Tag Archives: Solar energy

India’s solar power set to outshine coal

India solar power
India solar power

Solar power in India will be cheaper than imported coal by 2020, but replacing the subcontinent’s fossil fuels with renewable energy is an enormous task.

BERLIN, 21 October, 2016 – India wants to provide its entire population with electricity and lift millions out of poverty, but in order to prevent the world overheating it also needs to switch away from fossil fuels.

Although India is blessed with ample sunshine and wind, its main source of energy is coal, followed by oil and gas. Together, they provide around 90% of the total energy demand of the subcontinent – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – with coal enjoying the highest share, at more than 70%.

The 2016 BP Energy Outlook report assumes that India will depend increasingly on imports for its energy. Domestic production can be increased, but the increase will be overtaken by growing demand. BP says that by 2035 gas imports to India will rise by 573%, oil imports by 169% and coal by 85%.

Renewable thinking

But that assumes that renewables will not take off in India. Others think differently. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons that by as early as 2020 large photovoltaic ground-mounted systems will be more economical in India than plants powered by imported coal.

Its conclusion is based on what is called the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) – a way of comparing different methods of electricity generation, using the average total cost of building and operating a power plant, divided by its total lifetime energy output.

“Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy”

Bloomberg says the LCOE for photovoltaic systems is about US$0.10 per solar kilowatt hour, compared with a current levelised cost for coal in Asia of about US$0.07.

Even if coal prices remain steady, which it thinks is unlikely, it believes that the continuing fall in PV prices means that solar energy will be more economic than coal by 2020. Only 10 years ago, solar generation was more than three times the price of coal.

One of the pioneering solar manufacturers, Tata Power Solar, estimates that the potential for solar in India lies at about 130 gigawatts by 2025.

“This would generate more than 675,000 jobs in the Indian solar industry,” says Tata Power Solar’s former CEO, Ajay Goel, now president of solar and chief of new businesses at New Delhi-based ReNew Power . “Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy.”

Solar benefits

After years of standstill on the subcontinent, India seems to be discovering the benefits of solar energy. So the government has recently updated its National Solar Mission target: now it wants to achieve 175GW of renewable power, which includes 100GW of solar power by 2022.

To meet these goals, India will need to increase the pace of its renewable energy capacity addition sevenfold, from an average 3GW per year to at least 20GW per year. Since 2007, the country has averaged only 15GW of new power capacity each year from all technologies.

Bloomberg believes that these targets are difficult to achieve in the given timeframe and will require a serious overhaul of the power infrastructure, as well as new incentives to drive investment.

The International Energy Authority (IEA) agrees. In a special report on India, the agency says that due to population growth the country will need to provide an extra 600 million people with electricity by 2040.

Uncertainty over the pace at which new large dams or nuclear plants can be built means there is a strong reliance on solar and wind power. The IEA says India has high potential and equally high ambition in these areas to deliver on the pledge to build up a 40% share of non-fossil-fuel capacity in the power sector by 2030.

It believes that 340GW of new wind and solar projects, as well as manufacturing and installation capabilities, can be created by 2040 with strong policy support and declining costs.

According to this scenario, the IEA says, the share of coal in the power generation mix falls from 75% to less than 60%, but coal-fired power still meets half of the increase in power generation.

But both the IEA and Bloomberg warn that inadequate transmission infrastructure, open access issues, the poor financial health of distribution companies and a difficult law-making process within the power sector will be the major issues blocking a flow of investment and the proper growth of renewable energy.

So it remains to be seen whether India will put its ambitious plans into practice. The solar potential is obviously there, and at a competitive price. Now people have to start harvesting energy from the sun. – Climate News Network

Solar power in India will be cheaper than imported coal by 2020, but replacing the subcontinent’s fossil fuels with renewable energy is an enormous task.

BERLIN, 21 October, 2016 – India wants to provide its entire population with electricity and lift millions out of poverty, but in order to prevent the world overheating it also needs to switch away from fossil fuels.

