Government subsidies (650 euro max.), ever lower solar panel prices as well as low VAT tariffs, have induced the Dutch to embrace local production of electricity and harvest kilowatthours simply from their own roofs. Typical investment for 100% selfsufficiency: 4500 euro. In combination with zero net payments to utilities companies (Dutch feed-in tariff system described here), this comes down to a return on investment of a spectacular 17%. Currently a solar kwh costs 7 cent, dramatically lower than the 23 cent for a kwh from the grid. In Holland, the birthplace of modern capitalism (17th century), people can calculate. Currently 100,000 roofs are covered with solar panels, 6.9 million more roofs to go. Timothy John Berners-Lee came up with the HTTP protocol in 1989 and it took six years before the internet started its meteoric rise in 1995. Then it took another six years before the first signs of internet saturation appeared with the popping of the .com bubble in 2001. Holland was always at the global forefront of internet adoption (50% penetration in 2002), and it will not be different with the adoption of solar power, especially as with solar panels money can be made, in contrast to the internet. Although the Germans currently have a clear lead in a per capita adoption of solar compared to Holland, rooted in a geo-strategic motivation of energy independence and rejection of nuclear power, the Dutch will catch up quickly, from a financial motive. Expect financial service companies to emerge offering packages, where it will suffice for a household to make a simple phonecall in order to earn thousands of euro’s, without having to do anything but making coffee for the workers of the solar panel installation company and start paying monthly fees to the financial service company, which will more than compensated by the reduced bills from the utility company. Once two or three roofs in a typical Dutch street are covered with panels, others will follow quickly. Monkey see, monkey do.
Driving over hardened glass with solar cells beneath. In the Netherlands in 2013 this will become reality, at least for a test setup of 100 meter bicycle lane. The cycle path is constructed of concrete elements measuring 1.5 by 2.5 metres and contains a safety glass top layer, made rough on purpose for safe driving. Beneath this one cm thick hardened glass layer lie crystal silicon solar cells. Expected yearly yield: 50 kwh per m2. An average household of 3500 kwh/year would require 70 m2. Btw, the Netherlands has 137,000 km asphalt road and 15,000 km bicycle paths and many new planned. With an estimated/gambled average width of 5 m, that would be 685,000,000 m2 or almost 10 million households. The Netherlands has 7.5 households. In money terms the road element shown could yield 200 kwh per year or 40 euro per year against 2013 Dutch electricity prices or 1000 euro during a life span of 25 years. Oh, and the solar panel comes with a road. The idea originated from TNO. The beauty of the idea is that in extremely densely populated countries like the Netherlands (448/km2) no extra scarce space is needed to set up an alternative energy base. The entire roadsystem as one big PV solar collector.
[tno.nl] – SolaRoad combines road and solar cells (english)
Youtube text: A unique thermosolar power station in southern Spain can shrug off cloudy days: energy stored when the sun shines lets it produce electricity even during the night. The Gemasolar station, up and running since last May, stands out in the plains of Andalusia.
Tower 140 m high, power 19.9 MW, uses molten salt as heat transfer and storage medium. 2650 heliostats, each 120 m2. Gemasolar is the first commercial solar plant with central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. Due to its storage system it allows to produce electricity for 15 hours without sunlight (at night or on cloudy days).
“Spain is probably set to have Europe’s first utility- scale solar parks without subsidies“, according to Jenny Chase, the Zurich-based head of solar energy analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Main reason: Solar-cell prices came down 67% during the past two years, not in the least due to Chinese overproduction. Spain has been winding down subsidies on solar. Currently there are application for plants with 150 megawatts to 500 megawatts in capacity and all would be larger than any in Europe. Developers: local companies Solaria and Gestamp Renewables, as well as Germany’s Gehrlicher Solar AG, S.A.G. Solarstrom AG and Wuerth Solar GmbH & Co. Installed solar capacity to date: Germany 30 GW, Italy 15 GW, Spain 5 GW and the US 4 GW.
Compare this graph with a post from May this year to see that Germany is making progress with breakneck-speed. And clearly, if a country can cover 50% of its electricity needs from solar during peak hours, it also can cover 100%, provided sufficient storage facilities are available. The big difference between Germany and the US probably largely has to do with cost.
Here is an article with a lot of solar data, like cost.
This is big. Since 2011 China has adjusted its solar target for 2015 with a factor of 8, from 5 to 40 GW. This could help boost their ailing solar industry and push it towards a certain threshold, beyond which benefits of economy of scale could start kicking in. To put things in perspective, here is the situation by the end of 2011:
1. Germany — 24.7 GW
2. Italy — 12.8 GW
3. Japan — 4.9 GW
4. Spain — 4.4 GW
5. USA — 4.4 GW
6. China – 2 GW
It is obvious that most of the renewable action is in Europe, but that China at least intends to try to keep up, where the US seems insistent on poisoning their entire continent with this fracking business.
