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Over the past few years blockchain technology has proven itself as one of the defining technologies of the decade, yet its nature and function remains enigmatic to most. Despite the rather complex mathematics involved, the concept of blockchain technology is simple.

In short, the blockchain is a decentralized way of storing transactions, a database that is inherently resistant to falsification. Since every party has the same authenticated copy of the blockchain, transactions are easily validated and cannot be edited retroactively.

The implementation of blockchain technology in the solar industry might not be immediately obvious. For one, the transactional nature of the blockchain necessitates the use of smart contracts, which among other things specify the exact amount of energy you want from a given source.

The primary real-life implication of blockchain technology is the removal of intermediaries and their control over the network. This is most evident in Bitcoin, which governments across the world are still struggling to regulate due to its robustly independent nature.

Should blockchain technology become dominant across the energy sector, one should expect a similar effect: the obsolescence of utilities and government-involvement. This is one of the big reasons why regulations tend to be hostile against blockchain development; in effect, the blockchain could strip regulators of most of their power.

Where Blockchain Technology Currently Stands

The potential for blockchain technology is immense, but surprisingly it’s proliferation might first begin in Africa. The large demand for energy, combined with high corruption and lack of established continent-wide regulatory integration, opens a window for the introduction of blockchain technology.

 

“Đ¢here are still 650 million people without any electricity in Africa, and the biggest question is where will they get their energy from. The simplest answer is solar, and that creates a remarkable opportunity for blockchain technology.”

One interesting aspect of Africa’s struggle in deploying green energy is the lack of funding infrastructure for projects. There are plenty of investors ready to pour capital into renewables, but they lack the infrastructure to do this; blockchain technology provides a clear solution to this through its built-in credibility.

Over the past few years dozens of renewable energy startups have sprung up across the world that utilize blockchain technology. Among these early pioneers is LO3 Energy, which focuses on developing microgrids in partnership with local communities and utilities.

Currently, most regulatory frameworks don’t allow consumers to sell any surplus energy they may have beyond what they themselves use. This significantly disincentives the average homeowner from investing in residential solar.

Blockchain microgrids solve this problem by essentially eliminating the barriers that prevent members of a community from selling surplus solar energy to one another. Such microgrids aren’t merely a theoretical concept, they exist and have been successfully implemented in dozens of communities across the world, including one in Brooklyn.

The only viable alternative for homeowners who want to buy renewable energy right now is buying it off energy markets. The reality, however, is that such transactions essentially act as funding to a distant power plant, whose energy likely never reaches the consumer. Consequently, although the capital does get invested into renewable energy, the homeowner’s local community doesn’t benefit from it, in contrast with blockchain microgrids, which ensure that the renewable energy is sourced locally.

The potential for blockchain technology to disrupt the solar industry is immense, and numerous firms are already developing their own blockchain-powered solutions. Suffice to say, the future of microgrid solar projects based on blockchain technology is looking bright.

 

 
Source: Solarplaza.com

 
   
     
   
 

          

 

On 7th February 2017 Minister Denis Naughten replied to James Lawless question:
To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he has taken to support the development of solar energy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply by Denis Naughten can be read here:

 
   
     
   
 

          

Ireland could face fines of up to €5.5 billion by 2030 if it fails to bring forward measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in line with European Union targets.

According to an analysis by Joseph Curtin of the Institute of International and European Affairs, the cost of inaction on climate change could have serious implications for the fiscal space of future governments.
 
He estimated Ireland is likely to be hit with a compliance bill of up to €610 million by 2020 for breaching its current renewable-energy and emissions targets.
 
However, the fines are likely to be significantly larger under the latest set of EU targets, which compel Ireland to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
 
Based on the cost of planting forestry – which sequester emissions – the future price of EU carbon credits, and fines which could apply for residual non-compliance, Mr Curtin estimated these fines could be between €3.7 billion and €5.5 billion by 2030.
 
The various scenarios used to calculate these fines, however, assume that no further actions are taken to reduce emissions between now and 2030.
 
Proactive approach:
 
“The purpose here is not to point to looming fiscal catastrophe. Rather it is to underline the need for a more proactive approach to reducing emissions, particularly from agriculture, buildings and transport,” Mr Curtin said. “With an economy and greenhouse-gas emissions that are once again growing fast, this is a particularly important policy consideration,” he said.
 
