Solar Has Overtaken Gas and Wind as Biggest Source of New U.S. Power

Solar Has Overtaken Gas and Wind as Biggest Source of New U.S. Power

June 12th, 2018

Disclosure: I sell solar power systems in New Zealand.

Via: Bloomberg:

Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter.

Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. That accounted for 55 percent of all new generation, with solar panels beating new wind and natural gas turbines for a second straight quarter.




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Solar cycle 24 minimum will continue a ‘long decline’ in solar activity

solar cycle activity length graph


Solar cycle 24 is ending and we are approaching a time of minimal solar activity between solar cycles 24 and 25, known as a solar minimum. Despite claims that we understand how the Sun works, our solar predictive skills are still wanting, and the Sun continues to be full of surprises.

The surprising 2008 solar minimum

Solar scientists did not pay much attention to the early warning signs that the Sun was behaving differently during solar cycle 23 (SC23), and to most the surprise came when the expected solar minimum failed to show up in 2006. The SC23-24 minimum took place two years later (Dec 2008, according to SIDC), and despite showing only a tiny difference in total solar irradiation compared to previous minima of the space age, it displayed significantly reduced solar wind speed and density, extreme-UV flux was 10% reduced, the polar fields were 50% smaller, and the interplanetary magnetic field strength was 30% below past minima. In response to the changes in the Sun, the density of the Earth thermosphere dropped 20% lower than in previous minima. In 2007 Svalgaard & Cliverproposed a floor to the interplanetary magnetic field at 1 AU in the ecliptic plane of 4.6 nT based upon 130 years of data. This floor has implications for the solar wind during grand minima. After the solar minimum, in 2011, Cliver & Ling were forced to revise down the floor to 2.8 nT, a 40 percent reduction! The SC23-24 minimum was truly shocking to solar scientists, showing them how little they knew of what happens to the Sun when it becomes very inactive. And it was just a centennial-type solar minimum, not a grand-type solar minimum.

We are now approaching the SC24-25 solar minimum, and again the Sun’s behavior surprises us. Or doesn’t it? On April 26, NOAA informed us that current solar cycle 24 is declining more quickly than forecast.”

The rapid decline in solar activity plus the appearance of the first SC25 spots suggest that SC24 could be both a low-activity and short solar cycle. This would not be unusual since cycle length and cycle activity do not correlate significantly (figure 1).

solar cycle activity length graph


We have read at WUWT both that the solar minimum may have already happened, or that it might take place in 2026. None of these opinions appear to be based on much fact, so we should examine the question in more detail.

Defining a solar minimum

While intuitively we all understand that a solar minimum is the period of time that shows the least amount of solar activity between two cycles, how the solar minimum is defined can make a difference of months in the date of the minimum. Harvey & White reviewed in 1999 the different methods used to define a solar minimum:

“In addition to the time of a minimum in the smoothed sunspot number, historically the basis for the determination of the time of cycle minimum since 1889 includes the time of the minimum or minima in the monthly averaged sunspot number, the number of spotless days, the start and end times of the minimum phase, the number of regions belonging to the outgoing (old) and incoming (new) cycles, and the use of different smoothing windows.”

Some of them are shown in table 1 from Harvey & White 1999.

sunspot solar cycle


According to Harvey & White 1999, the SC22-23 minimum should be placed, based on an average of five parameters, on Sep. 1996. The Solar Influences Data Center (SIDC), responsible for the World Data Center for Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations (WDC-SILSO) at the Royal Observatory of Belgium (Brussels), uses the following 13-month smoothing formula:

Rs= (0.5 Rm±6 + Rm±5 + Rm±4 + Rm±3 + Rm±2 + Rm±1 + Rm) / 12 …….[1]

Where Rs is the smoothed sunspot number and Rm the monthly sunspot number for the central month. The end months in the average are given half weight.

This formula produces Aug. 1996 for the SC22-23 minimum so, despite being very simple, the result is generally quite close to more complex calculations.

