At least some of the solar energy that happens in Vegas will soon stay in Vegas, powering Sin City’s iconic welcome sign by as early as year’s end. A recently approved plan will rig fake trees with solar panels to light the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign; ground is set to be broken on the project this fall, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The Vegas sign’s switch to solar power is largely symbolic, but it illustrates the industry’s recent growth. Driving that growth? Affordability, both in initial costs and long-term payoff, according to a report released Sunday by the financial firm Lazard. Utility-scale solar power has seen the break-even price for energy production (known as the levelized cost of energy) drop by more than 50 percent since 2009. “Utility-scale solar (photovoltaics) is a competitive source of peak energy as compared with conventional generation in many parts of the world, without any subsidies,” Lazard stated.
Despite its cost-effectiveness, the viability of utility-scale solar is still uncertain at the residential level, the report said. “Residential-scale solar [photovoltaics] in the United States (and elsewhere) is benefiting from the concentration of multiple levels of federal tax subsidies, state-level tax subsidies, and/or feed-in tariffs. Currently, residential-scale solar PV remains expensive by comparison to utility-scale solar PV.”
Subsidies may be needed to make solar power palatable for homeowners, but industry statistics suggest they are having the desired effect. Since the second quarter of 2012, the residential solar market has grown 48 percent, according to a Solar Market Insight report conducted by the Solar Energy Industries Association and Greentech Media’s GTM Research. The full report — including additional numbers on solar affordability — will be released Thursday.
And solar isn’t the only alternative energy source to see a sudden boost in affordability. Wind power, Lazard says, has dropped its levelized cost of energy more than 50 percent over the past four years. While wind power’s capital costs are similar to solar’s, it is even more competitive when it comes to break-even energy pricing.
The report also notes the difficulties facing more-traditional energy sources, such as coal and nuclear. Along with high costs, the specter of “policy uncertainty” looms, as Congress and the Obama administration wrangle over climate regulations. Still, given the government’s mixed — and controversial — record on backing solar projects, the industry might be on its own as it tries to gain traction as a major energy supplier.
Solar has a long way to go before it can power a significant part of the nation’s electricity needs. Right now, renewable electricity makes up just 12 percent of the total supply, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, and solar generates just 1 percent of all renewable electricity — a miniscule fraction of the total U.S. supply.
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The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.
"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."
No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."
"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."