Although India is blessed with ample sunshine and wind, its main source of energy is coal, followed by oil and gas. Together, they provide around 90% of the total energy demand of the subcontinent – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – with coal enjoying the highest share, at more than 70%.

The 2016 BP Energy Outlook report assumes that India will depend increasingly on imports for its energy. Domestic production can be increased, but the increase will be overtaken by growing demand. BP says that by 2035 gas imports to India will rise by 573%, oil imports by 169% and coal by 85%.

Renewable thinking

But that assumes that renewables will not take off in India. Others think differently. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons that by as early as 2020 large photovoltaic ground-mounted systems will be more economical in India than plants powered by imported coal.

Its conclusion is based on what is called the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) – a way of comparing different methods of electricity generation, using the average total cost of building and operating a power plant, divided by its total lifetime energy output.

“Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy”

Bloomberg says the LCOE for photovoltaic systems is about US$0.10 per solar kilowatt hour, compared with a current levelised cost for coal in Asia of about US$0.07.

Even if coal prices remain steady, which it thinks is unlikely, it believes that the continuing fall in PV prices means that solar energy will be more economic than coal by 2020. Only 10 years ago, solar generation was more than three times the price of coal.

One of the pioneering solar manufacturers, Tata Power Solar, estimates that the potential for solar in India lies at about 130 gigawatts by 2025.

“This would generate more than 675,000 jobs in the Indian solar industry,” says Tata Power Solar’s former CEO, Ajay Goel, now president of solar and chief of new businesses at New Delhi-based ReNew Power . “Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy.”

Solar benefits

After years of standstill on the subcontinent, India seems to be discovering the benefits of solar energy. So the government has recently updated its National Solar Mission target: now it wants to achieve 175GW of renewable power, which includes 100GW of solar power by 2022.

To meet these goals, India will need to increase the pace of its renewable energy capacity addition sevenfold, from an average 3GW per year to at least 20GW per year. Since 2007, the country has averaged only 15GW of new power capacity each year from all technologies.

Bloomberg believes that these targets are difficult to achieve in the given timeframe and will require a serious overhaul of the power infrastructure, as well as new incentives to drive investment.

The International Energy Authority (IEA) agrees. In a special report on India, the agency says that due to population growth the country will need to provide an extra 600 million people with electricity by 2040.

Uncertainty over the pace at which new large dams or nuclear plants can be built means there is a strong reliance on solar and wind power. The IEA says India has high potential and equally high ambition in these areas to deliver on the pledge to build up a 40% share of non-fossil-fuel capacity in the power sector by 2030.

It believes that 340GW of new wind and solar projects, as well as manufacturing and installation capabilities, can be created by 2040 with strong policy support and declining costs.

According to this scenario, the IEA says, the share of coal in the power generation mix falls from 75% to less than 60%, but coal-fired power still meets half of the increase in power generation.

But both the IEA and Bloomberg warn that inadequate transmission infrastructure, open access issues, the poor financial health of distribution companies and a difficult law-making process within the power sector will be the major issues blocking a flow of investment and the proper growth of renewable energy.

So it remains to be seen whether India will put its ambitious plans into practice. The solar potential is obviously there, and at a competitive price. Now people have to start harvesting energy from the sun. – Climate News Network

Investor heavyweights call for clear action on climate

As a major UN climate summit gets under way in New York today, some of the world’s leading institutional investors demand clearer policies on climate change and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. LONDON, 23 September, 2014 − Many of the biggest hitters in the global financial community, together managing an eye-watering $24 trillion of investment funds, have issued a powerful warning to political leaders about the risks of failing to establish clear policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More than 340 investment concerns − ranging from Scandinavian pensions funds to institutional investors in Asia, Australia, South Africa and the US − have put their signatures to what they describe as global investors’ most comprehensive statement yet on climate change. In particular, the investors call on government leaders to provide a “stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon policy”, and to develop plans to phase out subsidies on fossil fuels. They warn: “Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ambitious policies

“Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments.” Attempts to establish carbon pricing systems capable of making an impact on climate change have so far ended in failure, while oil and gas companies continue to battle against stopping fossil fuel subsidies. The investors’ move has been welcomed by the United Nations. Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, said: “Investors are owners of large segments of the global economy, as well as custodians of citizens’ savings around the world. Having such a critical mass of them demand a transition to the low-carbon and green economy is exactly the signal governments need in order to move to ambitious action quickly. “What is needed is an unprecedented re-channelling of investment from today´s economy into the low-carbon economy of tomorrow.” The investors’ statement comes amid growing concern in the finance sector about the economic consequences of a warming world. Last week, a commission composed of leading economists and senior political figures said the transition to a low-carbon economy was vital in order to ensure continued global economic growth.

Stranded assets

Other groups say investors who continue to put their money into fossil fuels are taking considerable risks. As governments and regulators face up to the enormity of climate change and place more restrictions on fossil fuels, such investments could become what are termed “stranded assets”. There are also signs of a surge in low-carbon technologies, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Last week, Lazard, the asset management firm, reported that a decline in cost and increased efficiency means large wind and solar installations in the US can now, without subsidies, be cost competitive with gas-fired power. There is also increased activity on the carbon pricing front. China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, recently announced it would establish a countrywide emissions trading system by 2016. If implemented, the China carbon trading system will be the world’s biggest. The country already runs seven regional carbon trading schemes. – Climate News Network

As a major UN climate summit gets under way in New York today, some of the world’s leading institutional investors demand clearer policies on climate change and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. LONDON, 23 September, 2014 − Many of the biggest hitters in the global financial community, together managing an eye-watering $24 trillion of investment funds, have issued a powerful warning to political leaders about the risks of failing to establish clear policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More than 340 investment concerns − ranging from Scandinavian pensions funds to institutional investors in Asia, Australia, South Africa and the US − have put their signatures to what they describe as global investors’ most comprehensive statement yet on climate change. In particular, the investors call on government leaders to provide a “stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon policy”, and to develop plans to phase out subsidies on fossil fuels. They warn: “Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ambitious policies

“Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments.” Attempts to establish carbon pricing systems capable of making an impact on climate change have so far ended in failure, while oil and gas companies continue to battle against stopping fossil fuel subsidies. The investors’ move has been welcomed by the United Nations. Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, said: “Investors are owners of large segments of the global economy, as well as custodians of citizens’ savings around the world. Having such a critical mass of them demand a transition to the low-carbon and green economy is exactly the signal governments need in order to move to ambitious action quickly. “What is needed is an unprecedented re-channelling of investment from today´s economy into the low-carbon economy of tomorrow.” The investors’ statement comes amid growing concern in the finance sector about the economic consequences of a warming world. Last week, a commission composed of leading economists and senior political figures said the transition to a low-carbon economy was vital in order to ensure continued global economic growth.

Stranded assets

Other groups say investors who continue to put their money into fossil fuels are taking considerable risks. As governments and regulators face up to the enormity of climate change and place more restrictions on fossil fuels, such investments could become what are termed “stranded assets”. There are also signs of a surge in low-carbon technologies, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Last week, Lazard, the asset management firm, reported that a decline in cost and increased efficiency means large wind and solar installations in the US can now, without subsidies, be cost competitive with gas-fired power. There is also increased activity on the carbon pricing front. China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, recently announced it would establish a countrywide emissions trading system by 2016. If implemented, the China carbon trading system will be the world’s biggest. The country already runs seven regional carbon trading schemes. – Climate News Network

