Middle-Class Families Are Set To Receive Solar Panels With No Upfront Costs In The U.S.

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The US is the best country in the world if you want to go solar – but only if you’re rich enough. Due to the steep upfront costs of around $32,000 in cash, only those upper-income families can afford to install solar arrays. A novel initiative is, however, looking to change that. This new project hopes to help middle class communities see the sun in a different light.

Using money raised by U.S. government incentives and private investors to help fight global warming, the Alternative Energy Solar Project goal is to get solar panels on the roofs of those who cannot afford them. According to recent news, the plan is to use the rebates set aside for solar and the money raised by companies who want to lower the per ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

The cost for the installation to the families: nothing. The homeowner gets solar panels on their roof and a new reduced electric rate from the power produced by the solar panels. Alternative Energy Solar Project predicts that it could save individual families up to $2,400 a year, which they hope could then be spent on other essential bills.

Alternative Energy Solar Project has been made promotional manager over the Solar Affordable Verified Establishment  (S.A.V.E.) project, one of the country’s first dedicated solar repayment system for middle class families. The goal is to install solar arrays to over 32,000 homes by the end of next year. One of the benefits to this reduced electric rate program is the homeowner isn’t responsible for the installation costs, maintenance costs, or upkeep costs as they are not the owners of the panels. Additionally, if you are interested in owning the panels, there are programs where the homeowner can purchase the panels with no money out of pocket and own them outright.

The United States government has talked about how they can contribute through raising money to be able to provide more rebates. In the attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and move toward installing solar arrays. In total, the solar program has totted up to an impressive movement.

By ploughing at least 30% of the money from government incentives and using private investors to back the solar installation, the project aims to kill two birds with one stone – saving Middle-Class families money, while also making big fossil fuel polluting companies help to cut energy emissions in the country even further.

Anyone who is currently living in a neighborhood in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Utah and is classed as middle-class is qualified to apply to get the arrays installed. More states are being added monthly so apply to see if your state has joined the program. The sun sets on the initiative as the year ends in 2017, so if you’re living in one of these states, you might want to jump on board soon.

Alternative Energy Solar Project invites everyone to find out if they qualify by signing up for a free visit. To increase the ease of finding out if you’re in the middle-class and qualified they specifically created a new website solarvisit.com. They hope that the funding put towards this new site will be well spent, if they can get interested homeowners reaching out to them, they estimate that they’ll be able hit their goal of 320,000 homes by the end of the year 2017.

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In Germany, solar panels are transforming home life and offering energy independence

(www.cnbc.com)

In Germany, something of an energy transition is taking place. In 2016, renewables made up 29 percent of gross electricity generation, with wind power, biomass and solar photovoltaics leading the way.

Now, a number of German households are looking to harness the power of the sun and gain energy independence by combining solar photovoltaic (PV) panels with ‘smart’ battery storage.

According to its makers the sonnenBatterie, combined with a PV system, could help users meet around 75 percent of their annual energy needs with self-produced, clean energy.

Markus Grillinger is one such user. His home has solar panels on its roof and a sonnenBatterie system inside. “It takes the electric power right from our roof – we get it over the panels – and then it is saved within the sonnenBatterie,” he said.

Having a storage system enables flexibility. “We… can use the electric power during the whole day, and save it here and use it also by night,” Grillinger added.

SonnenBatterie’s offering is just one of many domestic storage systems being developed. Much like the sonnenBatterie, Tesla’s Powerwall, for example, enables users to store solar in the day and then use it during the night, when the sun has gone down.

Back in Germany, sonnenBatterie’s Philipp Schroder sought to highlight the potential energy transformation that could take place over the coming years, in which homeowners become ‘mini utilities’.

“In Germany we have 1.7 million solar systems, they are all owned by citizens,” he said. “So what we see is that consumers become producers,” he added.

“If you become a producer, why should you pay for your electricity? You’re your own producer… all we do is we link them together to become a sustainable and effective utility.”

