Canaries in the mine: Mega-solar plants and grid parity

Posted by on Nov 6, 2013 in Blog, News | 0 comments

megakagoshima-600x0I was thrilled to see this stunning image of Japan’s largest Solar Photovoltaic plant. This consists of 240,000 Kyocera panels providing a massive 70MWe capacity which should produce 78,800 MWh of electricity. The plant is set in 127 acres on a purpose-built island in the city of Kagoshima on the Southern Japanese island of Kyushu. If you want to see it on a map and appreciate its true scale, click here (although the satellite image is from before the completion of the plant).

Impressive thought this is, it pales by comparison with some of the mega-solar plants in the pipeline. India, for example, has just announced a 4GW scheme in Rajasthan  to be built on a 23,000-acre (9308 ha) site close to Sambhar Lake, about 75 km from Jaipur, the state capital. This will potentially triple current solar PV output for India, although it remains to be seen if the plant goes ahead as planned.  

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Sources, Sinks and Peak Oil

Posted by on Oct 12, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

The economy which we operate today is largely based on a one-way journey of natural resources – from source to sink:

Sources and Sinks drive the economy

Figure 1: Our economy depends both on the availability of natural resources and on the ability of the environment to deal with the wastes that we produce.

However, oil, like other fossil fuels, is a non-renewable resource, in other words it is not replenished by nature – it can only be used once. The source of oil is finite. Furthermore the use of oil leads to emissions of CO2 whose natural sinks are already saturated. Given the importance of oil to the economy it is not surprising that there has been a lot of debate about whether the Source or the Sink would ever limit our use of this resource, and when those limits would arrive.Amongst all the resources that we use oil is particularly important. It has been the availability of huge quantities of very cheap oil that has powered the unprecedented economic growth of the last century, just as coal was the energy source that underpinned the Industrial Revolution in the years before. Oil has wondrously been described as “fossilised sunlight” because it is derived from the sun that fell on plants over thousands of years. Oil is an incredible material –it is very portable, its derivatives – gasoline/petrol, diesel etc. – are volatile and so can drive combustion engines and as chemical feedstock oil underpins a huge range of industries. Oil also has around one and half times the energy density of coal and over four times that of wood – one litre of gasoline/petrol contains 32 MJ or 8.5 kWh – which is equivalent to about 8.5 days of human labour[1]!

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Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air – David MacKay

Posted by on Oct 3, 2012 in Books | 0 comments

 What can I say that has not already been said about David MacKay’ outstanding book on Sustainable Energy? It won plaudits from a wide range of reviewers (from the right and the left, from greens and cynics) and became one of the hottest selling non-fiction titles ever on Amazon.

So why all the hype about a book which essentially takes all the major sources of energy and piece-by-piece examines their current impact and potential future contribution to a low carbon world?

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