Germany struts its renewable stuff

A guidebook with a difference is selling well in Germany. It details nearly 200 renewable energy sites it thinks will appeal to tourists. BERLIN, 11 June – Wind turbines and solar panels: do you love them or hate them? Do you think of renewable energy as the way to a greener future, or an awful blight on the present? Either way, growing numbers of German communities think they have found a silver lining: they’re touting renewables as tourist attractions. A guidebook is now available, listing about 200 green projects around the country which it thinks are, in the travel writer’s time-hallowed phrase, “worth the detour”. The publication, which has already run to a second edition after the first sold out, was supported by  Germany’s Renewable Energies Agency. Nuclear power stations are not top of every tourist’s must-see list. But the book’s author, Martin Frey, says a nuclear plant in Kalkar, a town on Germany’s border with the Netherlands, is the world’s safest. It pulls in more than half a million visitors annually. Safe? It should be, because local protests – driven partly by the 1986 Chernobyl accident – meant it never started operation. Now it’s an amusement park offering hotels with all-inclusive holidays, restaurants and merry-go-rounds. Its most popular attraction is a gigantic cooling tower with a climbing wall outside and a carousel inside.

Blast from the past

Another strictly retired “attraction” listed is Ferropolis, the City of Iron. Located on the site of a former brown coal (lignite) opencast mine in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, it’s a bit of an oddity in Frey’s list – an open-air museum, preoccupied not with emerging technologies but with echoes of one that many hope has had its day. Huge redundant metal structures, immense excavators and towering cranes, all abandoned, give Ferropolis the air of a post-apocalypse movie. But in a nod to the future the roof of a former workshop is covered with solar panels which help to power the museum’s annual summer music festivals. Germany is moving rapidly away from the past which Ferropolis evokes in its switch to renewable energy. In the last decade renewable power generation has tripled and now provides a quarter of the country’s electricity and about 380,000 jobs. Wind, hydro, solar and biogas plants are taking over from coal and nuclear power. The change is evident right at the heart of the nation’s political life. The glass dome of the Reichstag, a tourist magnet which stands resplendent on the Berlin skyline, contains a cone covered with 360 mirrored plates, which reflect sunlight and illumine the plenary hall below. And there’s more: a heat exchanger inside the cone’s ventilation shaft significantly reduces the building’s power consumption.

Steep climb

The Reichstag also boasts an array of solar panels, and half its electricity and most of its heat come from two combined heat and power generators beneath the building, which run on bio-diesel. If you want to combine some mildly energetic activity with your environmental sightseeing, then head for Lower Saxony where you’ll find the Holtriem wind farm. The largest in Europe when it was built, with a total capacity of 90 MW, it has an observation platform on one of the turbines, 65 m above ground. That offers tourists – if they’re prepared to climb the 297 steps to the top – a stunning view of the North Sea and, in good weather, the East Frisian islands. Also in Lower Saxony is Juehnde, the first German village to achieve full energy self-sufficiency. Its combined heat and power plant produces twice as much energy as Juehnde needs. The villagers are so keen to share their experience that they built a New Energy Centre to win over visitors. Frey, a journalist specialising in renewable energy, says he wrote the book because he’d been impressed by a large number of innovative renewable projects and wanted to share them with tourists as well as experts. – Climate News Network * Germany: Experience Renewable Energies, published by Baedeker, is available in German (and only in print) for €16.99. An English language version may be produced if there is enough demand. Komila Nabiyeva is a Berlin-based freelance journalist, reporting on climate change, energy and development.

A guidebook with a difference is selling well in Germany. It details nearly 200 renewable energy sites it thinks will appeal to tourists. BERLIN, 11 June – Wind turbines and solar panels: do you love them or hate them? Do you think of renewable energy as the way to a greener future, or an awful blight on the present? Either way, growing numbers of German communities think they have found a silver lining: they’re touting renewables as tourist attractions. A guidebook is now available, listing about 200 green projects around the country which it thinks are, in the travel writer’s time-hallowed phrase, “worth the detour”. The publication, which has already run to a second edition after the first sold out, was supported by  Germany’s Renewable Energies Agency. Nuclear power stations are not top of every tourist’s must-see list. But the book’s author, Martin Frey, says a nuclear plant in Kalkar, a town on Germany’s border with the Netherlands, is the world’s safest. It pulls in more than half a million visitors annually. Safe? It should be, because local protests – driven partly by the 1986 Chernobyl accident – meant it never started operation. Now it’s an amusement park offering hotels with all-inclusive holidays, restaurants and merry-go-rounds. Its most popular attraction is a gigantic cooling tower with a climbing wall outside and a carousel inside.

