The Southwest Power Pool said last week that it met 52.1 percent of the electricity demand in the sprawling transmission organization’s service territory with wind power during a portion of the overnight period on Feb. 13, marking the first time SPP had topped the 50 percent mark. What’s even bigger news is that hardly anyone noticed — these records have been falling consistently for the past several years with the steady increase in wind farm construction across the Midwest; SPP set its prior record of 49.2 percent just last year.
The real news, however, wasn’t the percentage itself, but what Bruce Rew, SPP’s vice president of operations, said later in the same press release concerning the changes that have occurred in the past 10 years. Then, the SPP release noted, a goal of 25 percent would have been deemed unrealistic.
Clearly, not anymore.
Tom Werner, the CEO of solar installer SunPower, said he’s “skeptical” Tesla can offer a solar roof at the low price point CEO Elon Musk has promised.
Musk first unveiled Tesla’s solar roof product in late October, just a few weeks before the company acquired SolarCity in a deal worth $2.1 billion. At the time, Musk said Tesla’s four different roof shingles will allow owners to ditch clunky solar panels in favor of an aesthetically appealing roof.
Better yet, Musk said it’s likely the solar roof will cost less than a normal roof, factoring in the price of labor.
Ratcheting up solar to produce approximately 1 percent of global electricity has required a lot of technology and investment. Making solar big enough to matter environmentally would be an even more colossal undertaking. It would require plastering the ground and roofs with billions of solar panels. It would require significantly increasing energy storage, because solar panels crank out electricity only when the sun shines, which is why, today, solar often needs to be backed up by fossil fuels. And it would require adding more transmission lines, because often the places where the sun shines best aren’t where most people live.
The scale of this challenge makes economic efficiency crucial, as we argue in a report, “The New Solar System,” released on Tuesday. The policies that have goosed solar have been often unsustainable and sometimes contradictory. One glaring example: With one hand, the United States is trying to make solar cheaper, through tax breaks, and with the other hand it’s making solar more expensive, through tariffs it has imposed on solar products imported from China, the world’s largest maker and installer of solar panels.
President Donald Trump’s words may come back to haunt him in court as he moves to roll back regulations that fight climate change, just as they did when he tried to ban travel from six predominantly Muslim countries.