Tag Archives: Solar power

India’s solar power set to outshine coal

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

Staggered turbines 'make most of wind'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wind farms, along with solar energy,  could soon provide enough energy to provide for half the world’s needs, researchers say. The only problem is working out how best to build them.

LONDON, November 6 – US scientists have worked out how to get 33% more power from an offshore wind farm – stagger the turbines rather than line them up in neat, orderly rows.

Cristina Archer of the University of Delaware and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that they started with a real, working offshore wind farm – Lillgrund in Sweden – and then, using computer simulations and real weather data, hypothetically arranged the turbines to achieve the optimum results.

The problem is a real one. In April two US scientists calculated that spacing set practical limits to wind power: the impact of air on turbine blades set them turning but also set up eddies that took the wind out of the sails of the turbine downstream.

Land costs are huge, so there is a limit to the possibilities of spacing for onshore wind farmers. But offshore farms can spread themselves a little more comfortably. Dr Archer and her colleagues tried six simulated configurations, sometimes keeping the turbines at the same distance, sometimes further apart, and sometimes staggering them according to the prevailing wind, in the way theatre seats are staggered to give everyone a better view of the stage.

Hopes of huge potential

It was a combination of the two approaches – more generous spacing, and a staggered alignment – that gave the best results. In general, they argue, the right placement and arrangement could improve energy yields by 13% to 33%.

It all boils down to having the right attitude. Last year, in a display of the power of positive thinking, Dr Archer and a colleague from California calculated that wind turbines could deliver half the world’s energy demands by 2030 with minimal environmental impact. This would require four million turbines at 100 metres above ground level in all the windiest places.

Not everybody agrees: others argue that wind energy in particular cannot match coal, oil or nuclear, because the ratio of power to unit area is so much lower. A few days ago, commentators warned in Nature Geoscience that a world driven by renewable energy would create an enormous demand for metals and minerals – and energy to extract them.

But Dr Archer isn’t the only researcher at the University of Delaware to take a distinctly optimistic view of renewable resources. In January a different team from the same institution reported that a combination of wind power and solar energy could keep the US grid supplied around 99.9% of the time. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wind farms, along with solar energy,  could soon provide enough energy to provide for half the world’s needs, researchers say. The only problem is working out how best to build them.

LONDON, November 6 – US scientists have worked out how to get 33% more power from an offshore wind farm – stagger the turbines rather than line them up in neat, orderly rows.

Cristina Archer of the University of Delaware and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that they started with a real, working offshore wind farm – Lillgrund in Sweden – and then, using computer simulations and real weather data, hypothetically arranged the turbines to achieve the optimum results.

The problem is a real one. In April two US scientists calculated that spacing set practical limits to wind power: the impact of air on turbine blades set them turning but also set up eddies that took the wind out of the sails of the turbine downstream.

Land costs are huge, so there is a limit to the possibilities of spacing for onshore wind farmers. But offshore farms can spread themselves a little more comfortably. Dr Archer and her colleagues tried six simulated configurations, sometimes keeping the turbines at the same distance, sometimes further apart, and sometimes staggering them according to the prevailing wind, in the way theatre seats are staggered to give everyone a better view of the stage.

Hopes of huge potential

It was a combination of the two approaches – more generous spacing, and a staggered alignment – that gave the best results. In general, they argue, the right placement and arrangement could improve energy yields by 13% to 33%.

It all boils down to having the right attitude. Last year, in a display of the power of positive thinking, Dr Archer and a colleague from California calculated that wind turbines could deliver half the world’s energy demands by 2030 with minimal environmental impact. This would require four million turbines at 100 metres above ground level in all the windiest places.

Not everybody agrees: others argue that wind energy in particular cannot match coal, oil or nuclear, because the ratio of power to unit area is so much lower. A few days ago, commentators warned in Nature Geoscience that a world driven by renewable energy would create an enormous demand for metals and minerals – and energy to extract them.