The New Colors Of Solar Energy

(www.seas.yale.edu)

The technology of solar energy has progressed dramatically in the last few decades, as it operates with increasing efficiency and at lower costs.

But the matter of how solar panels look remains an obstacle. Most photovoltaic panels are blue or black and cover large portions of buildings with a monotone hue. That might not jibe with your personal taste – or that of your homeowners’ association. It’s a limitation that has hindered the integration of solar energy into some commercial applications. In fact, architects and designers have long requested a wider choice of colors for solar cells to allow them to seamlessly blend into a building’s façade or an electronic system.

Up to now, however, expanding the palette of colors that solar energy engineers can work with has proven notoriously difficult. That could be changing, though, with work from the lab of Andre Taylor, associate professor of chemical & environmental engineering. Researchers there have developed a solar cell that widens the choice of colors without decreasing its power conversion efficiency. Their findings are published in Nano Energy.

Researchers have previously tried a few methods to vary the colors of solar panels. One approach involved adjusting a layer of the solar cell so that it would reflect different colors – this has proved to be costly and with limited results, however. Another method introduced what’s known as a “dye molecule” to allow for more colors. This approach, however, diminishes the efficiency at which the system converts sunlight to energy.

The research team in Taylor’s Transformative Materials and Devices Lab also used a dye molecule, but this one doesn’t diminish the power conversion efficiency. Jaemin Kong, a post-doctoral associate and lead author of the paper, explains that this is because the molecule – a squaraine known as ASSQ – acts not only as a color agent, but as an energy transfer donor. It works in conjunction with two polymers – one that serves as an electron donor and the other as a non-fullerene electron acceptor. By changing the ratios of those three elements, the researchers were able to make adjustments that allowed for a gradual color variation from blue-green to purple-red.

“I think that’s a pretty impressive part of this paper – there was no major sacrifice of the power conversion efficiency,” Taylor said. “And the nice thing about this is that the dye can be used at low concentrations, so it doesn’t necessarily affect the overall mechanism.”

Solar Power Has Finally Proven That It’s The Energy Source of the Future

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A NEW AGE IN ENERGY?

As with most energy and cost efficient power alternatives, there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding solar energy — even when we’re faced with hard facts outlining their benefits. Consider the fact that it took nearly 30 years for fluorescent light bulb (also known as CFL) sales and dependency to rise, as Americans were unwilling to switch over from incandescent bulbs until 2010.

Tried and true sustainable products often sit on the market for a while before they become “trendy enough” to be purchased. But now, thanks to some promising developments from Tesla,(including some slicker-than-expected solar panel roofs) the value and importance of solar power is finally getting the momentum it so critically needs.

These moves are important because, not only is solar power cost effective, it reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, which is an imperative issue we need to tackle. Humanity’s current net emission is

Humanity’s current net emission is 37 gigatonnes of CO₂, meaning we’ll need a reduction of at least 700 gigatonnes to keep global warming within safe limits. By switching over to solar power, we reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by over 37 million metric tons. And while it might be hard to see past your own finances, switching to solar power saves the United States over $400 billion in healthcare and environmental cleanup costs. But back to your wallet: solar panels pay for themselves in six to 15 years and increase the resale value of a house by about $15,000.

But solar power technology is nothing new. In fact, a similar standard of today’s models has been around since the 1960s. And since that time, panels have only become more efficient, more dynamic, and more attractive. So, what’s taken us so long to consider the switch?

MAKING A CHANGE

It’s the myths that deter people from trusting in the technology. Most commonly, potential consumers worry that solar panels will not work in cold or cloudy climates. The truth is, they’re highly functional in cold climates, as conductivity is increased at colder temperatures. And, Germany, a country that receives half as much Sun as the sunniest city in the United States, has the most successful solar power system in the world.

Now that Tesla has shown us how chic the solar panel roof of the future will look, skeptical homeowners will be more likely to make that change.

