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Solar power is shaking up global energy

Alternative Energy

One by one, Japan is turning off the lights at the giant oil-fired power plants that propelled it to the ranks of the world’s

top industrialized nations. With nuclear power in the doldrums after the Fukushima disaster, it’s solar energy that is becoming the alternative.

Solar power is set to become profitable in Japan as early as this quarter, according to the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (JREF), freeing it from the need for government subsidies and making it the last of the G7 economies where the technology has become economically viable.

Japan is now one of the world’s four largest markets for solar panels and a large number of power plants are coming onstream, including two giant arrays over water in Kato City and a $1.1 billion solar farm being built on a salt field in Okayama, both west of Osaka.

“Solar has come of age in Japan and from now on will be replacing imported imported uranium and fossil fuels,” said Tomas Kåberger, executive board chairman of JREF.

“In trying to protect their fossil fuel and nuclear (plants), Japan’s electric power companies can only delay developments here,” he said, referring to the 10 regional monopolies that have dominated electricity production since the 1950s.

Japan is retiring nearly 2.4 gigawatts of expensive and polluting oil-fired energy plants by March next year and switching to alternative fuels. Japan’s 43 nuclear reactors have been closed in the wake of the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima power plant after an earthquake and a tsunami – since then, renewable energy capacity has tripled to 25 gigawatts, with solar accounting for more than 80 percent of that.

Once Japan reaches cost-revenue parity in solar energy, it will mean the technology is commercially viable in all G7 countries and 14 of the G20 economies, according to data from governments, industry and consumer groups.

A crash in the prices of photovoltaic panels and improved technology that harnesses more power from the sun has placed solar on the cusp of a global boom, analysts say, who compare its rise to shale oil.

“Just as shale extraction reconfigured oil and gas, no other technology is closer to transforming power markets than distributed and utility scale solar,” said consultancy Wood Mackenzie, which has a focus on the oil and gas industry.

Oil major Exxon Mobil says that “solar capacity is expected to grow by more than 20 times from 2010 to 2040.”

Investors are also re-discovering solar, with the global solar index up 40 percent this year, lifting it out of a slump following the 2008/2009 financial crisis, far outperforming struggling commodities such as iron ore, natural gas, copper or coal.


By starting mass-production of solar panels, China is the driving force in bringing down solar manufacturing costs by 80 percent in the last decade, according to Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute.

In Japan, residential solar power production costs have more than halved since 2010 to under 30 yen ($0.25) per kilowatt-hour (kWh), making it comparable to average household electricity prices.

Wood Mackenzie expects solar costs to fall more as “efficiencies are nowhere near their theoretical maximums.”

Solar is already well-entrenched in Europe and North America, but it is the expected boom in Asia that is lifting it out from its niche.

China’s new anti-pollution policies are making the big difference. Because of these policies, Beijing is seeking alternatives for coal, which makes up almost two-thirds of its energy consumption.

China’s 2014 solar capacity was 26.52 gigawatt (GW), less than 2 percent of its total capacity of 1,360 GW.

But the government wants to add 17.8 GW of solar power this year and added 5 GW in the first quarter alone, with plans to boost capacity to 100 GW by 2020.

Coal-dominated India, with its plentiful sunlight, could also take to solar in a big way.

Despite this boom, fossil-fueled power is far from dead.

“Additional generating capacity, such as natural gas-fired plants, must be made available to back up wind and solar during the times when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing,” Exxon says.

yahoo – reuters

6 Comments on "Solar power is shaking up global energy"

  1. Rodster on Sun, 26th Apr 2015 4:37 pm 

    I have yet to see solar in anything besides solar powered water heaters and garden lights in Florida where sunshine is year round.

  2. Bandits on Sun, 26th Apr 2015 8:22 pm 

    If solar is viable or if any the alt-e system for that matter is, then why not shut down an equivalent amount of FF generated power to truly show that it is an “alternative”.

    Could you imagine the result, if the requirement was that for every bit of FF that WOULD HAVE BEEN BURNT but for the use of a solar panel, windmill, electric car or bio-fuel, an equivalent amount of FF had to be placed off limits.

    We would truly see then what is sustainable and what is in fact bullshit.

  3. Makati1 on Sun, 26th Apr 2015 10:38 pm 

    More propaganda BS from your masters on Wall Street.

  4. Davy on Sun, 26th Apr 2015 11:06 pm 

    Any news on the smart grids and storage systems yet that will need to accompany all this new solar? All the other talk in this article is just cheerleading. There is nothing of substance from this and other articles like it that indicates a scaling to a level of significance per the requirements of our global energy system. It is a global energy system because the world is so interconnected in global complexity no major region can fail without a general failure.

    This article is AltE propaganda no better than the fossil fuel stink we hear all the time. I can’t stand clean coal commercials or oil companies claiming some green achievement. That stuff insults my intelligence and makes the whole system look like a farce. AltE cannot scale in size or time frame to save us period. Let’s quit deceiving ourselves this can be done and start down the tough road ahead called reality.

  5. Kenz300 on Mon, 27th Apr 2015 7:13 am 

    The transition away from fossil fuels and toward alternative energy sources is growing around the world.


    The Renewable Revolution | Michael T. Klare


    Renewables Account for 75 Percent of New US Generating Capacity in First Quarter of 2015


    Beijing to Shut All Major Coal Power Plants to Cut Pollution

  6. gaby de wilde on Mon, 27th Apr 2015 7:48 am 

    We have the tendency to judge things anecdotally, if we see stuff happen around us we expect more of it.

    The solar revolution (if you like) is a combination of many effects. Better cells are being developed. Manufacturing is improving and upscaling as people are buying more of it. We are also accumulating more data allowing for better performance predictions. The market opposition also has to do the cost benefit analysis on their propaganda against solar.

    All these things play together allowing the sector to expand exponentially.

    The way I see it we had steam engines long ago and we knew how to use mirrors quite a bit further back. 100 years ago the coal fired steam engines were incredibly inefficient but having the sun do useful work was pretty much known back when we had hair all over and lived in trees.

    Nature does chemistry better than we can, in many of her projects like those we call trees the solar arrays are rebuild every year.

    If this sounds like a weird argument try imagine people building aircrafts pointing at birds. While less imaginative people cried about the efforts (for all the wrong reasons) the birds persistently never paid attention to all that and “ignorantly” flew on, unlicensed and ignoring borders etc

    Some bird species are huge! Likewise, the amount of water pumped up by trees allows very little room for “it cant work” kind of arguments.

    Personally I like experimentalism, while science allows for theories I just ignore opinions from people who haven’t tried to make something work before arguing it couldn’t be done.

    World peace is also impossible in theory but I would prefer it if we tried and failed miserably again and again without admitting it can’t be done.

    Solar had great potential to become a failure. If only the dirty energy industry would have helped promoting it we would all have terribly inefficient bug riddled solar on our roofs now and we would all be convinced that it cant possibly work.

    Much like we know how to build cars that can drive a thousand miles on one gallon of fuel. A better argument “for” electric cars I can’t imagine.

    As so clearly we are a rational species I conclude:

    You like the solar and you are going to keep it.

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