Australia Could Double Its Solar Capacity by the End of 2018

The sunny nation of Australia could double its solar capacity by the end of 2018, analysts predict. The solar energy boom has been spurred by solar projects large and small, with multiple industrial projects paired with the appearance of solar panels on buildings all over the country.

The Guardian reports that last month saw the most rooftop solar installations in January to date, and one of the top five months ever, with 69 percent more panels installed compared to the same time last year.

The state of New South Wales is also working on ten new solar farm projects approved in 2017, and one approved since the start of the new year. Meanwhile, 18 industrial projects are under construction in neighboring state Queensland, the highest number in the country. John Grimes, chief executive of Australia’s Smart Energy Council, told The Guardian that the solar farms could be built “within a matter of weeks. […] They’re really quick and simple.”

According to a blog post by James Martin of SolarChoice, an Australian power broker company, 1 in 5 Australian homes has now solar on its roof. South Australia — the country’s top solar state, and fittingly the location of Tesla’s massive backup battery — sees solar in 30 percent of homes. Compare that to the United States; though the solar industry is rapidly growing, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates it makes up about one percent of total electricity generation in the nation.

This isn’t just because Australia has more year-round sunshine, though that’s certainly a factor (and a bitter one to acknowledge from within the current Northern Hemisphere winter). Martin explains that electricity prices in Australia are usually high, while solar installations costs in Australia are significantly lower than those in the States. This has driven many a frustrated Aussies to reach for solar panels in the hope of lowering their bills.

Worldwide, however, solar energy capacity is skyrocketing, as is that of other renewables like wind energy. As countries transform their energy systems to prevent worsening climate change, it may be best for all to do as they do Down Under.

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Best Solar Chargers for your iPhone

What’s the best solar charger for my phone? Wait, there are solar chargers for my phone?!

Our yellow Sun is what gives Superman his powers, so of course it can also keep your phone charged while you’re on the go? It’s almost weird, right? Using nature to keep technology working. What a beautiful melding of the old and the new! If you can’t find an outlet (because you’re camping or whatever) then grab a solar charger and take advantage of the biggest battery Earth has!

Note: Yes, the Sun is powerful. No, the Sun will not charge a solar battery bank/charger as quickly as a wall outlet. You will have to be patient with these.

Anker PowerPort Solar Lite

The Wirecutter’s top choice for best battery bank also belongs at the top of our list. Anker makes excellent charging products and the PowerPort Solar Lite fits in well. This 15W charger is very thin (0.7 inches folded or 0.2 open) and lightweight (12.5 ounces), making it perfect for long treks where lightening your load is imperative.

This solar charger is so efficient that you can charge two devices simultaneously, and it can charge at up to 2.1 amps in direct sunlight, making it about as fast as regular chargers under ideal conditions. Without an actual battery, you don’t have to wait for the PowerPort to charge up — just grab it and hit the trails.

Comes with a 3-foot Micro-USB cable and is priced around $ 50.

See at Amazon

Dizaul

Diuzaul’s solar charger is one of Amazon’s best sellers and 73% of its reviews are 5 stars. Its size makes it ideal for camping or hiking, and it’s waterproof, so if you’re traversing waterfalls, you won’t kill it. The 5000mAh battery is handy just in case you have to hide from a bear in a cave (worst place to hide, by the way) — just don’t expect it to charge quickly. By opting for a smaller solar charger, you do compromise on the size of its solar panels, meaning it’ll take quite a while to charge fully (even in direct sunlight). That being said, if you’re looking for a portable option that can hold on to a charge in battery form, then definitely check it out (it’s only about $ 20).

See at Amazon


Voltaic Systems Amp

Voltaic Systems’ Amp solar charger is a neat little device that features a removable 4000mAh battery, which can be charged by sunlight or via USB. The Amp has two solar panels that are waterproof and covered in a self-healing plastic that can withstand some abuse (kind of like some screen protectors). About 3.5 hours in direct sunlight should fully charge your phone (according to Voltaic Systems), which is pretty quick for most solar chargers, but that is probably under ideal conditions, so you’ll wanna be patient with this one, as with all solar chargers.

Designed for the rugged life, the solar panels and battery are housed in a rugged and lightweight, water- and UV-resistant fabric made from recycled pop bottles.

If you need your solar charger to withstand a bit of the rough and tumble, go with the Amp. You can grab it off Amazon for about $ 99.