If you’re curious about the potential to save money and the planet, check out a solar power advocate like Understand Solar and get a proper estimate for your home. When faced with the facts, it’s hard to see it any other way: solar power roofs are essential investments for your home and the future. Fill out a cost estimate form and get access to exclusive deals in your area, and a fast and easy estimate to get things started.

Syria Opens Its First Solar-Powered Hospital

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After months of testing, a hospital in Syria will have uninterrupted power last week, charged by solar power in a project designers hope will save lives and can be repeated across the country.

Syria’s electrical grid has taken a big hit after six years of a volatile civil war with most the electrical infrastructure bombed, dismantled or destroyed, leaving hospitals relying on diesel generators but at the mercy of fuel shortages.

So the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an international coalition of international medical organizations and NGOs, said it hoped creating the country’s first solar-power hospital would save lives.

“To have those active (hospitals) resilient and operational, it’s a matter of life (or death) for many, many people in the country,” said Tarek Makdissi, project director of UOSSM told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

The France-based UOSSM launched the initiative, “Syria Solar,” with the aim of getting hospitals less dependent on diesel which the organization says is expensive and not reliable. The first solar hospital—the name and location of which the UOSSM would not release for safety reasons—runs on mixture of a diesel generator and 480 solar panels built near the hospital that link to an energy storage system.

If there is a complete fuel outage, the solar system can fully power the intensive care unit, operating rooms and emergency departments for up to 24 hours without diesel, which is 20 to 30 percent of the hospital’s energy cost.

Makdissi said the goal is to get five other medical facilities in Syria running like this by the end of spring 2018 with funding from places like institutions, foundations, government agencies and philanthropists.

Solar energy is really our only answer for long-term sustainable energy

(www.qz.com)

Humans consume 221 tonnes of coal, 1,066 barrels of oil, and 93,000 metric cubes of natural gas per second. The Conversation

These materials were wonderful for the industrial revolution that started in Britain in the 18th century and made use of “new energy” sources such as coal and petroleum. At the start of the 21st century, however, it’s time to reassess the notion of “new energy”. Fossil fuels have no place in any long-term sustainable energy solution for the planet. It needs to be replaced with renewable energy sources. But which ones?

Sooner or later humanity needs to get its head around the fact that the only long-term sustainable energy solution is solar energy. This is simply borne out by the immense amount of energy potential that the sun can provide versus any other renewable resource such as wind, nuclear, biomass or geothermal. To place that in perspective: the theoretical potential of solar power is 89 terawatts (TW), which represents more energy striking the Earth’s surface in 90 minutes (480 Exajoules, EJ) than the worldwide energy consumption for the entire year 2001 (430 EJ) from all other resources combined.

Off-grid solar should be Africa’s energy future. Off-grid simply means a system where people don’t rely on the support of remote infrastructure, like connectivity to a centralised electricity transmission line, but instead use a stand-alone independent power supply. Such systems are perfect for people living in rural areas. Access to energy should be a basic human right for the 620 million people across Africa deprived from it. To achieve this, one should look beyond the grid for future power solutions.

In my years of teaching an advanced level sustainable energy course, it’s clear that the ‘sustainable energy’ solution requires a multidisciplinary approach and needs expertise from the fields of chemistry, biophysics, biology and materials engineering.

For example, photosynthesis is nature’s solution to sustain life and its complete understanding touches many disciplines. Can science learn from it to provide a sustainable energy solution? Yes, through a process called artificial photosynthesis. Large-scale photovoltaic (PV) panels dot the landscape in solar farms. Can we imagine transparent solar cells with the look of glass that can be brought to the city? The answer is yes.

Say yes to the sun

Energy is the most important resource for humanity and solar energy is the ultimate energy source. The sun as a solar energy source has a number of advantages: it is abundant, it is essentially inexhaustible, and it doesn’t discriminate but provides equal access to all users.