Blast from the past

Another strictly retired “attraction” listed is Ferropolis, the City of Iron. Located on the site of a former brown coal (lignite) opencast mine in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, it’s a bit of an oddity in Frey’s list – an open-air museum, preoccupied not with emerging technologies but with echoes of one that many hope has had its day. Huge redundant metal structures, immense excavators and towering cranes, all abandoned, give Ferropolis the air of a post-apocalypse movie. But in a nod to the future the roof of a former workshop is covered with solar panels which help to power the museum’s annual summer music festivals. Germany is moving rapidly away from the past which Ferropolis evokes in its switch to renewable energy. In the last decade renewable power generation has tripled and now provides a quarter of the country’s electricity and about 380,000 jobs. Wind, hydro, solar and biogas plants are taking over from coal and nuclear power. The change is evident right at the heart of the nation’s political life. The glass dome of the Reichstag, a tourist magnet which stands resplendent on the Berlin skyline, contains a cone covered with 360 mirrored plates, which reflect sunlight and illumine the plenary hall below. And there’s more: a heat exchanger inside the cone’s ventilation shaft significantly reduces the building’s power consumption.

Steep climb

The Reichstag also boasts an array of solar panels, and half its electricity and most of its heat come from two combined heat and power generators beneath the building, which run on bio-diesel. If you want to combine some mildly energetic activity with your environmental sightseeing, then head for Lower Saxony where you’ll find the Holtriem wind farm. The largest in Europe when it was built, with a total capacity of 90 MW, it has an observation platform on one of the turbines, 65 m above ground. That offers tourists – if they’re prepared to climb the 297 steps to the top – a stunning view of the North Sea and, in good weather, the East Frisian islands. Also in Lower Saxony is Juehnde, the first German village to achieve full energy self-sufficiency. Its combined heat and power plant produces twice as much energy as Juehnde needs. The villagers are so keen to share their experience that they built a New Energy Centre to win over visitors. Frey, a journalist specialising in renewable energy, says he wrote the book because he’d been impressed by a large number of innovative renewable projects and wanted to share them with tourists as well as experts. – Climate News Network * Germany: Experience Renewable Energies, published by Baedeker, is available in German (and only in print) for €16.99. An English language version may be produced if there is enough demand. Komila Nabiyeva is a Berlin-based freelance journalist, reporting on climate change, energy and development.

Arctic melt speeding up

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE It’s long been established that Arctic ice is on the retreat but it’s the pace of change that’s surprising scientists: latest studies show the region is at its warmest for 40,000 years.  LONDON, 9 March – Ice in the Arctic continues to retreat. The season without ice is getting longer by an average of five days every 10 years, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters.  And in some regions of the Arctic, the autumn freeze is now up to 11 days later every decade. This means that a greater proportion of the polar region for a longer timespan no longer reflects sunlight but absorbs it. This change in albedo – the scientist’s term for a planet’s reflectivity – means that open sea absorbs radiation, stays warmer, and freezes again ever later.

