I could sure use some good news. And lucky for us, there is some!
The news today is completely dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the upcoming election. But there are other important stories, and in one of them — global warming and climate change — we have very good news. You might have missed it because it isn’t some big event that is newsworthy, it is a gradual thing, but nonetheless significant.
An article in Forbes magazine surveys the current impressive rise in renewable energy. While we are completely distracted by other things, the cost of technologies like solar and wind have become not just practical, but the least expensive ways to generate energy. It is cheaper to build renewable capacity, and cheaper to operate them. It is no longer cost effective to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity.
How much cheaper is solar? Enough that Singapore is building a huge solar array in Western Australia, and sending the power home over a 3,800-kilometer submarine cable. That project alone, which will be the largest solar farm in the world, will generate one-fifth of their energy needs. And an even bigger project in Australia is in the works, which combines solar and wind power. “The idea is to change Australia’s place within the global energy map and to transition from exporting mainly coal and natural gas to being a leader in clean energy.”
And literally, the sky’s the limit. If we could fill the Sahara Desert with windmills and solar panels, we could meet the energy needs of the entire world. This clean, non-polluting electricity would put the brakes on global warming as it replaces coal, natural gas, and even nuclear power.
In the United States, solar is already the most important source of energy, ahead of gas or wind, despite the tariffs imposed by its ignorant president on imported solar panels.
Note the “ignorant president” — pretty strong for a business journal like Forbes. And the same article was also published in Medium, where the author changed “ignorant” to “idiot”.
Enough about the future, what’s happening with renewable energy right now?
Renewable energy is already the cheapest and most logical way to produce energy without the need for subsidies. By introducing hydroelectric and geothermal energy into the equation, in addition to solar and wind energy, Costa Rica has already managed to go for 300 days in a row without burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. Portugal has managed four days with only renewable energy, the UK, a thousand hours without burning coal.
All the studies agree that not only that we must stop building and operating fossil fuel power plants, but that we have already built too many and that the fuel needed to supply them will now remain under the ground. The need to make this transition is becoming more urgent every day. Germany has already announced the closure of all its 84 coal-powered plants and India has canceled plans to build any more due to the plummeting cost of solar energy: with every day that passes, action in this regard is more important and more strategic. Only countries that act in time and update their generation policies can hope to win a place on the new global energy map.
New ways to store electrical power, such as lithium-air batteries, will mean that electricity will be available when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. In addition, it can make electric cars with a 1000 mile range practical.
Solar power is easily decentralized; for example, solar panels are already a popular addition to homes and small businesses. Large businesses can install solar panels over their parking lots, which also provides shade. The side benefit is that this reduces the need for a huge power grid.
Who, if anyone, is producing lithium air batteries?
Storage is the next really big hurdle. Progress is being made, but there’s a ways to go.
Nobody is producing commercial lithium air batteries yet, but quite a few researchers and companies are working hard on them.
Storage is definitely a key component. I suppose this is why Tesla started selling their Powerwall in 2015 and began shipping them in 2017.
Another way to circumvent storage issues is to pair solar and wind with other renewable sources, especially hydroelectric and geothermal, which can fill in quickly when needed.
The Singapore/Australia project I mentioned includes enough battery storage to avoid outages. Even with the current cost of storage, solar is still cheaper than fossil fuels. There are also some installations that use hydrogen for energy storage. New technologies like Lithium Air batteries will further reduce the costs.
The tariffs, basically being a tax, wouldn’t they be deducted on their business return and save the business some money. That is if businesses and corporations pay any taxes. As Biden says “i’m raising taxes when I get in.”