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Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn't compete.

Stashed in: Ecology!, Sticking it to The Man!, Caltech, economics, Energy!, @richardbranson, Consumer Trends, Energy, Environmental Impacts, Freakonomics

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The humble rooftop solar station has now driven the price of wholesale coal power into negative territory.

Once coal is no longer economically viable, will it cease to exist as an energy option?

I hope so.

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.

For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.


The impact has been so profound, and wholesale prices pushed down so low, that few coal generators in Australia made a profit last year. Hardly any are making a profit this year. State-owned generators like Stanwell are specifically blaming rooftop solar.


Coal, of course, will never be free. And the rapid uptake of rooftop solar – dubbed the democratisation of energy – is raising the biggest challenge to the centralised model of generation since electricity systems were established more than a century ago.

I like the phrase "democratization of energy".

Nice: U.S. spending on microgrids will increase fivefold from 2013 to 2020...

Spending on microgrid projects in the U.S. is poised to explode to $19.9 billion in 2020 from $4.3 billion last year, according to Navigant Research, in part because of growing concerns about the reliability of the traditional grid.

Yay Caltech: "The California Institute of Technology generates more than 80 percent of its electricity from on-site sources such as solar, steam and natural gas."

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