Earth presently consumes energy at a rate of about 17.7 trillion watts (17 terawatt, TW), that would reach 30 TW by 2050 assuming a similar population growth rate. The solar energy irradiating the surface of the Earth is almost four orders of magnitude larger than the rate our civilisation can consume it. This is obviously more than sufficient if harnessed properly.

The energy potential of the sun is 120,000 TW at earth surface. More practically, assuming that only 102 of earth surface would get us 50 TW;

Wind is at 2-4 TW at 10 meters;
nuclear 8 TW, build one plant every 1.5 days forever – due to decommissioning;
biomass 5-7 TW, all cultivatable land not used for food;
geothermal 12 TW.
The solution should thus be clear: focus on the sun, nothing else gets the required numbers. The solar and wind duo has been considered a viable option at least for Africa’s future. The challenge is that solar energy only becomes useful once it’s converted into usable energy forms like heat, electricity, and fuels.

Below are two state-of-the-art new technologies that convert solar energy into electricity or fuels.

New technologies

Black solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are the most familiar to generate electricity. A game changer will be a new technology where such PV panels are transparent. This could then replace regular glass, wherever one finds glass. For example, on large buildings, the vertical “glass panels” can literally become the source that powers the building.

The solar company Onyx Solar has already demonstrated proof-of-concept by applying PV glass for buildings in 70 projects and in 25 different countries. Its only current competitor, Ubiquitous Energy focuses more on mobile devices. On a mobile phone, the glass screen will become the power source, potentially making batteries redundant.

In simplest terms, photosynthesis is a process where green plants use the energy in sunlight to carry out chemical reactions. One such reaction is to break water molecules into its constituent parts of oxygen and hydrogen.

Artificial photosynthesis is a process that mimics parts of natural photosynthesis to suit our needs, like forming hydrogen. And because hydrogen is considered the fuel of the future, a large research focus is to capture and convert sunlight into energy with storage of hydrogen.

In South Africa, the nuclear energy landscape has been tainted by political greed, rather than scientific reasoning. Fortunately, in April 2017 all further developments for a nuclear future were halted by a high court.Say no to nuclear energy

Let us not repeat the deadly sins of considering nuclear power as an option, but remind ourselves of two consequences.

It takes 10 years and billions of rand to commission a nuclear power station, let alone eight. Once commissioned, such stations don’t last forever, but after 50 years has to be decommissioned again, costing the same amount in time and fiscal.
Suppose South Africa is a country with stockpiles of enriched uranium and nuclear plants, such utilities become primary targets for terrorists and are expensive to safeguard. Why even take the risk?
It’s now 31 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It devastated Ukraine and the 2,600 square kilometres of surrounding land is still considered unsuitable for humans.

A colossal radiation shield is now concealing the stain on that landscape. Is such a risk worth it for South Africa when the sun has so much potential?

Papillion farmer installing solar panels says renewable energy is future of farming

(www.ketv.com)

It gives people a peek into the past and a look into the future of farming – with its rustic old barn located next to shiny new solar panels.

Tom Lundahl got a grant to buy used solar panels for his farm. The panels heat a 700-gallon water tank that powers a propagating bench for the farm’s hottest crop.

The aronia berry plants are a more potent and tart version of a blueberry and the demand for them has recently skyrocketed. Lunahl can’t fill all his orders for the berry plants.

The new solar hookup will allow the farm to grow more plants soon. Lundahl said that when the propagating bench is up and running, the farm will be able to grow 12,000 plants at a time on the bench.

“It tastes like a dry red wine. That’s what the astringency is, and it’s part of the antioxidants,” said Shami Lucena Morse.

Lundahl and Morse go to farmers markets to sell berries, smoothies – and succulent plants.

This solar project is new for Lundahl, but it’s not the first time he’s harnessed the sun.

“Thirty-five years ago, I built my first greenhouse on the front of an old farmhouse,” said Lundahl.

