Friday Field Notes 120216


Election Day 2016 caused quite the hullabaloo. But here’s something great that came of the day: 500 Women Scientists. At least, that was the goal: 500 women scientists to pledge the importance of science in progressive societies — to pledge the ways in which it fuels innovation, and touches the lives of every person on the planet. (Clean Technica) Over 10,500 women have signed the pledge.

With that, here are a few solar news items from the week:

Speaking of . . . in a meeting with reporters, editors, and opinion columnists from The New York TimesPresident-elect Donald Trump said he has an “open mind” when it comes to climate change. Now, to see what that looks like . . .

Remember, Florida’s Amendment 1? Backers (i.e. energy companies) boasted it would give Floridians the right to install solar panels on their rooftops — which, hello, is a right they already possess — whilst conveniently covering up the extended power it would give energy companies. Thankfully, Floridians voted against Amendment 1. And it seems Florida Power and Light (FPL) — the only provider of electricity in Eastern and Southern Florida — is a very sore loser. FPL intends to hike rates by $811 million over the next few years (Miami New Times). This is unfortunate for several reasons. One, it’s unfair to its customers who do not have a choice of where to take their business. Two, it gives fuel to certain grumpy pants who will blame the hike on the solar power industry — and be oh so vocal about it — as if FPL has no choice (Which is false, by the way; FPL already brings in a profit of over $1.5 billion per year). And third, FPL is basically shooting themselves in the leg. One of these days, in the not-so-distant future, battery technology will be such that home owners can simply go off-grid. Why would they choose to work with a utility that doesn’t even try to find a mutually beneficial way forward? Exactly.

On a brighter note, the wee island of Ta’u in American Samoa is now powered by solar.  In the past the island of 600 residents relied on 100,000 gallons of diesel shipped from the main island of Tutuila. As you might imagine, a ferry kept at bay by the likes of inclement weather, could keep inhabitants in the dark. And we don’t want to fathom the environmental impact of a spill mid-route. Not that the switch from diesel to solar has been an easy task, mind you.  In the words of Utu Abe Malae, executive director of the American Samoa Power Authority: “The ferries to the island would often break down, so then we’d have to flag down nearby fishing boats to transport the solar panels, and then they’d have to pass the panels to row-boats to reach the island. Nothing about this project went smoothly at all.” (The Guardian) Here’s hoping for smooth sailing from here on out; and may the inhabitants of Ta’u encourage all of us to keep moving forward, to keep that solar powered light shining, no matter the obstacles.

A 38 kilowatt (kW) solar PV system now graces England’s Gloucester Cathedral, making it one of the oldest cathedrals to have such. It’s one step in the Church of England’s goal to reduce carbon emissions throughout the Church by 80% by 2050. As Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, explains: the Church of England is “committed to mitigate the effects of climate change which will fall disproportionately on the poor and vulnerable in the world.” (Clean Technica) I’d say that is a pretty good example of faith in action.

It’s popped up in the news here and there for months, but now its official: the world’s largest solar plant is now online in India. Popular Mechanics reports: “The Kamuthi Solar Power Project was built in only 8 months, and cost $679 million to complete. It contains 2.5 million individual solar panels, covers an area of almost 4 square miles, and is expected to power 150,000 homes.” 2.5 million panels! The mind boggles.


Now, for our disclaimer: Friday Field Notes is a weekly post about the goings on in (and possibly around) the field of solar. We simply link to news articles from the week to help you stay in the loop. While we try to stick with reputable sources, we cannot attest to the accuracy of each and every piece. Furthermore, the links and subsequent views and commentary are purely the opinion of the writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the company, nor should they be considered professional opinion, backing, and/or advice.