But Dr Archer isn’t the only researcher at the University of Delaware to take a distinctly optimistic view of renewable resources. In January a different team from the same institution reported that a combination of wind power and solar energy could keep the US grid supplied around 99.9% of the time. – Climate News Network

Staggered turbines ‘make most of wind’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wind farms, along with solar energy,  could soon provide enough energy to provide for half the world’s needs, researchers say. The only problem is working out how best to build them. LONDON, November 6 – US scientists have worked out how to get 33% more power from an offshore wind farm – stagger the turbines rather than line them up in neat, orderly rows. Cristina Archer of the University of Delaware and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that they started with a real, working offshore wind farm – Lillgrund in Sweden – and then, using computer simulations and real weather data, hypothetically arranged the turbines to achieve the optimum results. The problem is a real one. In April two US scientists calculated that spacing set practical limits to wind power: the impact of air on turbine blades set them turning but also set up eddies that took the wind out of the sails of the turbine downstream. Land costs are huge, so there is a limit to the possibilities of spacing for onshore wind farmers. But offshore farms can spread themselves a little more comfortably. Dr Archer and her colleagues tried six simulated configurations, sometimes keeping the turbines at the same distance, sometimes further apart, and sometimes staggering them according to the prevailing wind, in the way theatre seats are staggered to give everyone a better view of the stage.

Hopes of huge potential

It was a combination of the two approaches – more generous spacing, and a staggered alignment – that gave the best results. In general, they argue, the right placement and arrangement could improve energy yields by 13% to 33%. It all boils down to having the right attitude. Last year, in a display of the power of positive thinking, Dr Archer and a colleague from California calculated that wind turbines could deliver half the world’s energy demands by 2030 with minimal environmental impact. This would require four million turbines at 100 metres above ground level in all the windiest places. Not everybody agrees: others argue that wind energy in particular cannot match coal, oil or nuclear, because the ratio of power to unit area is so much lower. A few days ago, commentators warned in Nature Geoscience that a world driven by renewable energy would create an enormous demand for metals and minerals – and energy to extract them. But Dr Archer isn’t the only researcher at the University of Delaware to take a distinctly optimistic view of renewable resources. In January a different team from the same institution reported that a combination of wind power and solar energy could keep the US grid supplied around 99.9% of the time. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wind farms, along with solar energy,  could soon provide enough energy to provide for half the world’s needs, researchers say. The only problem is working out how best to build them. LONDON, November 6 – US scientists have worked out how to get 33% more power from an offshore wind farm – stagger the turbines rather than line them up in neat, orderly rows. Cristina Archer of the University of Delaware and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that they started with a real, working offshore wind farm – Lillgrund in Sweden – and then, using computer simulations and real weather data, hypothetically arranged the turbines to achieve the optimum results. The problem is a real one. In April two US scientists calculated that spacing set practical limits to wind power: the impact of air on turbine blades set them turning but also set up eddies that took the wind out of the sails of the turbine downstream. Land costs are huge, so there is a limit to the possibilities of spacing for onshore wind farmers. But offshore farms can spread themselves a little more comfortably. Dr Archer and her colleagues tried six simulated configurations, sometimes keeping the turbines at the same distance, sometimes further apart, and sometimes staggering them according to the prevailing wind, in the way theatre seats are staggered to give everyone a better view of the stage.

Hopes of huge potential

It was a combination of the two approaches – more generous spacing, and a staggered alignment – that gave the best results. In general, they argue, the right placement and arrangement could improve energy yields by 13% to 33%. It all boils down to having the right attitude. Last year, in a display of the power of positive thinking, Dr Archer and a colleague from California calculated that wind turbines could deliver half the world’s energy demands by 2030 with minimal environmental impact. This would require four million turbines at 100 metres above ground level in all the windiest places. Not everybody agrees: others argue that wind energy in particular cannot match coal, oil or nuclear, because the ratio of power to unit area is so much lower. A few days ago, commentators warned in Nature Geoscience that a world driven by renewable energy would create an enormous demand for metals and minerals – and energy to extract them. But Dr Archer isn’t the only researcher at the University of Delaware to take a distinctly optimistic view of renewable resources. In January a different team from the same institution reported that a combination of wind power and solar energy could keep the US grid supplied around 99.9% of the time. – Climate News Network

Sun 'must supply 10% of energy by 2025'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In little more than a decade the world should be meeting 10% of its total energy needs from solar power, two British scientists say, despite the technological problems to be overcome. 

LONDON, 30 September – Hard on the heels of the latest UN report on climate change, two UK scientists have proposed an ambitious plan to tackle the problem it graphically describes.

Their solution? A massive and urgent international programme to increase the world’s production of solar energy – to 10% of total global energy supply by 2025, and to 25% by 2030.

The scientists, David King and Richard Layard, say their proposal – which they call a Sunpower Programme – should within little more than a decade be producing solar electricity which costs less than fossil fuel power.

They write in the online Observer: “The Sun sends energy to the earth equal to about 5,000 times our total energy needs. It is inconceivable that we cannot collect enough of this energy for our needs, at a reasonable cost.”