Lundahl said a lot of larger-scale operations are using renewable energy for things like powering irrigation pivots. He said up-front costs can be high, but they’re dropping as technology advances.

“It just makes economic sense. Any way you look at it, it comes down to dollars and cents,” said Lundahl.

He also said renewable energy makes sense for the future of the planet.

“This is something that will be the future. We just have to find a way to get there that makes the most sense,” said Lundahl.

Switching to solar energy provides economic benefits, saves lives

(wwww.news-medical.net)

In a new study published in Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, a team from Michigan Technological University calculated the cost of combusting coal in terms of human lives along with the potential benefits of switching to solar.

Health Impacts

Tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely each year from air pollution-related diseases associated with burning coal. By transitioning to solar photovoltaics (PV) in the US, up to 51,999 American lives would be saved at $1.1 million invested per life.

“Unlike other public health investments, you get more than lives saved,” says Joshua Pearce, a professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. “In addition to saving lives, solar is producing electricity, which has economic value.”

Using a sensitivity analysis on the value of electricity, which examines the different costs of electricity that varies by region throughout the country, saving a life by using solar power also showed potential to make money — sometimes as much as several million dollars per life, says Pearce.

“Everybody wants to avoid wasting money. Just based off the pure value of electricity of the sensitivities we looked at, it’s profitable to save American lives by eliminating coal with solar,” he explains.

Pearce worked with energy policy doctoral student Emily Prehoda on the study, and their main goal was to better inform health policy. They gathered data from peer-reviewed journals and the Environmental Protection Agency to calculate US deaths per kilowatt hour per year for both coal and solar. Then they used current costs of solar installations from the Department of Energy and calculated the potential return on investment.

Pearce and Prehoda also analyzed the geographic impact of coal-related deaths. “Here, we have solid numbers on how many people die from air pollution and what fraction of that is due to coal-powered plants in each state.”

Power of Solar

To fully replace all the coal production in the US with solar PV, it would take 755 gigawatts — a significant increase compared to the 22.7 gigawatts of solar installed in the US currently. The total cost of installing that much solar power totals $1.5 trillion, but that investment is figured into Pearce and Prehoda’s calculations, and is a profitable investment.

As Pearce sums it up: “Solar has come down radically in cost, it’s technically viable, and coupled with natural gas plants, other renewables and storage, we have ways to produce all the electricity we need without coal, period.”

He says resisting the rise of solar energy is akin to if computer manufacturers kept using vacuum tube switches instead of upgrading to semiconductor transistors.

“My overall take away from this study,” Pearce says, “is that if we’re rational and we care about American lives — or even just money — then it’s time to end coal in the US.”

Next Steps

The World Health Organization reports that millions die each year from unhealthy environment, air pollution notably the largest contributor to non-communicable diseases like stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Future work can expand this study globally.

“There’s roughly seven million people who die globally from air pollution every year, so getting rid of coal could take a big chunk out of that number as well,” Pearce says, adding that another goal of future research is to dig deeper into the life cycles of coal production as this study only looked at air pollution related deaths. Doing so will continue to illuminate the multiple positive impacts of solar power and its potential to do more than keep the lights on.

Solar energy empowers villagers and saves wildlife in Nepal

(www.prnewswire.com)

This fall, rangers protecting rhinos, tigers and other endangered wildlife in Nepal’s famous Chitwan National Park will get a solar system that will light and power an isolated ranger outpost deep in the jungle. At the same time, local women will get the training and tools they need to sell low-cost clean energy technologies to people living in the buffer zone that surrounds the park. This is all part of continued collaboration in Nepal by Empowered by Light, which helps remote communities throughout the world develop renewable energy projects, and Empower Generation, which empowers women to become clean-energy entrepreneurs.

This project will continue the organizations’ efforts in Nepal, which are detailed in a fascinating 20-minute video, Bufferzone, that explores the unique challenges of living in a place where the wild animals that make the region unique—from tigers to sloth bears to elephants—can attract tourists, and can also attack villages and people.