This formula requires that at least 7 months have passed since the minimum and produces a 6-month delay in the calculation of monthly solar activity. For this article, I wanted to reduce this delay without compromising accuracy too much, so I have used the following 9-month smoothing formula with a more skewed weighting:

Rs= (Rm±4 + 3 Rm±3 + 5 Rm±2 + 7 Rm±1 + 10 Rm) / 42 …….[2]

Figure 2 shows the result of smoothing [2] compared to SIDC smoothing [1].

SIDC smoothing solar cycle


Have we reached already the SC24-25 minimum?

The answer is almost certainly not. We can base this answer on two kinds of data. The first is the number of spotless days. Astronomers have been counting the number of spotless days since 1818, and this number in the current minimum, as of first of June is 198 (Figure 3). As the solar minimum usually takes place after at least half of the spotless days in a minimum have taken place (the rising phase of the cycle is usually faster than the declining phase), that would imply that this minimum should have less than 400 spotless days if it ended now. Such a low number has only taken place in minima between very active solar cycles during the Modern Maximum in solar activity (1935-2005). Given that SC24 has been a low-activity cycle we should expect 200-300 spotless days more before the minimum is reached, and that is about a year of very low solar activity.

number of days per solar minimum


The second kind of data are the number of SC25 sunspot groups. SC25 sunspots have been appearing since December 2016, but the solar minimum is usually located at the time when the numbers of SC24 and SC25 sunspot groups are even, or slightly later. As it can be seen in figure 4, we aren’t there yet.

solar cycle minimum


When is it most likely that the SC24-25 minimum will occur?

Most of the analyses I have seen have one problem. They only look at a subset of solar cycles, and the space-age records are biased by the high activity of the Modern Maximum. I have been inspired particularly by Belgian astronomer Jan Janssens’ SC24 tracking webpage. Using the smoothing filter [2], and following Janssens, I have defined the starting point of the analysis of each minimum as the last month that showed ≥ 30 monthly smoothed sunspots before the minimum. In figure 5 I have represented the number of months it took for each transition from that starting point to reach its solar minimum (lowest smoothed monthly sunspot number or central month when several consecutive zero values).

solar cycle minimum


The distribution is clearly bimodal. 13 transitions took between 8 and 14 months to reach the solar minimum from ≥ 30 smoothed sunspots (short or fast solar minima), while 11 transitions took between 19 and 44 months (long solar minima). For the SC24-25 transition the value of 30 smoothed monthly sunspots was reached in October 2016, 20 months ago as of this writing. For graphical convenience I have divided the long solar minima in two groups. The medium solar minima (19-32 months), and the slow solar minima (38-44 months).

solar cycle minimum


The present solar minimum does not belong to the group characterized by short solar minima. The sunspot number is falling too abruptly, and the solar minimum should have been hit by December 2017 to belong to the group. As of June (corresponding to January 2018 smoothed data) the smoothed sunspot number is still decreasing and given the evolution it will decrease again next month.

solar cycle minimum


The present solar minimum could belong to the medium group. This group includes solar cycle minima from the Dalton and Gleissberg extended minima, but also the unusual 1986 SC21-22 minimum. If SC24-25 belongs to this group the minimum should take place between May 2018 and September 2019. For that to happen the decrease in sunspots should slow down soon, since the chance that its smoothed value hits zero or near-zero is quite low, as only one of the seven (SC6-7) in this group did so.

solar cycle minimum


The present solar minimum could also belong to the slow group. As we can see fast declines in sunspots are common in the early phase of this group, but they are usually followed by a recovery of activity that can last up to a year before the decline resumes. The last SC23-24 minimum belonged to this group and they usually reach very low values or even zero as in the case of the extreme 1810 SC5-6 Dalton solar minimum. If SC24-25 belongs to this group, the minimum should take place between late 2019 and mid-2020. For that to happen the decrease in sunspots should actually revert soon and increase for several months before declining again.

Considering all solar minima since 1750, we can say that it is most likely that the SC24-25 minimum will take place between the summer of 2018 and the summer of 2020.

Reasons why it is likely that SC24-25 turns out to be a long solar minimum

The reason why a slower decay of sunspots had been predicted for SC24 is that the rising and decaying phases of past solar cycles were generally slower for low-activity cycles than for high-activity cycles, so the minima of low-activity cycles tend to last longer than average. We can see this in figure 9.

solar cycle minimum


More than half of the minima between a high-activity and a low-activity cycle are long, and every minimum between two low-activity cycles is long. Since SC24 is a low-activity cycle, and SC25 is expected to be also a low-activity cycle, the SC24-25 minimum is expected to be a long one.