What is required is not new exchequer resources, according to Mr Curtin, but the recalibration of incentives and reallocation of existing resources. “Take the current capital investment plan which envisages twice as much spending on roads compared to public transport. Meanwhile, apparently there is nothing in the kitty for investment in worthy low-carbon projects such as cycle lanes, or indeed energy efficiency in homes,” he said.
 
“We need to decide if this is a credible approach in a carbon-constrained world,” Mr Curtin said. Most of the emissions, which the Government is tasked with reducing, comes from agriculture, transport and construction. Agriculture is responsible for the largest share (42 per cent), followed by transport and heat use in buildings.
 
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest inventory report, since the end of the recession in 2011 Irish emissions have largely flat-lined. While the agency’s data for 2015 has yet to be published, experts believe emissions probably increased and will continue increasing in the years ahead. As a result, the State is expected to miss its existing 2020 target to reduce emissions by 20 per cent on 2005 levels with the EPA forecasting a 6-11 per cent breach.
 
The Government, meanwhile, has yet to develop a new mitigation plan even though the last one expired four years ago.

Source: The Irish Times

 
   
     
   
 

          

Research from IHS Technology forecasts that there will be a new period of oversupply in the solar industry, due to a sharp drop in global demand, which will cause a shakeout in the industry.

The first half of 2016 has seen unprecedented levels of PV installations driven by China, and it will be China that causes a dramatic slump in global demand for solar PV cells and modules in the second half of the year. IHS Technology expects this to cause sharp price declines, which will be a gut check for a number of PV companies, which means a shakeout is probably on the horizon.

China installed close to an almost unbelievable 13 GW of PV in the first half of 2016, as PV developers scrambled to put their projects in place before the feed-in tariff drop in China on June 30, 2016. However, to balance out these huge numbers, PV installations are expecting to fall by 80% in the third quarter of the year, with the Chinese government’s goal to keep installations below 20 GW for the year.
 
As China pulls back its installations, prices are expected to plummet, which can already be seen in the industry, as prices for modules that will ship in the second half of 2016 will be as little as $0.44 per watt. To add to the strain that the PV industry will be placed under, huge expansions of production capacity will add to the oversupply, dragging the prices down further.
 
“After a crazy PV expansion (15 GW of cell ; 18 GW of module) from China PV makers, solar cell and module production capacity of China and Taiwan is expected to reach 76.5 GW and 80.4 GW at the end of this year while the forecast of global PV installation is in the range of 65 GW – 69 GW,” said Morgan Kuo, global PV strategic marketing manager at Heraeus.
 
It’s not just in China that the demand is slowing, but the U.S. market is experiencing similar pullbacks. In the U.S. though, this is not a result of a reduction of installations, but instead it’s because of high inventories, after large numbers of Chinese modules were shipped there in 2015. On top of this, the extension of the investment tax credit past 2016 has caused developers to extend plans to complete solar projects into 2017.
 
Long-term effects
 
These factors combined will put a huge strain on PV module suppliers, who are already in financially precarious situations, and will most likely lead to a shakeout and consolidation in the industry. However, the industry has seen this before, and while there may be some short-term negative effects, it is unlikely that they will be too severe, or last for too long.
 
“Everyone lived the hangover from Italy in 2011 for a long time, that was a solid two-year oversupply and it was quite pronounced,” Andy Klump, CEO of Clean Energy Associates, told pv magazine. “I don’t think we are at that level of irrationality, but I do think there will be a bit of an oversupply. But once again, we have seen this cycle play out several times in the solar market and we will see supply pick up in 2017, so it is a question of what kind of uptick we will see with lower pricing. But there will always be a lag effect for demand to catch up.”
 
The long-term effects could actually benefit the solar industry, as prices are likely to stay lower, leading to cheaper solar power. “The oversupply issue occurs again this year. But it is good to reduce the cost of solar energy and will increase the RE share in the global electricity demand in the near future,” added Kuo.

Source PV Magazine

 
   
     
   
 

          

Thompson Reuters predicts that solar PV, hydro power, and nuclear fusion will be the three dominant sources of energy over the next three decades, in its report Powering the Planet 2045. 