“Remote communities around the world are embracing renewable energy because the benefits are real, immediate and life-changing,” said Moira Hanes, Empowered by Light’s co-founder and board chair. “In Nepal, renewable energy is providing these communities with steady, reliable access to electricity, in many cases for the first time, all while helping to support their critical efforts to protect endangered wildlife and create economic and job opportunities that weren’t there before.”

To help rural communities thrive without draining the park’s natural resources, this fall’s effort will train 10 local women, whose economic opportunities have traditionally been limited, to sell a range of clean energy technologies such as solar home systems and improved cookstoves.

Inside the park, rangers working to prevent poaching rely on solar power to stay in touch with park authorities and power spotlights that help protect them at night. On a previous visit, Empowered by Light also helped install solar power at tourist towers that allow visitors to stay in the park overnight, generating income for conservation projects and for people-protection efforts designed to minimize conflicts between villagers and wildlife.

Empowered by Light and Empower Generation are seeking to raise $50,000 to help support the new project, which will assist hard-working people in Nepal in their efforts to:

Protect Chitwan National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage Site
Protect single-horned Asiatic rhinos and Bengal tigers from poachers
Train Nepali women, who have a particularly difficult time securing formal employment, to sell clean energy and start their own businesses
Reduce dependence on dirty and dangerous sources of energy, including diesel generators and kerosene burners that put the community’s health and safety at risk
Kick-start eco-tourism in a place where economic development options are limited

From coal to solar, India’s energy landscape is almost too hard to keep up with

(www.QZ.com)

In 2010, India was experiencing a massive boost in coal power—but not everyone was benefitting.
Those in the Siddhi community, spread across the foothills of the Western Ghats, were almost entirely left in the literal dark. Francis Wilson relied entirely on kerosene lamps since the power grid didn’t cover his area. Mohan Appu had no direct connection to electricity because he had no documents to prove ownership of the house he had lived in for years. Residents of this rural community would have to travel almost 13 miles to charge a mobile phone.

This scenario, which plays out often across pockets of rural areas in the country, reflects the curious situation of India’s energy landscape. For the past two years, there’s been an overabundance of coal power, even though 240 million people in India still have little to no access to electricity. Meanwhile, over the last five months, the price of renewable energy has plummeted so low that analysts have hailed it as both “record-breaking” and “unsustainable” in the same breath. In fact, the pace of change in the country’s energy infrastructure has been so swift that even researchers are scrambling to keep a steady pulse on a constantly developing beat.

As China slowly cut down on its own coal infrastructure, the International Energy Agency in 2015 projected India to be the next coal center in the near future. It stated that “half of the net increase in coal-fired generation capacity worldwide [through 2040] occurs in India.” Nearly a year later, in July 2016, the non-profit CoalSwarm put out a report that found 370 proposals for coal plants in the works across the country.

The findings revealed a pretty explosive conclusion: that India’s outsized plans for coal energy would wipe out climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Merely a few months after the report, the researchers at CoalSwarm were surprised by a new twist. In December 2016, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) laid out an electricity plan that said no new coal plants, beyond those already under construction, are needed for at least the next decade. The CEA also put forth new renewable energy goals—a production of 275 gigawatts (GW) generated from solar, wind, and hydro by 2027.

This means that the majority of the plants that CoalSwarm tracked are now going to be shelved. It’s also a show of India’s push towards reforming its energy infrastructure: the country added more renewable power than thermal in the 2016 fiscal year. “It was hard to keep up,” says Christine Shearer, a senior researcher at CoalSwarm and lead author of the report. “The country is supposed to be at the heart of coal plant growth, but it’s interesting to see the tide go against what we often hear about China and India—that they’re going to keep building coal plants—when actually, they’re both stalling production.”

