The “Utility of the Future” – big vs little solar – A constant question in the solar industry is whether local, rooftop solar is worth the investment economically, in the long run. In this study at MIT, scale at the largest utility size solar installation matters more than any other variable. Other studies take into account distribution and transmission costs suggesting that middle size in local markets matter. Of course, if people want to buy solar for their house – the personal economics are better than any other sized solar system.

The biggest clean energy technological advances of 2016 – Hardcore renewable energy technology breakthroughs: Artificial photosynthesis, solar thermophotovoltaics, perovskite solar cells, carbon storage and CO2 to ethanol.

US Commerce Department releases updated Chinese solar tariff – The United States taxes Chinese manufactured solar cells and assembled solar panels. The Chinese companies are taxed because SolarWorld (a German solar company with a 30 year presence in the USA) sued citing unfair government support – cheap loans. The numbers were just updated and you, the American consumer, are paying 7% more for some panels and up to 230% more for some solar cells – the logic is that you, the American worker and innovator, will do better with more solar panel manufacturing going on in the country. As an aside, SolarWorld is borderline irrelevant but Elon Musk is building a solar panel plant…

‘Swarm Electrification’ in Bangladesh lets neighbors swap electricity – The poor folk of the world are not given an opportunity for electricity due to their low incomes and the high cost of infrastructure and power plants. Solar power gives those who need it the most, small amounts of strategically important  energy. Now, nanogrids (new term to me) and cellular communications make it so they can buy and sell energy in small networks efficiently. I’ve got a gut feeling – the power companies of the future will much more manage the movement of your locally produced electricity versus the selling of their own generation.

Recent Utility Scale solar engineering cost reduction successes – Much of the big news of 2016 regarding solar power had to do with a heavy fall in price (see here, here and a couple of days ago). A lot of this price fall had to do with a 33% fall in the price of solar panels – however – much innovation away from the panels has occurred as well. The one that I noticed a few weeks ago – single axis tracking solar arrays (noted in this article) costing only a few pennies per watt more than standard solar – was most intriguing. With the SunShot program still aiming for $1/W install costs in the USA – expect more innovation.

 

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