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THE WEEKLY SUN: California To Dump Gasoline-powered Cars

Weekly Sun header image - Busy highway traffic

August 30, 2022

THIS WEEK IN SOLAR, RENEWABLE AND SUSTAINABLE NEWS.

In this week’s solar news, using solar panels for more than electricity, California goes all in on EV’s, and Spain flips the switch on Europe’s biggest solar array.


Fun, Fun, Fun now that Daddy Took The T-Bird Away.

Cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway. Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. Waiting through hours-long traffic snarls in Los Angeles. It’s hard not to think about cars when you think about California.

But more and more, California wants those cars to be EVs. The New York Times reports that beginning in 2035, the state will ban the sale of internal combustion cars.

Currently, 12% of vehicles sold in the state are free of carbon emissions. Over the next 13 years, regulators will require an increasing percentage of emission-free vehicles sold in the state until it hits 100% in 2035.

With all the incentives for EVs built into the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration’s commitment to building out EV charging infrastructure, and the constant rollout of tech innovations, it’s hard to project what the U.S.’s fleet of autos will look like when this law takes effect. One thing is for certain ― with California qualifying as the fifth largest economy in the world, automakers are going to have to accommodate the change.

California is something of a trendsetter for states looking to address climate issues, and as many as 12 are expected to follow with similar regulations. Another five are expected to come along in the next year.

Getting internal combustion engines off the road is a great step forward in addressing climate change, but California is facing a long-term electricity crisis at the same time. The state will need to take an all-of-the-above type approach to meet its energy needs in the long term.


India Solar Canal

Made in the shade of solar panels

One of the most appealing ideas in solar energy is for solar panels to be used for more than generating energy. For example, France’s Disneyworld is covering their parking lot with solar panels, generating electricity while also providing shade for their guests’ cars.

The BBC reports that India has taken to placing solar panels over canals, allowing them to generate energy while reducing evaporation in an area where water is particularly precious. The cooling effect of the water can even help the panels’ efficiency.

California is launching a similar effort on an experimental basis in the Turlock Irrigation District, covering two miles of canals. If the project was scaled to cover the 4,000 canals that irrigate the state, the output would be good for 13 gigawatts of energy, or about half the state’s electricity needs. Eventually, it could save as much as 63 billion gallons of water, enough to supply water to two million people. Solar panels are throwing some shade in California.


Texas windmills

Renewables Hit 25% of U.S. Energy Consumption

Tracking U.S. energy consumption can sometimes feel like watching the famous 100-year-old Queensland pitch drop experiment. It seems like nothing really happens for a long, long, long time ― and then, suddenly, it does.

In the first six months of 2022, over 25% of electricity in the U.S. was generated from renewable sources. This landmark, reported by Solar Power World, is one more signifier of a sea change in what powers America. The U.S. Energy Information Administration had predicted 2022 would see 22% of U.S. electricity would be renewable, but nearly 28% year-over-year growth from solar and 25% from wind moved the needle well past that projection.

One contributor to the transformation is Texas’ newfound dependence on solar and wind. Texas Monthly reports that in the midst of the Lone Star State’s summer energy squeeze, over a quarter of the state’s energy came from wind and solar, tripling their solar capacity in just an 18-month-span.

All this while the solar industry was hamstrung by trade disputes and supply chain issues. In June, President Biden signed an executive order to set aside tariffs on solar panels for the next two years while also invoking the defense production act to promote domestic manufacturing of solar panels.

Congress followed up with the Inflation Reduction Act, which is laden with incentives for both manufacturers and homeowners looking to go solar.PV magazine proclaims that the floodgates are opened for solar now and that we should expect massive, rapid deployment.

The emergence of renewables as an important part of the energy mix has led some to ask if 100% renewable energy is feasible. Inside Climate News reports on a paper from Christian Breyer at LUT University in Finland that examines the history of the idea of 100% renewables and examines its feasibility.


Spanish solar farm

Forget the rain, the sun in Spain falls mainly on the solar panels

The war in Ukraine has disrupted Europe’s oil and fuel supplies, driving the cost of energy sky high throughout the continent.

Much of Europe has been investing in renewable energy production for years, and sunny Spain is no exception. The highlight of those efforts came online this month when Spanish energy giant Iberdrola flipped the switch on 1.5 million solar panels. According to Bloomberg, the largest solar array in Europe, the facility is expected to power 334,000 homes.

Spain has a target of generating nearly 75% of its energy with renewables by 2030. In 2021, the country hit 47%. With continued investment on this scale, that lofty goal seems plausible.


The Weekly Sunsong

The sun rises and falls, powers our homes and nurtures our crops. But sometimes we need to be reminded that it is also just a giant atom-crushing machine. And that’s what They Might Be Giants are here for:

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