The glut of power doesn’t mean that every corner of the country is electrified—rather, it gestures strongly towards inertia, uneven distribution, and redundancy. “There are many coal plants which aren’t functioning at full capacity,” says Ashish Fernandes, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace. This under-utilisation, he points out, has led to an abundance of stale power contained inside state-owned distribution companies.

Another reason for the overabundance: rural areas that lack electricity can’t seem to afford the price of it. The cost can range from around Rs120 ($1.86) to Rs500 ($7.75) per month for domestic utilities, depending on the state. “If [residents] can’t afford the power, it doesn’t matter what fuel they use,” says Tim Buckley, a director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). “You’ve got to solve energy poverty, education, and employment to address that problem,” he adds. “You can’t keep building expensive coal-fired power plants that pollute the country and think there’s going to be demand—[some residents] just can’t afford it.” Even when data shows an area as having electricity, it may not mean much, Fernandes says. “We need to look at individual households that have power. According to the government data, if you have one building or streetlight in a rural area that has power, the entire town is considered to be connected,” he adds.

A report by Greenpeace published in October 2016 identified 65GW of coal power stations under construction in India and an additional 176GW of projects at various stages of obtaining permissions. The report forecast that 942022, representing a waste of $49 billion in investments. This could partly explain why a $150 million coal plant in the state of Maharashtra is currently sitting idle, with a lack of demand from power generators. And it could also explain why another state in India, Gujarat, has walked away from a $4 billion coal plant of 4000 megawatts this month. “There is no financial investment to fund coal in the Indian market because they’re simply not competitive against solar energy prices right now,” says Buckley.

As prospects for India’s coal sector are falling, so is the price of renewable energy. In turn, the country’s future outlook, if all goes accordingly, is pretty good news for the planet. India first set a record-low price in February this year when a kilowatt-hour of solar energy was selling at Rs2.97 ($0.046). This month, the country hit another record low—the price of solar dropped 12 further, currently selling at Rs2.62 ($0.041) per kilowatt-hour. “To spell it out, new solar is 15. No one, anywhere in the world, was expecting solar to get that cheap for at least a decade,” Buckley says, “and India just got there this year.” It’s a marked shift for India—which, in a matter of months, went from potentially thwarting global climate goals to possibly saving them. According to a study released last week by the Climate Action Tracker, India and China are on pace to “overachieve” their climate goals by 2030.

Out of the world’s top three carbon transmitters, the US is the only one at risk of missing its target goal, the Climate Action Tracker report concludes. An energy blueprint released this week by the Indian government predicts that 57 of total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027—exceeding the Paris Agreement’s target of 402030. Currently, almost 33 of the country’s total energy comes from non-fossil fuel, which makes the Paris target relatively unambitious—it looks like India is almost three-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
The research is undoubtedly positive and the numbers trumpet a new standard being set by two unlikely countries. But in terms of large-scale implementation, neither solar nor coal are easy options in India. For solar energy to be reliable and widespread, the country would need to build grid infrastructure on an unprecedented scale. The dwindling prices of non-fossil fuel energy is encouraging, and the slow-but-steady withdrawal from coal is optimistic, but is it enough to plug the gaps? Fernandes doesn’t think so. “The biggest threats to renewable expansion are the distribution companies,” he says, adding that this is the root of the problem. “Unless the distribution model is overhauled, the same issues will be transferred.”

Solutions like off-grid solar panels are one kind of sustainable technology that could address the distribution problem, says Harish Hande, co-founder of SELCO, an enterprise that introduced off-grid solar energy in the Siddhi community in 2010. Within a year, 100 homes in the area were connected to power in the Western Ghats region. SELCO has been nationally awarded for its energy work in under-served households and areas—but, as Hande points out, a long-standing solution has to go beyond the mere mechanics of the supply chain. “It’s much larger than providing electricity,” he says, “and there have to be enough public-private partnerships that cross over education, health, and the bigger ecosystem for sustainable energy services to become more accessible.”