Warming accelerates

None of this is news: sea ice in the Arctic has been both retreating and thinning in volume for four decades. Researchers have tracked the retreat of the snow line to find tiny plants exposed that had been frozen over 40,000 years ago: the implication is that the Arctic is warmer now than it has been for 40 millennia. This warming threatens the animals that depend for their existence on a stable cycle of seasons  and is accelerating at such a rate that the polar ocean could be entirely free of ice in late summer in the next four decades. So Julienne Stroeve, of University College London and her colleagues have provided yet further confirmation of an increasing rate of change in the region in their latest study. The scientists examined satellite imagery of the Arctic for the last 30 years, on 25 square kilometer grid, to work out the albedo of each square for every month they had data. Their headline figure of five days is an average: in fact the pattern of freeze and thaw in the Arctic varies. In one region the melt season has been extended by 13 days, in another the melt season is actually getting shorter.

Energy increases

This increasing exposure to summer sunlight means that ever greater quantities of energy are being absorbed: several times the energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima hits every square kilometer of the open Arctic Ocean. “The extent of sea ice in the Arctic has been declining for the last four decades,” said Professor Stroeve, “and the timing of when melt begins and ends has a large impact on the amount of ice lost each summer. With the Arctic region becoming more accessible for longer periods of time, there is a growing need for improved prediction of when the ice retreats and reforms in the water.” – Climate News Network  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE It’s long been established that Arctic ice is on the retreat but it’s the pace of change that’s surprising scientists: latest studies show the region is at its warmest for 40,000 years.  LONDON, 9 March – Ice in the Arctic continues to retreat. The season without ice is getting longer by an average of five days every 10 years, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters.  And in some regions of the Arctic, the autumn freeze is now up to 11 days later every decade. This means that a greater proportion of the polar region for a longer timespan no longer reflects sunlight but absorbs it. This change in albedo – the scientist’s term for a planet’s reflectivity – means that open sea absorbs radiation, stays warmer, and freezes again ever later.

Warming accelerates

None of this is news: sea ice in the Arctic has been both retreating and thinning in volume for four decades. Researchers have tracked the retreat of the snow line to find tiny plants exposed that had been frozen over 40,000 years ago: the implication is that the Arctic is warmer now than it has been for 40 millennia. This warming threatens the animals that depend for their existence on a stable cycle of seasons  and is accelerating at such a rate that the polar ocean could be entirely free of ice in late summer in the next four decades. So Julienne Stroeve, of University College London and her colleagues have provided yet further confirmation of an increasing rate of change in the region in their latest study. The scientists examined satellite imagery of the Arctic for the last 30 years, on 25 square kilometer grid, to work out the albedo of each square for every month they had data. Their headline figure of five days is an average: in fact the pattern of freeze and thaw in the Arctic varies. In one region the melt season has been extended by 13 days, in another the melt season is actually getting shorter.

Energy increases

This increasing exposure to summer sunlight means that ever greater quantities of energy are being absorbed: several times the energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima hits every square kilometer of the open Arctic Ocean. “The extent of sea ice in the Arctic has been declining for the last four decades,” said Professor Stroeve, “and the timing of when melt begins and ends has a large impact on the amount of ice lost each summer. With the Arctic region becoming more accessible for longer periods of time, there is a growing need for improved prediction of when the ice retreats and reforms in the water.” – Climate News Network  

