18 Solar Stories From 2016’s First Half

Solar thermal technology. Photo:  Science Photo / Shutterstock
Solar thermal technology. Photo: Science Photo / Shutterstock

We’re already halfway through 2016, and the historic Paris climate summit was over six months ago. Time to take a look at what has happened!

We’ve put together a small selection of the solar-related climate change stories that made headlines in the first half of 2016. Also check out our State of the Planet for a week-by-week overview of key climate change stories.

1. Does your phone charge on coal or solar? There’s an app for that!

Knowledge is power, and yet you probably have no idea where exactly the electricity you use to charge your phone, power your fridge and do the dishes (if you’re lucky) comes from. The Daily Planet lists a few handy apps that tell you exactly how the electricity you use is being generated at this exact moment – and whether it is clean or not.

2. The global solar industry is poised for massive expansion.

Less than 2 per cent of today’s global electricity is generated by solar power, but this is set to change. According to a new International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report, this figure could grow to 13 per cent by 2030.

3. A world record $286 billion was invested in solar and other renewables last year.

This makes for a total of $2.3 trillion over 12 years, according to a new UN-backed report. Last year coal and gas-fired electricity drew less than half the record investment made in solar, wind and other renewables.

4. One of the easy steps to a climate-friendly camping trip is… using a solar grill!

Avid campers – or just BBQ enthusiasts: you could invest in a solar powered grill.

The Daily Planet reported how Sol Source – a solar-powered grill from Norwegian start-up One Earth Designs – requires no fuel, heats up quickly, is easy to clean and produces no emissions whatsoever!

5. Solar Impulse made history, becoming the first solar powered airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Flying into the southern Spanish city of Seville as the sun rose behind him, CNN reports pilot Betrand Piccard was flanked by an honour guard from the Spanish formation flying team Patrulla Aguila.

The solar aircraft, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 but only weighs about as much as an SUV, took off from New York’s JFK airport after mission engineers identified a narrow weather window in which to undertake the nearly four-day flight.

6. China is set to more than triple its solar power capacity in just five years.

Bloomberg reports the world’s biggest emitter of global-warming emissions is hoping to use solar energy as a means to help meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

7. Used solar panels offer a significant business opportunity, according to a new report.

The world had 227 gigawatts of installed solar panel capacity in 2015, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and this figure is expected to reach 4,500 by 2050. A more than 1,800 per cent increase.

This gigantic increase is set to result in a huge amount of electronic waste as solar panels reach the end of their roughly 30-year life span, IRENA points out.

But with this waste, comes new opportunity. By 2050, solar panel waste – comprised mostly of glass –- could total 78 million tonnes. If fully injected back into the economy, the value of the recovered glass and other raw materials could exceed $15 billion by 2050 IRENA says.

 8. The global solar sector could get a $1 trillion power-up from the World Bank, and India is getting a 1$ billion boost for its national solar initiatives.

In collaboration with the International Solar Alliance (ISA), the World Bank says it wants to raise the substantial amount of $1 trillion by 2030, the Daily Planet reports the announcement.

“We cannot afford to lose momentum, because with each passing day, the climate challenge grows. Record hot days and months have now become the new norm,” said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim earlier at the 2016 Climate Action summit.

The World Bank also announced that it plans to provide more than $1 billion to support India’s ambitious national solar energy initiatives.

9. China has set a new record with its 2015 solar and wind consumption.

Good news from the world’s biggest polluter: “The latest figures confirm China’s record-breaking shift towards renewable power and away from coal,” Tim Buckley from the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said in a statement picked up by Climate Home.

10. A company in London is set to break a record by floating what will be the biggest solar array of its kind.

Not on the stock exchange, but on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir in London. Clean Technica reports it will be the largest floating solar power system in Europe. Also in the UK, the Guardian reports that Energy UK, which represents the country’s ‘big six’ providers, made a major u-turn by announcingsupport for phasing out coal-fired stations.

11. Solar and other renewables will power most of Europe’s energy by 2040.

Wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energy plants will generate the vast majority of Europe’s power by 2040 according to a new analysis by Bloomberg, the Daily Planet reports.

12. Solar and other renewable energy surges to record levels around the world.

New solar, wind and hydropower sources were added in 2015 at the fastest rate the world has yet seen, the BBC reports. Investments in renewables during the year were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants, according to a new study.

A record $286 billion was spent on renewables in 2015, CNBC reports.

13. China is on an “epic solar power binge.”

This is not just good headline writing by MIT Technology Review. China actually added 15 gigawatt in 2015, and now has a whopping 43.2 gigawatt solar capacity. This compares to 38.4 in Germany and 27.8 in the United States.

14. Portugal and Germany smash solar and wind energy records.

Portugal kept its lights on with renewable energy alone for four consecutive days, the Guardian reported. Electricity consumption in the country was fully covered by solar, wind and hydro power.

In a first, Germany did the same for one day during a week this spring. Bloomberg reports how it marked a milestone for the country’s “Energiewende” policy of boosting renewables and phasing out nuclear and fossil fuels.

Craig Morris of Renewables International provides some critical analysis of you should interpret this trend.

15. The millionth set of solar panels in the United States was installed during 2016’s first half.

And industry leaders expect the number of solar-powered systems to double within two years, Huffington Post reports.

16. A major US supermarket chain is moving into solar energy.

The NASDAQ listed Whole Foods Market is going to install solar panels on nearly 200 stores, instantly propelling it into the top 25 solar companies in the USA.

17. Wind and solar are now crushing fossil fuels… two to one.

Bloomberg reported that while oil, natural gas, and coal are going through a period of dramatic downsizing, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.

18. Even Suncor, the Canadian oil sands giant, is now looking at building… solar and wind farms.

The National Observer reports how the company is evolving as an energy company, and has the money to go where ‘traditional’ renewable energy companies can’t go.

Interested in more climate change headlines? Check out our State of the Planet and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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