More than 40 cities committed to 100% renewable energy, a unique colored solar panel breakthrough, and the impact of the coming solar eclipse on U.S. solar power generation are the headlines from this week’s Solar News Report.
More than 40 U.S. cities are committed to 100% renewables goal
This week, Nevada City, CA became the 41st city in the U.S. to pledge to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050, starting with transitioning all electricity for city property to renewable generation sources by 2030. Other cities that have made the same pledge include Park City, UT; Orlando, FL; and Denver, CO, to name a few. The campaign to encourage cities to commit to the 100% renewable milestone is know as “Ready for 100”, and is being pushed by Sierra Club across the country.
Sierra Club says that the city’s new resolution comes out of the growing reality of climate change, and the damage it threatens to mountain communities like Nevada City. “If this summer is any indicator of what climate change can mean for the future of our community, it is time to do all we can to avoid its impacts,” said Don Rivenes of the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition.
Colorful solar panels could be the next major panel innovation
Solar panels have been becoming increasingly efficient and inexpensive as of late, and now they may be getting a splash of color as well. Researchers in the Netherlands have reportedly developed a way to color conventional blue or black solar panels bright green, with other colors possible using a similar process. The color comes from light-scattering “nanocylinders” instead of a dye or reflective coating, which makes the new panels only slightly less efficient than traditional black or blue models.
The nanocylinders are about 600 times thinner than a human hair, and are laid onto the solar cells via a process much like rubber stamping. They produce the new green color by scattering green frequencies of light back out, while letting other frequencies pass through to be used for generation. Soon enough, we may see solar panels with colors to match any type of roof, improving the aesthetics of a rooftop solar array to match any home. The technology is still far out, but represents an exciting opportunity for growth and change in the rapidly growing solar industry.
The 2017 solar eclipse and its impact on solar electricity production
August 21st marks a unique day: it’s the first total solar eclipse that will be seen in the contiguous U.S. since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in 99 years. During the eclipse, the moon will block out the sunlight briefly along a narrow strip of the U.S., referred to as the “path of totality.” A partial solar eclipse will be visible further out from the path of totality, with some to most of the sun being blocked by the moon, depending on where you are.
The solar eclipse is a rare event. The next total eclipse won’t occur until 2024. During that last total solar eclipse in 1979, it was a spectator event only. But now, with the solar panels continuing to increase in popularity around the country, is it important to understand how the solar eclipse might impact our modern energy grid now that distributed solar is providing electricity to larger and larger populations.
Keeping our grid working and preventing blackouts is a complicated process involving 24/7 supply and demand monitoring to make sure just the right amount of electricity is flowing through the grid at any given moment. When the sun is blocked out by the moon, solar generation will drop off a cliff, and that power needs to be picked up by another source. Power plants will need to be kicked into high gear to compensate for the lack of solar power along the path of totality, and then abruptly cut off when the sun re-emerges. This compensation energy can come from a variety of sources, from traditional fossil fuel generators to hydropower and wind farms.
Importantly, our electric grid will have no problem working properly through the solar eclipse. With careful maneuvering and planning, grid operators will keep your electricity flowing throughout the darkness.
The next solar eclipse, in 2024, will have an even bigger impact on our electricity production. At that point, solar will account for much more of our country’s electricity than the 1% it currently supplies. Solar is cost-effective, environmentally friendly and convenient, and there’s significant evidence that it will continue to expand exponentially as a distributed generation source. As a result, the importance of energy storage continues to grow. As our energy systems change to accommodate newer generation modes like solar, it will become a key feature of the grid.
The benefits of solar panels are vastly greater than the small issue of a once-a-decade eclipse event that can be avoided through grid modernization efforts. And in the meantime, our country’s diverse electricity production system will be able to meet demand. Go out and watch the coming eclipse, and have the peace of mind that the electric grid is just fine.