Now that summer is officially here with radiant sunlight in full array, solar homeowners across the U.S. are watching their electricity bills disappear. The first autonomous solar boat’s journey across the Atlantic, a major clean energy finance agreement between the U.S. and India and an unlikely solar testimonial from BP leadership are the top headlines from this week’s Solar Energy News report.
First Solar-Powered Boat Voyages Across Atlantic Ocean
This week, an autonomous robotic boat made headlines due to its single energy source: solar power. The all-solar boat is the first of its kind and began its journey across the Atlantic on June 1st. Proclaimed the “Solar Voyager”, the boat was built by Isaac Penny and Christopher Sam Soon, two Midwesterners who wanted to make a statement about the sustainability of solar. Neither of the two inventors have a background in robotics or marine technology and believe that their lack of specialized skill speaks to the versatility of solar energy. Other than the use of solar panels and a standard motor, the two environmentalists built the boat from scratch. “We always think about solar as this alternative energy thing, but you just couldn’t do this with fossil fuels — you couldn’t build something that will run forever,” said Penny. The Solar Voyager is set to reach its programmed destination in Lisbon, Portugal this fall. If you want to track the boat’s progress, real time updates are available on the Solar Voyager website.
Japan Making Major Strides with Floating Solar Panels
Although floating solar panels were originally placed on water due to lack of available space on land, developers are now learning that hosting solar panels on bodies of water is a best practice for solar panel efficiency. The world’s fastest adopter of floating photovoltaics, Japan, has determined that the cooling effect of water actually allows solar systems to perform better by preventing the panels from overheating and emitting wasted thermal energy. Japan has collaborated with French company Ciel et Terre SAS International, which specializes in floating solar array installations. With dramatic success in the Japanese market, Ciel et Terre has grown significantly and is now eying Brazil, the U.S. and China as opportunities for future expansion.
U.S.-India Partnership will Launch 1 Million More Solar Homes
For those seeking concrete results following the Paris Climate Accord that occurred at the end of 2015, the announcement of the U.S.-India clean energy finance initiative (USICEF) this week is certainly a reassuring sign. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the White House on Tuesday, and at the conclusion of his visit a new commitment was announced: $20 billion in combined financing between the U.S. and India that will provide solar for a million more households by 2020. The two nations also launched a joint effort to provide small scale renewable electricity for low-income households that are not connected to the grid. Following this major partnership, the solar industry in India can expect a significant increase in off-grid installations and community solar projects.
BP Executive Names Solar the Fastest Growing Energy Source in the World
Though there have been countless media outlets and world leaders commenting on the vast success of solar in recent months, a somewhat surprising testimonial emerged this week from fossil fuel giant British Petroleum (BP) categorizing solar as the fastest growing energy source in the world. It’s easy to forget that BP was in the solar industry for 40 years and once declared themselves “Beyond Petroleum,” though they exited the solar industry in 2011. This past Wednesday, BP’s Chief Economist Spencer Dale praised solar’s growth in recent years in a speech where he predicted the cost of solar would continue its rapid decline. Whether or not BP hopes to re-enter the solar space is unclear. What is certain: solar now accounts for roughly three percent of total world energy consumption with year-over-year growth dramatically outpacing that of fossil fuels (see chart below).