See at Amazon

Ayyie

At about the size of a larger phone, the Ayyie solar charger is another awesome option made with portability in mind, and it’s only about $ 20. This charger is perfect for the happy wanderer, being water, shock, and dustproof, and featuring a two-LED flashlight with multiple settings, including S.O.S. Five indicators will show you the status of the internal 10000mAh battery, and once full, you’ll be able to charge most phones at least twice. Again, a smaller unit means smaller solar panels, so it’ll take a long time to fully charge the battery on Sun juice alone.

See at Amazon

Goal Zero Nomad 7

This foldable solar charger is rugged and made for the adventurous. It won’t weigh you down, since it has no internal battery, but it will charge your phone quite quickly, usually within an hour or two — very fast for solar charging.

You can simultaneously charge USB and 12V devices via the three ports, and when you’re finished, it folds up nice and flat for easy portability.

It’s also weather-resistant, making it perfect for camping and any other outdoor activities that might keep you away from a power outlet for a while. Check it out on Amazon starting at $ 80.

See at Amazon

RAVPower 16W solar panel

This foldable solar panel charger from RAVPower features two USB ports, so you can charge a couple devices simultaneously, and RAVPower promises that 21.5 to 23.5% of solar power is transformed into free energy, hopefully meaning a faster charge.

You can fold this charger up and toss it in a backpack or laptop bag, and it’s waterproof, so you can take it with you absolutely anywhere and keep your devices topped up. It even features four hooks. So you can hang it where you need to in order to take in as much sun as possible. Check it out on Amazon for about $ 50.

See at Amazon

Got a favorite?

Do you have a great solar charger for your phone? Let us know which one in the comments below!

Updated January 2018: Updated pricing for each item and added the super compact RAVPower solar panel.

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Tesla will sell its solar power products at 800 Home Depot stores

In an effort to make its solar power products more visible to mainstream customers, Tesla will be setting up a designated retail space inside Home Depot stores across the US to promote and sell its solar panels and Powerwall batteries. The spaces will include 12-by-7-foot displays, and some shops will offer demonstrations of the products, Bloomberg reports.

Tesla will be building its retail spaces at 800 Home Depot locations (the home improvement chain has approximately 2,200 stores nationally), and the company will offer on-site sales representatives to explain the products to customers. The solar roof, which Tesla began taking preorders for last summer, will not yet be part of the mini-shops, but it may be added in the future, sources…

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China Has Built a Huge Floating Solar Farm on Top of a Deserted Coal Mine

Floating Solar

The world’s largest floating solar farm, sitting on a lake that used to be a coal mine, is China’s latest effort to showcase its commitment to renewable energy. With a 166,000 panels and a total capacity of 40 megawatts, the solar farm can produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes, the South China Morning Post reports.

While it still consumes a lot of oil, coal and natural gas, China is experiencing an unprecedented solar boom. As of November  2017, solar PV accounted for 126 gigawatts, a spike of 67 percent compared to the same time in 2016. Crucially, the country is also trying to move away from highly polluting sources of energy, which are estimated to have contributed to 366,000 deaths in 2013 alone.

The largest floating solar farm in the world. Image Credit: Sungrow
The largest floating solar farm in the world. Image Credit: Sungrow

In its yearly overview of the world’s energy markets, the International Energy Agency (IEA) finds that China is entering a new phase of its economic development, moving away from heavy manufacturing and other carbon intensive industries. Ambitious investments in clean energy projects such as the floating solar farm, located in the coal-rich Anhui province, are part of the same overarching effort to clean up the Chinese economy.

Sitting on a Coal Mine

Building solar farms over water has the benefit of not interfering with terrestrial ecosystems, preserving wildlife and local vegetation. Additionally, placing panels on water keeps them cool and helps maintain efficiency because the cells don’t overheat.

This type of creative solutions is part of a growing trend. Worldwide, governments are investing to make obsolete sites useful once again. Another example can be found in Ukraine, where a solar farm is being built at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site.

Investing in solar and renewable energy sources is a major step forward for the world’s biggest polluter, but China still has a long way to go before becoming the climate champion it wants to be. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, dropping coal is a monumental task that is going to take many years. So, as clean energy continues to rise, China, as well as the rest of the world, will need an array of technologies — including carbon capture and storage — to offset their emissions.

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