Get Ready for the Solar Energy Boom

The Week on the coming solar energy boom, Time on the Oklahoma tornado and climate change, The Daily Beast on Chris Christie's take on Sandy, Grist on why utilities need to evolve, and Reuters on where the shale boom lags behind.

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The Week on the coming solar energy boom John Aziz assesses what the declining prices of solar panels mean for the future of sustainable energy. "If the trend stays on track for another eight to 10 years, solar generated electricity in the U.S. will descend to a level of $120 per MW/h — competitive with coal and nuclear — by 2020, or even 2015 for the sunniest parts of America," he writes. "If prices continue to fall over the next 20 years, solar costs will be half that of coal." This will benefit everyone, he argues. "Lower costs and better storage capacity would mean cheap, decentralized, plentiful, sustainable energy production — and massive relief to global markets that have been squeezed in recent years by the rising cost of fossil fuel extraction."

Time on the Oklahoma tornado and climate change Was the tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma yesterday exacerbated by climate change? Bryan Walsh is skeptical: "When it comes to the connection between climate change and tornadoes, the connection is cloudy at best," he notes. "First our historical data on the frequency and strength of the tornadoes is sketchy, especially as we go back further in the past. That’s partially a matter of numbers. A couple dozen tropical storms might hit the U.S. per year, but hundreds of tornadoes touch down annually, some for just a few moments. As a result, there’s little discernable trend in the number and strength of tornadoes over the past 60 years."

The Daily Beast on Chris Christie's take on Sandy New Jersey Governor Chris Christie doesn't think Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Jersey coast in 2012, was accelerated by climate change. Michael Tomasky tries to explain why: "It's the only position, when you think about it, that can make up for the Obama embrace, as far as the base is concerned. It can be rationalized thus: he did what he needed to do to get the federal flood cash, but at least he doesn’t buy that socialistic drivel about climate change." Tomasky fears Christie is losing his sense of independence: "This would hardly be worth remarking on if this were your standard-issue Republican presidential aspirant ... But Christie has shown occasional flashes of having an independent mind. It would seem they’re going to be fewer and farther between."

Grist on why utilities need to evolve David Roberts hopes to renew the debate about how public utilities should operate. It's an unsexy topic — "the subject is excruciatingly boring, a thicket of obscure institutions and processes, opaque jargon, and acronyms out the wazoo" — the answer to which will prove vital to human society. Roberts continues: "This is going to be the century of electricity. Everything that can be electrified will be." After explaining the state of affairs in details, he writes, "We need to do more than fiddle with rate structures or mandate arbitrary levels of efficiency or renewable energy. We need a ground-up rethink of how utilities work, how they are structured, and how they can be reformed in a way that enables and accelerates long-overdue innovation in the electricity space."

Reuters on where the shale boom lags behind Kristen Hays and Jonathan Leff visit oil shales in Ohio and Colorado, where deep, dependable oil reserves have been difficult to come by. "Together they offered a sign that the flush of enthusiasm and rush of investment that piled into shale fields from one coast to the other has hit a curve," the pair write. "While the basic technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling was enough to coax an unexpected gusher of oil from shale rock in many regions, these more challenging seams may require incremental innovation to unlock." Technology — and a little luck — could help out, though. One analyst told the reporters that "the bottom line is that this stuff is down there, it's just figuring out the sweet spot of where to get it and the right conditions to get it out."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.