Saudi-Arabia announced it wants to invest massively in solar energy. Saudi-Arabia knows best how much oil it has (or rather does not have)… and is voting with it’s feet, away from oil towards solar energy. Lawrence of Arabia probably never realized how much potential solar energy gold is stored in deserts when he was underway securing oil for his masters in London, knowing that the days of the Ottoman empire were almost over.
We calculated earlier that it is enough to cover an area like Spain (500,000 km2) with solar panels in order to completely replace the planet’s energy needs. Everything: electricity, gas, oil, coal, uranium, cars, industry, everything. How big is Saudi-Arabia? More than four times Spain (2,250,000 km2), largely ‘useless’ desert. Saudi-Arabia now has two choices: sell their oil to the last drop or invest their remaining oil capital into a desert filled with solar panels… and export electricity to the West, China, India, etc. Or convert electricity into liquid fuel or gas. CH4/NG could be produced from CO2 and H2O from the atmosphere, reducing global warming. The Saudi’s could even demand a subsidy from the industrialized nations for this effort. It is the only use a desert could possibly have. And in contrast to Egypt or Algeria, Saudi-Arabia has the capital to convert this potential into (partial) reality. Maybe some Saudi smarties thought of that also and decided to make a start. There is a large uncertainty about how much oil Saudi-Arabia in reality has left. Maybe 270 billion barrel. It would take 120 billion barrel to setup a complete replacement of the world’s energy needs and Saudi-Arabia could continue to play a crucial role as the world’s energy hub. Cutting down on oil deliveries would have the additional advantage that oil prices would skyrocket. That would be bad news for western consumers, but good news for the future of the planet if these additional resources would indeed be used to set up a new solar energy based world economy. Obviously it is not to be recommended that all global solar energy production would be concentrated in the Saudi desert, but Saudi-Arabia at least has the (oil) capital to make a significant start, securing a prominent place for itself after the end of the oil age. The popular Arab saying: “My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet-plane. His son will ride a camel“, could be replaced with: “My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet-plane. His son will be a solar energy entrepreneur“. Other suitable places would be Australia, the Gobi desert in China, Arizona and New Mexico, the Kalahari in South-West Africa, large parts of Spain as well as the Sahara.
Why not use google maps (satellite mode) to explore the SA desert to verify it is empty.
The US as a whole may be far lagging behind Denmark and Germany when it comes to the application of renewable energy, there are bright spots in the US nevertheless. Take Hawaii… friendly tax credits, the highest average electricity rates in the nation and the most aggressive renewable energy program adopted by any state have sent homeowners scrambling to install photovoltaic systems on their roofs. So much so that engineers responsible for the grid are worried about too much electricity fed into the grid from private electricity producers. The grid can hardly cope. Seems to us like a luxury problem that can be solved. The way things are going now Hawaii could produce 100% of its electricity as early as 2020. With prices for solar panels coming down fast, there is no reason wy the US Sun Belt (see map below) could not accomplish the energy transition fast, as far as private electricity needs are concerned.
Germany already was world record holder of installed solar power in 2011; it looks like that Germany will add another astonishing 50% in 2012. Solar power’s share in the country’s electricity production rose to 6.1% from 4.1% a year ago. Wind power gained slightly to 8.6% from 8.0%. Biomass plants accounted for almost 6%. Total renewables: 26% of electricity production (US 10%).
[Dutch language video] Peter Meijers, director of IBC Solar, does a simple calculation, showing that a solar installation on a roof, directed towards the south, in a weatherwise relatively grey country like the Netherlands, already pays off handsomely. A Kwh from the grid in the Netherlands costs 0.23 euro. Based on a 20 year lifetime, solar panels can produce electricity for merely 0.13 euro. Meijers stresses that in 2011 prices for solar panels have come down with 30%. A typical installation cost 2260 euro (that’s an Apple MacBook Pro MD104N/A 15 inch). Meijers does not expect that prices will come down much more in the coming years. This calculation shows that at least for private households in countries like the Netherlands, the energy transition still could be smooth and that the installation of solar panels could be compared with the invasion of the personal computers in nearly all Dutch households over the past twenty years.
Actually, surprisingly little: 496,805 square kilometers. That’s Spain. And this is the replacement of the world consumption of energy in all of its forms (barrels of petroleum, cubic meters of natural gas, watts of hydro power, etc. or 199,721 TW•h per year). And there would be more than enough otherwise useless space in the Sahara to do that. Not that we advocate that, for political reasons. It’s better to have a distributed system, like panels on every roof, just like there are hundreds of millions of computers under these roofs as we speak.