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EGEB: North Korean solar; California survived eclipse; utility business models evolve; more

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Dutch Utility Bets Its Future on an Unusual Strategy: Selling Less Power – When Eneco tested a promising energy monitor in several dozen homes – when Eneco sent workers to recover the monitors — a tenth of customers refused to open their doors. “They wanted to keep it,” said Tako in ’t Veld, a former Eneco executive who now leads the “smart energy” unit at Quby, the company that makes the energy meter. “They were so happy with the energy insight.” An electric utility that is now focusing on offering services beyond simply selling kilowatts – this is where other groups need start moving. The reality of electricity is that its a commodity that is no longer monopoly produced – just like Kodak can no longer make money off of selling film, its times to move on.

Who Wins When Bifacial, Thin-Film CdTe and Crystalline Silicon PV Face Off in the Field? – Three module test labs, DNV GL, TÜV Rheinland Photovoltaic Testing Lab and Celestica, tracked the performance of 2-kilowatt systems that use one of three technologies: thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe), n-type silicon bifacial, and crystalline-silicon (c-Si). Modules were selected at random by the labs. Generally, regular people like you and I don’t worry about product like Thin-Flim – as these products are mostly sold only to large scale project developers (lower efficiency products make more sense where land is cheap and energy density doesn’t matter as much – the opposite of a residential rooftop). However, bifacial products versus standard crystalline pv – regular solar panels – do matter. Lots of graphs looking at production over the course of a year in various temperature regions.

China’s solar panel vendors shine a spotlight on trade ties to North Korea – Researchers at the Nautilus Institute – a think tank based in Berkeley, California – estimated that by the end of 2014, about 2 per cent of North Korea’s population had acquired solar panels. As a student of political science and economics who watches trade flows and the challenges of statecraft around the planet, it makes me stop to think about how I would regulate (or not) the trade of solar panels from a country like China to North Korea. Most ‘smart sanctions’ these days are designed to attack those in power – for instance, they have limited the transfer of whiskey into North Korea…but not solar panels for the poor and regular folks. And – in my current armchair solar guy analysis – I support these panels moving across the border.

How Central Maine Power killed a popular pro-rooftop solar bill – This is great research. The article lists so many ways that small actions were used to influence the Maine legislature to dump solar power, and because there are so many examples I’m going to skip over those and let you find them…but I will give you a key piece of data: Another study commissioned by the Maine Public Utility Commission in 2015 put a value of $0.33 per kWh on energy generated by distributed solar, compared to the average retail price of $0.13 per kWh — the rate at which electricity is sold to residential customers as well as the rate at which distributed solar is compensated. The State of Maine asked its own Public Utility Commission to determine the value of solar power – their math said it was worth almost 3X the cost of the full net metering price, yet we had politicians in the State of Maine saying solar power steals from the poor and elderly.

Historic Eclipse Puts U.S. Power Grid Under the Microscope – So, we’re all still here. This article talks about a lot of the work that went into defending against the eclipse – but their graph of production was rough, so check out the images below of the California solar production chart. And here is an article focusing specifically on the work the California grid operators did. Now – a key, really simple thought – everyone was flipping out about solar power production going down, but in reality this up and down solar power production happens every single day – you know – when clouds come out and the sun goes down. So, there’s that.

Global Solar Capacity Set to Surpass Nuclear for the First Time – The 81 gigawatts expected this year are more than double the amount of solar capacity installed in 2014. And it’s 32 times more solar deployed a decade ago. (In the year 2000, global installations totaled 150 megawatts.) According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, there are 391.5 gigawatts of nuclear plants operating around the world. When the year closes out, there will be roughly 390 gigawatts of solar PV plants spread across the globe, according to estimates from GTM Research.very important point though is that nuclear energy production is more than five times as great still – 11% of global electricity comes from nuclear power and 1.8% from solar. However, nuclear power isn’t doubling every 2-4 years – solar is. 3.6% of electricity from solar by ~2021-2023, and 7.2% by 2023-2026 – and before 2030…solar will break 10% of electricity. That will cost massive amounts of money and save massive amounts of lives. Good job solar.

Tweet (actually about 40 of them in a single line) of the Day comes from me – a long line of research from the IEEE Journal of Photovolatics talking about so many topics relevant to solar power. The industry is growing – the technological base from where it is based is growing. Most of these ideas will die in the journals – but a key few will sneak through, and a some of those will have an impact that improves the lives of us here on Earth.

Header image by Joan Sullivan – absolutely stunning photography. You can find her on Twitter as well.

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