines for building and installing solar panels tapers off, California’s solar deflation could pull ahead in the race against falling costs as soon as 2022 and climb upward from there, the report finds. At that point, wholesale pricing would be below the subsidized costs of solar in California, undermining the pure economic rationale for building more plants, Hausfather notes.
The state’s SB 100 law, passed in 2018, requires all of California’s electricity to come from “renewable and zero-carbon resources” by 2045. By that point, some 60% of the state’s electricity could come from solar, based on a California Energy Commission model.
The Breakthrough study estimates that the value of solar–or the wholesale average price relative to other sources–will fall by 85% at that point, decimating the economics of solar farms, at least as California’s grid exists today.
How do we fix it?
There are a variety of ways to ease this effect, though no single one is likely a panacea.
The solar sector can continue trying to find ways to push down solar costs, but some researchers have argued it may require shifting to new materials and technologies to get to the dirt-cheap levels required to outpace value deflation.
Grid operators and solar plant developers can add more energy storage—and increasingly they are.
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory highlighted similarly declining solar values in California in a broader study published in Joule last month. But they also noted that numerous modeling studies showed that the addition of low cost storage options, including so called hybrid plants coupled with lithium-ion batteries, eases value deflation and enables larger shares of renewables to operate economically on the grid.
There are likely limits to this, however, as study after study finds that storage and system costs rise sharply once renewables provide the vast majority of electricity on the grid.
States or nations could also boost subsidies for solar power; add more long-distance transmission lines to allow regions to swap clean electricity as needed; or incentivize customers to move energy use to times of day that better match with periods of high generation.
The good news is that each of these will help to ease the transition to clean electricity sources in other ways as well, but they’ll also all take considerable time and money to get underway.
#Lytton; #BC; #LyttonWildFire; #ClimateChange; #NationalIssuesReport
Lytton (B.C.)/Canadian-Media: The wildfire that destroyed Lytton, B.C. is exemplary of what rural communities across the country can expect as the planet continues to get hotter, according last week's news release Canada in a Changing Climate: National Issues (NI) Report.
Lytton fire. Image credit: Screenshot from the web
Launched by Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), the reports synthesizes the latest climate science, with one of the sections exploring particular impact climate change will have on rural and remote communities.
"I'm extremely worried about the impacts that climate change is having and will have," said Kelly Vodden, one of the authors of the new National Issues Report and a professor at Memorial University, CBC news reported.
The report paints a picture of an Indigenous and small-town Canada that is both resilient and hollowed-out, resource jobs disappear, rise in the cost of living and governments downsize and centralize critical services in big cities.
#ESA; #heatWaveInCanadaAndUS; #CopernicusSentinel3Mission; #HeatDome
Ottawa/Canadian-Media: Although heatwaves are quite common during the summer months, the punishing and unusual heatwave hitting parts of western Canada and the US with shattering with temperature records has been particularly devastating, and hundreds of people falling victim to the extreme heat and succumbing to death, says European Space Agency (ESA).
With its mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure continuous delivering of benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world, (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space.
Temperature record in Canada was shattered for a third consecutive day recording a whopping 49.6°C on 29 June in Lytton, a village northeast of Vancouver, in British Columbia.:
Portland, Oregon, also broke its all-time temperature record for three days in a row.
The following map shows the extent of the heatwave also revealing the land surface temperature of parts of Canada and the US on 29 June. The data show that surface temperatures in Vancouver reached 43°C, and Calgary and Portland recorded 43°C. The hottest temperatures recorded are in the state of Washington (visible in deep red) with maximum land surface temperatures of around 69°C.
Canada-US Heatwave Map. Image credit: ESA website
The map has been generated using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission, a multi-instrument mission to measure sea-surface topography, sea- and land-surface temperature, ocean color and land color with high-end accuracy and reliability. The mission supports ocean forecasting systems, as well as environmental and climate monitoring.
Launched on Feb 16 2016 Sentinel-3A joined its twin in orbit Sentinel-3B on 25 April 2018.
Sentinel family. Image credit: ESA website.
While air temperatures are typically used by weather forecasts, the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer onboard Sentinel-3 measures the energy radiating from Earth’s surface. Therefore, actual temperature of the land’s surface is shown by the map which can be significantly hotter or colder than air temperatures.
The light blue in the image of the map represents either snow and ice or cloud coverage. Snow and ice can be seen, for example, in the mountain ranges of Canada and Mount Rainier in the US, while some clouds can be seen on the Pacific Coast and in the bottom right of the map.
The persistent heat over parts of western Canada and parts of the US has been caused by a heat dome formed when high-pressure circulation in the atmosphere acts like a dome or cap, trapping heat at the surface and favoring the formation of a heat wave. stretching from California to the Arctic. Temperatures have been easing in coastal areas, but there has been little respite for the inland regions.
Heat dome. Image credit: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/heat-dome.html