The Transition to Renewable Energy
Climate change is forcing the world to move away from fossil fuels into renewable energy. While there is obviously a lot of resistance from the fossil fuel industry, dramatic cost reductions in solar panels and installations and in wind turbines has meant that in many countries it is now cheaper to install solar or wind then it is to install a more traditional coal fired or oil or gas fired Power Station. And in most countries it is even cheaper to install solar then it is to continue burning coal in an existing coal fired Power Station. Consequently a lot of coal fired stations are closing down.
Wind and Solar Power are great Solutions except that the power supply is intermittent. Power is not generated if there is no wind or if it is night and there’s no Solar power. The solution for many countries is to use Wind and Solar Power as a replacement during the day for burning coal, and then use coal when the Wind and Solar Power is not being generated.
A brand new technology dad is coming onto the market in a big way is lithium ion battery storage on a very large scale that can be charged up during the day and then discharged overnight. There are hundreds of thousands of homeowners in North America and millions of homeowners in Europe who have solar panels and a growing number with battery storage, maybe to save power cost over the life of the installation but also to provide an emergency supply if the power goes off. There are also a number of utility scale battery storage installations dotted around the world to not only provide storage for solar power but also to store power up during the day and prevent power spikes occurring in the network.
Battery storage can be a low-cost alternative to the massive cost of upgrading an electrical power network. A very interesting feature is that the supply and installation time for the storage battery array is generally very quick, and it can be an ideal solution for emergency situations such as in South Australia.
A very recent development from Tesla is the solar roof, where the solar panel is embedded inside glass tiles that are shaped to resemble standard roofing tiles and slates. The glass tiles have micro louvres embedded in the surface so that from ground level the tile looks like a normal tile but from above the solar panel is completely visible. The glass panels are reputed to be tougher than any comparable roofing tile, and the lifetime cost including power savings is considerably less than a cost of a normal new roof.