As the world pivots during the shift from fossil-fuel-based energy sources to more sustainable sources, many are wondering how the landscape of the global energy mix will look in the future. According to a report by Thompson Reuters, Powering the Planet 2045, solar PV, hydro power, and nuclear fusion will be the major players.
The report highlights the undeniable fact that fossil-fuel-based energy sources will be all but gone by the end of this century, so poses the question of which sources we can draw upon to fill the gap. It accepts that clean coal and natural gas will remain important in the near-term, but that over the next three decades solar PV, hydro power, and nuclear fusion will take up the mantle as the biggest global energy sources, citing innovation in these industries as one of the major driving forces.
“Rapid alternative-energy innovation, the transformative effect of disruptive technology and climate change will have major impacts on our customers and their businesses in the coming decades,” commented Mark Schlageter, chief customer officer for Thompson Reuters. “These trends will reverberate across established and emerging markets as populations shift and markets fluctuate.”
PV primed to take a bigger chunk
It is in emerging markets that solar PV is currently experiencing particularly encouraging growth. New markets in Asia, Latin America, and Africa were recently highlighted by E & Y as places that are becoming much more attractive for renewable energy investment, as new policies are being introduced to take advantage of the often plentiful renewable resources.
Two countries that are taking huge strides in terms of solar PV investment are China and India, as both countries look to harness PV to reach their ambitious carbon emissions targets. India alone is hoping to reach an incredible 100 GW of installed PV capacity by 2022.
The Reuters report also highlighted the top solar innovators for solar cell materials and for other solar PV components, with Japanese companies Sharp and Mitsubishi featuring in the top three of both lists. The increased technological advancements within the PV industry, coupled with the drive for increased PV investment and capacity installations has put the industry in a good position to take a big chunk of the world’s future energy mix. 

Source: PV Magazine

 
   
     
   
 

          

An extensive study of solar farms in the UK has found that the existence of the solar panels can improve biodiversity and wildlife abundance, especially when combined with measured land management. 

Alongside the more familiar ecological benefits of a transition to solar energy – reduced carbon emissions – a new U.K. study has found that solar farms, when managed correctly can increase biodiversity and wildlife abundance. The research, carried out in 2015 by ecological consultants Clarkson & Woods and Wychwood Biodiversity, compounded previous assertions about the link between solar farms and biodiversity, and adds weight to the ecological argument for solar farms.
 
The Effects of Solar farms on Local Biodiversity: A Comparative Study was a far reaching project, which examined 11 solar farms across the U.K. to see what effects they had on the surrounding wildlife. It contrasted the finding with control plots, which represent the solar farms’ land before they were developed.
 
It found that the solar farms had a positive impact on plant and animal life, by providing meadow habitat and foraging grounds. Especially when suitable land management schemes were adopted, which encouraged the expansion of a larger range of biodiversity, and restricted certain practices that had negative impacts on the surrounding wildlife.
 
Flora and fauna
 
It was particularly encouraging to see that there were positive impacts for both flora and fauna, and that when one could thrive; often the other would prosper as a result.
 
There was a significant increase in botanical diversity at the solar farms. In fact, the total number of plant species found at all of the solar farms combines was 144, compared to just 70 plant species on all of the control plots. On average, there were 15 to 41 species of plant at the solar plots, yet just 2 to 18 at the control plots. The species that benefited the most were broad leaved plants and grasses.
 
This increase in botanical diversity is where the greatest diversity of animal life was found as well. Particularly butterflies, bumblebees and birds. The study found that, in general, there were significantly higher numbers of invertebrates at the solar plots. And as the circle of life goes, if solar farms can provide habitat for pollinating insects, then this will promote the wellbeing of surrounding crops as well.
 
The link between PV parks and biodiversity has long been noted, but this is one of the most extensive studies to have pointed to the positive correlation between the two. However, two things that are stressed within the study are the need for land management to assist – or at least not inhibit – the wildlife, and the need for further examination.
 
It is optimistic news for the environment and for the solar industry, as solar farms could not only be used as a policy of reducing carbon emissions, but also of actively encouraging the prosperity of local ecosystems.



Source: PV-magazine.com

 
   
     
   
 

          

 
   
     
   
 

          

One third of Irish households will be generating their own electricity within 10 years, the ESB’s chief executive has predicted. Pat O’Doherty said that the company is witnessing a dramatic rise in the number of customers investing in new technologies to reduce their reliance on the national grid. 

However he warned that this shift to self-sufficiency had the potential to create an “energy divide”, with poorer households shouldering an unfair proportion of the grid’s running costs. He was speaking at a Dublin conference on the future of energy, hosted by the ESB and the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA).
 