Additionally, we observe that most of the long minima, and particularly the longest ones, take place at the lows of the centennial and de Vries (210-yr) cycles of solar activity (arrows in figure 9). As we are currently at a centennial low in solar activity it is more likely than not that the SC24-25 minimum is a long one. Thus, SC24 should not be a particularly short cycle.

We can also get an idea of when the SC24-25 minimum might take place by looking at the speed that some solar features are “migrating” towards the equator. Sunspots are not useful for this, but looking at regions of local maxima in the spectral corona at the Fe XIV 530.3 nm line we can still see them appearing closer to the equator (figure 10; Aliev et al., 2017).

solar cycle minimum


Analysis of the rate of displacement (figure 10, red lines) of active coronal regions, as observed at the green 530.3 nm coronal line, suggests that the SC24-25 minimum could be reached by February 2019. For more on the green spectral line in the solar corona see here.

A similar analysis has been done more in depth by Petrovay et al., 2018 using another feature of the green coronal line, the rush-to-the-poles (RTTP) coronal polar regions. These are active coronal regions that appear at ~ 55-60° at the time of the solar minimum but move progressively closer to the poles, reaching them near the time of the solar maximum (blue lines in figure 10). This “migration” is postulated to be a manifestation of the buildup of the poloidal field.

Petrovay et al., 2018 find a correlation between the rise rate of the RTTP and the time delay from the ending of the RTTP to the maximum of the following cycle. A rapid rise of the RTTP rate indicates the maximum of the next cycle will take place earlier. From that correlation they expect the maximum of SC25 to occur at October 2024.

From that prediction they use two other known correlations, the Waldmeier effect, or anti-correlation between time from cycle minimum to maximum and cycle amplitude (figure 11A), and the correlation found between the amplitude 2.5 years before the minimum and the amplitude at maximum (figure 11B). Using these two correlations Petrovay et al., 2018 deduce that SC24-25 minimum will take place at April 2019 and SC25 will have an amplitude of 130 smoothed sunspots, same as SC16 and slightly above SC24 (116 sunspots). The date they give is in general agreement with the rest of the information presented here.

solar cycle minimum


Other official predictions for the coming solar minimum

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology Space Weather Services runs a solar activity pageon monthly sunspot numbers and 10.7 cm solar radio flux. They predict a solar minimum slightly lower than the SC23-24 minimum for July 2019. No information is provided about the model they use.

SILSO also runs several prediction methods. The Standard Curves method (SC, based on Waldmeier) and the Combined Method (CM, based on Denkmayr & Cugnon) are part of the 13-year sunspot number and forecast graph displayed at SILSO home page (figure 12A). Over the past year the CM method performed quite badly, predicting more than double the activity that has been observed (figure 12A, black curves), while the SC method has performed better. For the next year the SC method predicts a fall to zero sunspots average for at least 11 months starting this month (figure 12B). I consider that prediction to be very unlikely. The CM method predicts a solar minimum for February 2019 (figure 12C), which is in general agreement to the evidence presented. A third method not shown, the McNish & Lincoln method, is also available at the forecasts page of SILSO, and predicts the solar minimum for December 2018.

Solar cycle minimum

solar cycle minimum



At this time everything appears to indicate that the SC24-25 minimum should take place by late 2018 to mid-2019. If this is the case SC24 will be ~ 10-10.5 years long, not unusual for a solar cycle. The time from ≥ 30 sunspots to the minimum should be above 24 months, but probably below the 38 months of the SC23-24 minimum. Since the length of the low activity period is usually related to its depth, it is likely that the SC24-25 minimum should not be as deep as the SC23-24 minimum. This is in contrast with the recent prediction by James Marusek at WUWT that “this upcoming period of minimal sunspots shall be longer and deeper than the last one.”

As usual, extreme opinions that this could be a monster minimum (David Archibald, 2017), or that it will take place so soon (or already) that will make SC24 one of the shortest cycles, are unlikely to be correct.

