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  • Tony Pappas

The sun also rises

With apologies to Hemingway, the sun is rising on solar generated power (and other renewables). Consider the following data:

• In 2019, 72 percent of power plant additions utilized renewables.

• The European Union now generates more power from renewables (38 percent) than from fossil fuels (37 percent.)

• Though lagging the EU, the United States (oil 37 percent, natural gas 32 percent, coal 11 percent) will see renewables push out coal for third place in 2021.

• In 2020, 37 gigawatts of new solar and wind capacity was installed, up from 17 GWs in 2016.

• Renewable power generation is now cheaper than coal and even natural gas.

• The renewable energy sector had created 446,000 jobs (including one for my niece!) by 2019.

• The “learning rate” of solar energy production is very high at 20.2 percent. (This means that every time global solar capacity doubles, the price drops 20.2 percent.)

• The cost of each solar panel installed on a Block Island roof by the Solar Initiative program is approximately $1,200. That same capacity cost NASA’s predecessor $600,000 in 1956.

• The cost of lithium-ion battery packs has dropped to $137 per kilowatt hour, allowing EVs (electric vehicles) to claw their way onto the automobile market, including at least eight on Block Island.

• But, eBuses in China now use batteries costing less than $100 per kWh; at that price point EVs will compete head-to-head with internal combustion vehicles.

• So General Motors recently announce that by 2035 it would produce only EVs.

• President Biden has ordered a plan to make the entire federal fleet of 645,000 vehicles all electric.

So get with the future! The Solar Initiative is making it easier to go renewable by providing subsidies on photo-voltaic and heat pump systems. Get both installed and stretch your savings even further.

Your wallet and nature will thank you.

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