Solar suburbia to power modern cities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Urban sprawl may not be as bad for the environment as we thought – as long as every home is fitted with solar panels and electric cars become the norm. LONDON, 8 August – Modern planners are building compact cities, believing tightly controlled zones are better for the environment. New research suggests the opposite: urban sprawl might be a better option, with solar power fitted to suburban houses and the adoption of electric cars transforming the energy needs of a city. Research in Auckland, New Zealand – the largest urban area in the country and a city built for the age of the motor car – shows that solar panels fitted to the average suburban home can produce enough power for that household, extra to charge an electric vehicle, and still generate enough watts to export a surplus to the grid. Adopting a citywide approach to fitting solar panels and providing charging points for cars would enable suburban homes to provide most of the power for the city centre as well as keeping the transport running, according to Professor Hugh Byrd, from the School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln in England. In collaboration with the New Zealand Energy Centre and the University of Auckland, Byrd and his colleagues found that detached suburban houses typical of a motor car age city are capable of producing ten times more solar power than is possible from skyscrapers or other commercial buildings. The calculations are based on a detailed cross section of Auckland, which has skyscrapers in its business centre but has most of its homes spread out over the surrounding countryside in an urban sprawl. Transform planning Although every city is different, the pattern of building in Auckland is repeated in many cities around the globe. Byrd’s idea is that if planners insist solar panels be fitted to properties and charging points be provided for electric cars, then cities judged to be damaging to the environment could be transformed. “While a compact city may be more efficient for internal combustion engine vehicles, a dispersed city is more efficient when distributed generation of electricity by photovoltaic installations is the main energy source and electric vehicles are the principal mode of transport” says Byrd. “This research could have implications on the policies of both urban form and energy. Far from reacting by looking to re-build our cities, we need to embrace the dispersed suburban areas and smart new technologies that will enable us to power our cities in a cost-effective way, without relying on ever dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.   Sprawl is good “This study challenges conventional thinking that suburbia is energy-inefficient, a belief that has become enshrined in architectural policy. In fact, our results reverse the argument for a compact city based on transport energy use, and completely change the current perception of urban sprawl.” Byrd concedes that the only way his ideas will work is if planning policy made fitting solar panels obligatory. Planning would also need to require the installation of photovoltaic roofing, smart meters and appropriate charging facilities for vehicles as standard in every household. The advantages would be a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions, long term energy security, and a reduction in city pollution.  – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Urban sprawl may not be as bad for the environment as we thought – as long as every home is fitted with solar panels and electric cars become the norm. LONDON, 8 August – Modern planners are building compact cities, believing tightly controlled zones are better for the environment. New research suggests the opposite: urban sprawl might be a better option, with solar power fitted to suburban houses and the adoption of electric cars transforming the energy needs of a city. Research in Auckland, New Zealand – the largest urban area in the country and a city built for the age of the motor car – shows that solar panels fitted to the average suburban home can produce enough power for that household, extra to charge an electric vehicle, and still generate enough watts to export a surplus to the grid. Adopting a citywide approach to fitting solar panels and providing charging points for cars would enable suburban homes to provide most of the power for the city centre as well as keeping the transport running, according to Professor Hugh Byrd, from the School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln in England. In collaboration with the New Zealand Energy Centre and the University of Auckland, Byrd and his colleagues found that detached suburban houses typical of a motor car age city are capable of producing ten times more solar power than is possible from skyscrapers or other commercial buildings. The calculations are based on a detailed cross section of Auckland, which has skyscrapers in its business centre but has most of its homes spread out over the surrounding countryside in an urban sprawl. Transform planning Although every city is different, the pattern of building in Auckland is repeated in many cities around the globe. Byrd’s idea is that if planners insist solar panels be fitted to properties and charging points be provided for electric cars, then cities judged to be damaging to the environment could be transformed. “While a compact city may be more efficient for internal combustion engine vehicles, a dispersed city is more efficient when distributed generation of electricity by photovoltaic installations is the main energy source and electric vehicles are the principal mode of transport” says Byrd. “This research could have implications on the policies of both urban form and energy. Far from reacting by looking to re-build our cities, we need to embrace the dispersed suburban areas and smart new technologies that will enable us to power our cities in a cost-effective way, without relying on ever dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.   Sprawl is good “This study challenges conventional thinking that suburbia is energy-inefficient, a belief that has become enshrined in architectural policy. In fact, our results reverse the argument for a compact city based on transport energy use, and completely change the current perception of urban sprawl.” Byrd concedes that the only way his ideas will work is if planning policy made fitting solar panels obligatory. Planning would also need to require the installation of photovoltaic roofing, smart meters and appropriate charging facilities for vehicles as standard in every household. The advantages would be a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions, long term energy security, and a reduction in city pollution.  – Climate News Network