If the minimum takes place indeed by early 2019, we can expect the next minimum by 2029-30, indicating that the current period of below average solar activity should extend until ~ 2032. Afterwards I expect that solar activity should return to levels typical of the 20th century Modern Maximum.


Aliev, A. K., Guseva, S. A., & Tlatov, A. G. (2017). Results of Spectral Corona Observations in Solar Activity Cycles 17-24. Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, 57(7), 798-802.

Cliver, E. W., & Ling, A. G. (2011). The floor in the solar wind magnetic field revisited. Solar Physics, 274(1-2), 285-301.

Harvey, K. L., & White, O. R. (1999). What is solar cycle minimum?. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 104(A9), 19759-19764.

Petrovay, K., Nagy, M., Gerják, T., & Juhász, L. (2018). Precursors of an upcoming solar cycle at high latitudes from coronal green line data. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics.

Svalgaard, L., & Cliver, E. W. (2007). A floor in the solar wind magnetic field. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 661(2), L203.

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An ‘Eclipse Like’ Crop Circle That Showed Up Three Days Before The Solar Eclipse

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It’s just days before an eclipse of a lifetime and as the world readies for the sight and some for the energetic shifts, a new crop circle has appeared in a field at Sutton Hall near London Southend Airport. The circle was discovered on August 17, 2017 but it’s meaning, if any, is not yet fully understood. A crop circle with meaning you might ask? Yes, evidence has shown time and time again that many of these circles have incredible scientific anomalies and thus people believe the formations come from somewhere or something else.

On the scientific side, the electromagnetic field over the area where a circle appears is usually electrostatically charged. There is also a rare form of electromagnetic energy called an “ionized plasma vortex,” also known as ball lighting, involved with these formations.

Let’s have a closer look at this and imagine for a moment. In this particular formation, it appears the overall appearance resembles a “radio broadcast tower” with a “satellite dish” near the top. In this case, its “satellite dish” resembles the usual symbols for a “solar eclipse.” Interesting considering we will have the Great American Eclipse  in just a couple days  on August 21, 2017.

So what might this mean? Could we be receiving some sort of radio message from somewhere or someone at that time? Might it simply mean that new frequencies are coming onto our planet as a result of the eclipse? As we explored deeply in our latest documentary The Collective Evolution III: The Shift, celestial bodies, including the sun, have a great impact on our physical bodies, minds, and consciousness. This eclipse will be no different, and our in-house astrologer Carmen DiLuccio has outlined how this eclipse may affect you in his latest article about the eclipse.

The next intriguing aspect of this formation are the many symbols that seem to be arranged in three separate columns of seven ‘boxes’ each. What do the symbols mean? We don’t know yet.

The lower base of this “radio broadcast tower” points toward London Southend Airport in the distance (as noted using a white dashed line):

In the end, do we know what this crop circle means? Not yet, but there are certainly some interesting aspects to it and its timing. With the eclipse coming up, it may simply serve as a reminder to take some time to be present during the eclipse tomorrow.

Set some intentions related to what our in-house astrologer suggests: “What is your heart telling you to create at this time? What steps can you take to help you in fulfilling your passions? What possibilities out there currently excite you and perhaps make you feel more free? What is getting in the way of you expressing your heart more? In what area of your life do you need to be the King, Queen, or Superstar? How can you express yourself in ways that are more innovative, authentic and reflective of who you truly are?”

Not sure whether or not you believe in the legitimacy of crop circles? Have a look at the research we’ve pulled together in our coverage of crop circles here.

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Adapt 2030 Ice Age Report: Signs in the skies of the Eddy Solar Grand Minimum

antisolar arc 2018


Signs are appearing our skies that the atmosphere is changing as predicted with the gran solar minimum. Rare anti-solar arcs over Norway, Cyclone over Yemen and Oman, Green flashes in UK and Norway. Hawaii has blue flames as the Earth cracks and methane ignites and CO2 didn’t cause warming in 1950-1980 even though it was increasing in concentration. A look at Wheeler’s drought clock, another repeating cycle as well the grand solar minimum.


