It is sometimes said that renewable energy sources, particularly solar and wind, can never replace fossil fuels. Turns out, they already are and we have the charts to prove it! (H/T CleanTechnica)
The data comes from the monthly report on electric power supply sources produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, titled Electric Power Monthly, August 2014 (the latest report available). To be sure, the EPM report is a geek’s delight, consisting of more than 200 pages of tables and graphs. But here is the part that caught our attention - it is a tale of two maps, showing power plants set to retire compared to power plants set to come online over the next year. Let’s start with the retirees (click on the map for a full-size version)…
The larger the circle, the bigger the plant’s production capacity, while the color of the circle represents the fuel source.
Nearly all of these retiring plants are fossil-fuel plants, with the overwhelming majority being coal-fired plants (the appropriately gray-colored dots). Many of those plants are centered around the Appalachian coal fields of West Virginia and Kentucky, with another cluster in Georgia.
That is a lot of capacity that is set to go away - what will take its place? So glad you asked, check out this map…
This map shows a very different picture - lots of solar (sunny yellow dots) coming online in California (and qute a bit in North Carolina!) with lots of wind (green dots) in the center of the country.
Keep in mind that this is only showing utility-scale facilities, so all of that rooftop solar that folks like us are installing on homes and businesses doesn’t factor into this figure. Those installations are helping to keep the demand for power down, meaning that you can eliminate more sources of power than you are adding and still meet the need.
This is the trend that we need to see - more and more dirty energy sources being retired, replaced by fewer, cleaner power plants.
So the next time someone tries to tell you that renewable energy sources will never replace fossil fuels, show them these maps and tell them, “You know what, they already are.”
SPI is always a great show, indeed, it is often an overwhelming experience. Add in the extra spice of Las Vegas and this week is likely to go by in a blur! As always we will be on the lookout for what’s new and improved, particularly when it comes to racking solutions, energy storage (will this finally be the year?), and cool new tools to make the job easier and safer.
We are particularly eager to see what is happening in “Start-up Alley” where a number of new companies will be pitching their concepts in the hope of securing investment dollars - to say nothing of some SPI buzz! One SPI regular and strong policy voice for solar - Adam Gerza - will be there with his new venture, Energy Toolbase. He recently wrote to us to tell us about Energy Toolbase and described it this way:
Having spent the last six years building my own Excel models, and using the other software products that are out there – I believe Energy Toolbase is better than any tool that’s ever been built.
Pretty strong boast there, Adam, and as someone who has been building models since getting into the business back in 2006, I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!
But SPI is about way more than the geek fest that it surely is. It is about making connections and there will be lots of opportunities to do just that. Starting with the opening reception this evening, and then the lucky few who made the cut get to attend the Top Solar Contractors Gala, courtesy of the fine folks at Solar Power World.
Tuesday night is the annual Block Party and I’m guessing a block party in Vegas will be nothing short of epic!
Wednesday features the Solar Tweetup at lunchtime hosted by Tor (Solar Fred) Valenza (with some help from his friends at Enphase, Generaytor, REC Solar and Solar-Log, and wraps up with the #SolarChat event featuring Raina Russo, Glenna Wiseman and our own Kendra Hubbard. Whew!
Look for tweets and Facebook posts during the week and more detailed blog posts after the event.
Have a great week everybody, and if you see me on the floor be sure to come up and say hi!
The folks over at NASA are reporting something that folks out here in the West will not find at all surprising: 2014 is on track to contend for the title of warmest year ever. (No doubt this will come as a shock to folks who regularly watch Fox News.) (H/T Climate Crocks.)
The chart shows the temperature anomaly for 134 years with the zoom in on the five warmest. 2014 is the heavy grey line; 2010 (the hottest year on record) is in red. (Oh, and contrary to the Fox canard about a global cooling trend, in fact of the five warmest years ever, two were in the past five - 2010 and 2013.)
Of course, 2014 isn’t over yet so the dotted lines provide a number of possible scenarios. To give you a sense of how far “ahead” we are so far this year, if the remaining months simply hit their 21st century averages, 2014 will tie 2005 for the second warmest year ever.
Hang on to this link, you may need to refer to it next month over Thanksgiving dinner!
We stumbled upon an interesting graphic that highlights just what it takes to keep the lights on in our homes and work places. It is a tale of both efficiency and waste. We thought it was worth sharing… (h/t The EnergyCollective.)
The starting point for the graphic (click on the image at left for the full size graphic) is an old fashioned (i.e., wasteful) 100 Watt incandescent light bulb. If you turned on such a light and left it running for a year, how much energy would it consume? That’s the easy calculation - 100 W = 0.1 kW. There are 8,760 hours in a year (roughly - don’t go getting all leap year on me) so our light bulb uses:
0.1 kW x 8,760 hours = 876 kWh.
Quite a lot, really, just to light a room!
The graphic proceeds to explore what it would take to produce that much power from each of our common energy sources. Interestingly, only one of these sources is something you can own - and that, of course, is solar. (While you could own a wind turbine, the one in the graphic is a 1.5 MW turbine, definitely not something to put in your backyard!) To be fair, the graphic assumes an installation of 100 square meters which is 1,076 square feet, and that is significantly larger than most residential solar systems. If your system is smaller, it takes longer for your system to keep the light on, but the end result is the same: your own power source meeting your needs, with no pollution or long-lived waste products to worry about.
On the other end of that scale is the coal plant where our light bulb requires us to burn nearly half a ton of coal and emit over a ton of CO2 in the process!
The good news is that both that wasteful incandescent light bulb, and coal-fired power plants are going away, just not fast enough. (Changing out your old 100 Watt light bulbs with efficient LEDs will drop these numbers by more than a factor of five.) Every solar installation directly reduces our greenhouse gas emissions - and saves the system owner substantial amounts of money over the lifetime of the system.
Readers of this blog know that the only thing we like better than Electric Vehicles are Electric Vehicles that Run on Sun. So when we came across this clever ad from Nissan, we just had to share (and it is perfect for a Friday!).
Check this out:
Frankly, we had that same self-satisfied smile on our face when we got to test drive a Tesla Model S a few weeks ago. Part of the test drive was a short stint on a local freeway. As luck would have it, the light turned red as we reached the on-ramp to the freeway. As luck would further have it, a 5-series BMW pulled up alongside of us - both of us first to go at the light. Somewhat distracted by the many bells and whistles inside the Model S (and the patter of the salesperson), we weren’t focused on the light, and the BMW jumped ahead as the light changed.
Poor little BMW, he didn’t have a chance.
Happy Friday, everyone - but remember, use your torque wisely!