As the price of renewable energy equipment falls and the cost of energy supplied by power companies, such as the ESB, rises, the business model of the traditional energy utilities is breaking down.
 
“We’re at a point where traditional technology and market models won’t be capable of meeting future customer or societal needs,” Mr O’Doherty said, “and rapid technological innovation is enabling a raft of possible solutions that will transform the energy landscape.”
 
A key enabler of this change has been innovations in battery technology, with US tech giant Tesla Motors committing to a huge increase in battery production, a move that has already reduced the cost of energy storage by 50 per cent. The company’s vice president of business development, Diarmuid O’Connell, told the conference that cheap battery storage would be as disruptive to the energy industry as the mobile phone had been to telecommunications.

Source: The Irish Times

 
   
     
   
 

          

Investments in new clean-energy capacity will total $1.61 trillion through 2020 even as the expansion of renewables is expected to slow, the International Energy Agency said.

Funding for power generation from wind, solar radiation and biomass will average $230 billion a year from $250 billion in 2013 as technology costs fall and growth loses pace, the Paris- based adviser to 29 nations said today in its annual renewables report.

Renewables will account for about 26 percent of global electricity generation by the end of this decade from about 22 percent now. The expansion will slow over the next five years unless lawmakers provide clear conditions that enable investments, the IEA said.

“Policy uncertainty remains a key challenge to renewable deployment,” according to the “Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report.” “Unanticipated changes to incentive schemes represent a risk that investors cannot manage, and can lead to elevated financing costs and boom-and-bust development patterns.”

Constraints in China, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and also the largest solar-energy market, include a lack of spending on the electricity networks and the cost and availability of financing, the IEA said. Investors in the European Union face uncertainty over renewables policy post-2020 and the installation of a pan-European grid to ease the integration of clean-energy plants, it said.

Slower growth means there may not be enough renewable capacity to meet global climate-protection objectives, the IEA said. Politicians worried about the cost of deploying renewables should think again, said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven.

“Renewables are a necessary part of energy security,” she said in a statement. “Many renewables no longer need high incentive levels. Rather, given their capital-intensive nature, renewables require a market context that assures a reasonable and predictable return for investors.”

Source - Bloomberg

 
   
     
   
 

          

How solar power has changed over the last 10 years

Solar power is in a tremendously different place today than it was in 10 years ago. Below are a handful of impressive stats about solar power’s growth, as well as some general stats about solar energy potential that are also quite noteworthy.

1. Even yearly energy potential from sunshine dwarfs total energy potential from any other source.

The annual energy potential from solar energy is 23,000 TWy. Energy potential from total recoverable reserves of coal is 900 TWy. For petroleum, it’s 240 TWy; and for natural gas, it’s 215 TWy. Wind energy’s yearly energy potential is 25–70 TWy.

[Source: A Fundamental Look at Energy Reserves for the Planet]

2. Approximately 66% of installed world solar PV power capacity has been installed in the past 2½ years.

Furthermore, total installed capacity is projected to double in the coming 2½ years.

[Source: GTM Research]

3. Global solar PV power capacity grew from about 2.2 GW in 2002 to 100 GW in 2012.

From 2007 to 2012, it grew 10 times over, from 10 GW to 100 GW.

[Source: Renewables 2013 Global Status Report]

4. There are now about 1.36 million jobs in the global solar PV industry.

There are also about 892,000 in the solar heating & cooling industry.

[Source: Renewables 2013 Global Status Report]

5. Germany accounted for nearly one third of global solar PV capacity at the end of 2012.

Italy (16%) and Germany (32%) combined accounted for nearly half of global solar PV capacity.

[Source: Renewables 2013 Global Status Report]

6. The price of solar PV panels dropped about 100 times over from 1977 to 2012.

Since 2008, the price of solar PV panels has dropped about 80%.

[Data Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance / Chart Source: Cost of Solar/Unknown]

7. The sunshine hitting Texas in one month contains more energy than all the oil and gas ever pumped out of the state.

Nonetheless, New Jersey has about 10 times more solar PV power capacity installed than the entire state of Texas.

[Data Source: SEIA / Image Source: 1Sun4All.com]

Those are some of the most impressive solar energy facts and charts I’ve seen, but please let us know if there are some big ones you think I’m missing.

Source: Zachary Shahan, editor of CleanTechnica and Planetsave.

 
   
     
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