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UK hotel chain promises solar on 70 more locations

The UK hotel chain Premier Inn already had an impressive portfolio of 88 hotels with solar on their rooftops. Now Business Green reports that it’s expanding on that commitment, promising a further 70 rooftop solar projects in the coming months—with a combined capacity of 1.6MW.

Of course, 1.6MW—even when added to the existing portfolio to create just over 3MW—is not all that big when you consider supermarket chain Sainsbury’s was aiming for 40MW back in 2014. But this does represent the largest commitment of its kind from a UK hotel chain, and I think there’s something powerful about hotels going green.

As I experienced in my tour of The Mayton Inn in Cary, NC—the hotels we stay in become temporary homes of sorts. So we experience their green efforts in a slightly different way than we do a solar rooftop on the grocery store we choose to shop at.

For many, a stay at a Premier Inn might be the first time they’ve consciously experienced the lights or TV they turn on (or off!) being partially powered directly from the sun. Assuming that Premier Inn does a good job of communicating this fact to its guests, there’s a good potential to spread the good word about solar to a broader, receptive audience.

It’s also encouraging to hear that projects like this are going ahead, even despite cuts to government support. Business Green quotes Steve Shine, executive chairman of solar developer Anesco, as follows:

“What this project proves is that despite cuts to the feed in tariffs, solar is still a viable option for businesses. There continues to be a growing appetite among commercial organisations, for energy efficiency and renewable technologies, as a tried-and-tested model for reducing energy costs, while improving sustainability and lowering emissions.”

Here’s hoping the competition catches on fast.

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California to Become First US State to Mandate Solar on New Homes

by Amanda Froelich Truth Theory

Way to go, California! The Golden state is on the verge of making solar standard the standard. In fact, as soon as 2020, it may be mandatory for all newly-constructed homes in the state to have solar panels.

If the initiative passes, which is expected, solar installations on new homes will dramatically increase. Said Bob Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association: “California is about to take a quantum leap in energy standards. No other state in the nation mandates solar, and we are about to take that leap.”

The new provisions seek to increase battery storage, as well as increase reliance on electricity over natural gas. As OC Register reports, all houses, condos, and apartment buildings up to three stories tall would be affected by the solar mandate.

Exceptions will be made, of course, such as when the roofs of buildings are too small to accommodate solar panels. And, for builders that integrate batteries such as the Tesla Powerwall, “compliance credits” will be awarded.

While homebuilders and environmentalists have celebrated the news, there are some who wish California would stick to its original “net zero” goal. According to officials, such high standards are not feasible at the moment. Furthermore, mandating “net-zero” fails to address the state’s ultimate ambition of curbing climate change.

As Andrew McAllister, one of the state’s energy commissioners, pointed out, this is because true net zero homes still rely on the electric power grid. He said: “Zero net energy isn’t enough. If we pursue (zero net energy) as a comprehensive policy, we’d be making investments that would be somewhat out of touch with our long-term goals.”

Still, some remain hopeful. “We’re happy they’re making good progress,” said Kelly Knutsen, technology advancement director for the California Solar and Storage Association. “We wish they would go further. There’s always compromises.”

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!

Source: OC Register

Image Credit: Pxhere

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California: Starting in 2020, Most New Homes Must Include a Solar Power System

California: Starting in 2020, Most New Homes Must Include a Solar Power System

May 9th, 2018

Disclosure: I sell solar power systems in New Zealand.

I’m such strident solar power advocate that, when the topic comes up, people in the room who know me roll their eyes and think, “Oh god, here we go again…”

My wife and I have had 5kW of panels on our roof since 2014 and I’ve been selling solar power systems since then.

We have the highest electricity prices in New Zealand combined with 3rd world style grid reliability. With our solar system, we have reduced our dependence on the grid by about 80%. We hope to deal with that remaining 20% with a Tesla Powerwall. The Powerwall will also provide full house backup. We export more power than we use, so we will be very close to 100% independent from the grid with solar plus storage provided by the Powerwall.

In other words: I like solar power. A lot.

What do I think about this news from California?

Solar power is a libertarian technology and it saddens me to see it shoved down people’s throats by the maniac state government in California.

Additionally, I have always been against building codes, and this is just more insanity piled on top.

