2017 Solar Energy News
by Alex Cosper, Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The latest solar news is very promising, as large scale solar plant operators expect to producer cheaper energy than conventional utility sources by 2020. Currently the average cost of fossil fuel-powered electricity is 6 cents per kilowatt hour. While solar electricity already beats that cost by 3 cents, many users must switch to the grid at night. Backup battery power has become the solution for early adopters of the most state-of-the-art solar systems.

Solar has been an exciting field for energy exploration, since new concepts are constantly emerging, while the fossil fuel energy must prepare for transitioning to renewable energy. Part of what makes solar environmentally-friendly aside from not emitting carbon dioxide, is that much of the study revolves around nature and natural processes. In May 2017 Phys.org reported that engineers have studied the tiny structures on butterfly wings, how they distribute light. The article quoted Dr. Niraj Lal from the ANU Research School of Engineering that his team has been able to pattern nano applications for high efficiency solar panels based on how cones on butterfly wings scatter, reflect and absorb light.

Much of the solar revolution has either been large scale or portable. An example of a new portable solar development is an inflatable light made by Luci, as reported in Business Insider on May 15, 2017. This device is useful for camping or enjoying the great outdoors. It's always helpful to carry a light source when you expect to walk at night, whether it's in the wilderness or your own backyard. The Luci solar light only weighs 4.4 ounces and is comprised of LED lights will adjustable brightness modes. The device charges from seven hours of exposure to sunlight, producing 12 hours of power.

Energy providers in the state of Kentucky appear to be opening up to solar. The Seattle Times reported on April 18, 2017 that state officials are looking at converting coals mines to solar farms. The bluegrass state, by the way, may be the third largest producing coal state, but also has the highest cancer rate in the nation. Much of the lung cancer in the state comes from tobacco. While Kentucky, still gets 80% of its electricity from coal-powered plants, the state has been diversifying its energy in recent years. The organizations at the forefront of converting coal mines to solar farms are The Berkeley Energy Group and EDF Renewable Energy.

Another sign that coal is headed for extinction is that the world's largest coal company, Coal India, announced in June 2017 that they were closing 37 coal mines. The company, which produces 82% of India's coal, said the mines would be shut down by March 2018. The company said that these mines are no longer economically viable. India's government previously announced that it will discontinue building coal plants after 2022.

A poll published by CBS News on Earth Day, April 21, 2017, showed that 89% of Americans think it's important to protect the environment, but 57% predict it will get worse. Slightly over half of Americans disagreed with Trump lifting environmental protections set by the Obama Administration. Only 38% said lifting regulations was a good idea. About two thirds of respondents said their air and water was clean while only 28% think they live in a polluted area.

Former President Jimmy Carter has installed solar panels on about 10 acres of his farm in Plains, Georgia, as reported by AJC on February 12, 2017. The panels will provide 50% of the power needed for the small town of Plains, which has 215 homes and a population of 683 people. Carter told a ribbon-cutting ceremony crowd of about a hundred that the panels were symbolic of the 32 panels he installed on the White House while he was president in 1979. The solar array was constructed by SolAmerica Energy from Atlanta.

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