The week of Nov. 10 was a big one for solar energy news. A climate deal between the US and China means demand for solar energy could grow even faster than it has been. The Navy signed a deal with SolarCity to install rooftop solar panels on 6,000 on-base housing units and the first solar road opened in the Netherlands.
The solar road is, by far, the sexiest of the solar news stories this week. Dutch company, SolaRoad engineered the 230-foot stretch of bike path that was installed and opened in Krommenie this week. The path, which includes solar panels encased in concrete and topped with treated glass, is expected to generate enough energy to fully power three homes.
The bike path is intended to be a three-year test of the technology that could prove it for roadways. With nearly 30 percent of the Dutch population commuting by bike, paths in the Netherlands get significant traffic, making it an ideal place to test this technology on a small-scale, but with heavy traffic and use.
SolaRoad has generated significant investment from the world of private finance as well as government agencies, including the US Department of Transportation. The idea behind solar-powered roads are that they could generate enough electricity to power traffic and street lights as well as feed the grid.
While SolaRoad is the first company to cut the ribbon on a fully-function solar traffic way, it’s not the only company working on the technology. Scott and Judy Brusaw, of Idaho, founded Solar Roadways many years ago and have been progressing with their solar technology for roads as well. They incorporated LED displays into their design that could be used to create lane markings. They also expect to be able to use their technology to incorporate a heating element that could keep roads clear of snow and ice in the winter. They have also received DOT funding and have parking lot prototype that they’re currently testing.
6,000 solar rooftops
A deal announced this week will result in 20 megawatts of new rooftop solar in the San Diego area.
Lincoln Military Housing is a private company that manages military housing. The company chose SolarCity, after a competitive bidding process, to install rooftop solar panels on 6,000 homes in 27 different Southern California neighborhoods where Navy personnel are housed.
Lincoln said it expects the deal to save it $60 million on utility expenses over the 20-year contract.
The Navy, like other branches of the military, aims to reduce its dependence on grid power and has a goal to install 1,000 megawatts of solar by the end of 2015.
As part of its SolarStrong initiative, SolarCity currently has contracts to install rooftop solar at 29 military bases and will cover 120,000 military housing units with 300 megawatts of solar power, according to a release from the company.
Climate deal means solar will shine
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to peak the country’s carbon emissions by 2030 and to get 20 percent of the country’s energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2025. That means the country will install enough renewable energy over the next 10 years to equal the entire US grid. The country was already installing solar at a rapid pace and has led globally in new installed solar capacity for the last two years. Now it's focusing on adding more distributed rooftop solar.
President Barack Obama, as part of the climate agreement, pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. That’s a sharp increase from the previous promise of 17 percent, but climate leaders say it’s an achievable goal as long as the country continues to invest in new clean energy sources – i.e. solar.
Solar energy has already been growing at a rapid pace with most companies doubling their business year by year. The price of solar panels has dropped more than 75 percent and solar is expected to reach grid parity in all but three US states by 2016, which should spur even more rapid adoption of the technology.