Last week the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, published the first section of its Fifth Assessment Report, called AR5 for short. It said: “Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sir David King was formerly chief scientific adviser to the UK Government, and Lord Layard is the founder-director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.

They write: “There will always be many sources of non-carbon energy – nuclear fission, hydropower, geothermal, wind, nuclear fusion (possibly) and solar.

“But nuclear fission and hydropower have been around for many years. Nuclear is essential but faces political obstacles and there are physical limits to hydropower. Nuclear fusion remains uncertain.

“And, while wind can play a big role in the UK, in many countries its application is limited. So there is no hope of completely replacing fossil fuel without a major contribution from the power of the Sun.”

Time ‘desperately short’

They recognise the progress being made already: “The price of photovoltaic energy is falling at 10% a year, and in Germany a serious amount of unsubsidised solar electricity is already being added to the grid. In California, forward contracts for solar energy are becoming competitive with other fuels and they will become more so, as technology progresses.”

But time, they say, is “desperately short” – and there are two significant scientific challenges to be overcome: cloudy days and sunless nights, and the cost of sending the electricity produced – in areas with plenty of sunshine but few people – to where it is needed.

The first, they say, needs a major breakthrough in battery science, while the solution to the transmission conundrum needs new materials which are much better at conducting electricity without loss of power.

A German group, Desertec, announced plans to produce solar energy in the Middle East and North Africa and to transmit the surplus to Europe. It identified both the problems King and Layard have recognised, but the scheme was reported in July to have collapsed, partly because of market scepticism.

The authors acknowledge that their proposal amounts to “a major scientific challenge, not unlike the challenge of developing the atom bomb or sending a man to the moon”.

And they believe this challenge is also surmountable: “Science rose to those challenges because a clear goal and timetable were set and enough public money was provided for the research. These programmes had high political profile and public visibility.

“They attracted many of the best minds of the age. The issue of climate change and energy is even more important and it needs the same treatment.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In little more than a decade the world should be meeting 10% of its total energy needs from solar power, two British scientists say, despite the technological problems to be overcome. 

LONDON, 30 September – Hard on the heels of the latest UN report on climate change, two UK scientists have proposed an ambitious plan to tackle the problem it graphically describes.

Their solution? A massive and urgent international programme to increase the world’s production of solar energy – to 10% of total global energy supply by 2025, and to 25% by 2030.

The scientists, David King and Richard Layard, say their proposal – which they call a Sunpower Programme – should within little more than a decade be producing solar electricity which costs less than fossil fuel power.

They write in the online Observer: “The Sun sends energy to the earth equal to about 5,000 times our total energy needs. It is inconceivable that we cannot collect enough of this energy for our needs, at a reasonable cost.”

Last week the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, published the first section of its Fifth Assessment Report, called AR5 for short. It said: “Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sir David King was formerly chief scientific adviser to the UK Government, and Lord Layard is the founder-director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.

They write: “There will always be many sources of non-carbon energy – nuclear fission, hydropower, geothermal, wind, nuclear fusion (possibly) and solar.

“But nuclear fission and hydropower have been around for many years. Nuclear is essential but faces political obstacles and there are physical limits to hydropower. Nuclear fusion remains uncertain.

“And, while wind can play a big role in the UK, in many countries its application is limited. So there is no hope of completely replacing fossil fuel without a major contribution from the power of the Sun.”

Time ‘desperately short’

They recognise the progress being made already: “The price of photovoltaic energy is falling at 10% a year, and in Germany a serious amount of unsubsidised solar electricity is already being added to the grid. In California, forward contracts for solar energy are becoming competitive with other fuels and they will become more so, as technology progresses.”

But time, they say, is “desperately short” – and there are two significant scientific challenges to be overcome: cloudy days and sunless nights, and the cost of sending the electricity produced – in areas with plenty of sunshine but few people – to where it is needed.

The first, they say, needs a major breakthrough in battery science, while the solution to the transmission conundrum needs new materials which are much better at conducting electricity without loss of power.

A German group, Desertec, announced plans to produce solar energy in the Middle East and North Africa and to transmit the surplus to Europe. It identified both the problems King and Layard have recognised, but the scheme was reported in July to have collapsed, partly because of market scepticism.

The authors acknowledge that their proposal amounts to “a major scientific challenge, not unlike the challenge of developing the atom bomb or sending a man to the moon”.

And they believe this challenge is also surmountable: “Science rose to those challenges because a clear goal and timetable were set and enough public money was provided for the research. These programmes had high political profile and public visibility.

“They attracted many of the best minds of the age. The issue of climate change and energy is even more important and it needs the same treatment.” – 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