If you’re looking at this solar power situation in California from somewhere else, and holding your head in your hands: Please don’t let ridiculous government policies taint your view of the technology. Do the math for yourself to determine whether solar power makes sense for you, or not.

Via: GTM:

Starting in 2020, virtually all new homes in California will be required to incorporate advanced efficiency measures and rooftop solar — in an historic development for clean energy in the state.

Updates to the Title 24 standards are projected to reduce home energy use by 53 percent compared to the current code, saving Californians $1.7 billion in energy costs over the next 30 years. This calculation, conducted by the CEC, does not take into account increased energy demands or a reductions in technology costs, which could result in even greater savings over time.

The new rules apply specifically to all new residences and major home renovations on buildings under three stories, starting on January 1, 2020. In the event a building isn’t suitable for a rooftop array, the standards require homes have access to community solar or offset energy usage through additional efficiency gains, while some homes may be exempt.



One Response to “California: Starting in 2020, Most New Homes Must Include a Solar Power System”

  1. prov6yahoo Says:

    @Kevin, Do you have your own water supply? Just curious to see if you will be totally independent after becoming power independent; although I imagine you have property taxes, but hopefully not nearly as horrific as mine (2.49% yearly)


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California feeds the duck with mandatory solar panels on new houses

Fortunately, that’s not the only change in their building regulations.

The California Energy Commission has just changed the building standards to require solar photovoltaic systems on all houses built after January 1, 2020. Here I would cue up my usual response and say “reducing demand is more important than increasing supply” but they do that too; Insulation in walls and attics is increased, window performance is improved, LED lighting is mandated and ventilation is improved. Commissioner Andrew McAllister says:

The buildings that Californians buy and live in will operate very efficiently while generating their own clean energy. They will cost less to operate, have healthy indoor air and provide a platform for ‘smart’ technologies that will propel the state even further down the road to a low emissions future.

efficiency improvementsCalifornia Energy Commission/Public Domain

There are the usual objections that it will increase the cost of housing (estimated to be $9500 per house) but California houses go up by that much every month due to land prices, President Trump’s tariff on Canadian lumber caused a 7 percent increase, and you probably heard the same thing when indoor plumbing became mandatory. At least energy savings from building efficiency and solar panels pay for themselves eventually. In the FAQ they write: “Based on a 30-year mortgage, the Energy Commission estimates that the standards will add about $40 per month for the average home, but save consumers $80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting bills.

duck curve© If it looks like a duck … (Photo: California ISO)

I do wonder what they are actually going to do with all this solar power given that they already are close to over-generation when the sun shines, and suspect that there is going to be one very fat duck after a few years of this. However the commission is also promoting batteries, and new housing only adds one percent per year to the housing stock in California, so it’s not feeding the duck too much too fast. And who knows, maybe Elon will have delivered some Model 3s by then that can be plugged into the “smart” technologies and suck some of it up. The Commission acknowledges that there are issues here:

It is ideal to generate the electricity and have it used onsite versus exporting it to the grid at a time it may not be needed. When the rooftop solar generation is entirely used to offset on-site electricity consumption, then the home has virtually no impact on the grid, reducing the home’s climate change emissions. Looking beyond the 2019 standards, the most important energy characteristic for a building will be that it produces and consumes energy at times that are appropriate and responds to the needs of the grid, which reduces the building’s emissions.

Almost everybody is so excited about this, but I continue to wonder if this all makes sense; whether more energy might be saved by planting a lot of trees to shade houses, or by making houses radically more efficient (what if PassiveHouse standard had been made mandatory? Would that cost more than $ 9,500?) or just not building so many roofs covering just one dwelling. But then I still prefer dumb to smart, it’s just me.

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For first time ever, solar dominates UK power supply

Thanks largely to its massive expansion in wind power capacity, the UK recently had several days where it burned no coal at all.

But, unfortunately, the wind hasn’t been blowing so hard of late.

Luckily, it appears solar has stepped up to the plate. In fact, according to Solar Power Portal, solar became the dominant source of power for the UK’s energy grid for three straight hours on Sunday afternoon.

Specifically, solar was generating between 26.7% and 28.5% of demand during that three hour period, while nuclear and gas were somewhere around 25% each. Meanwhile, coal hardly factored at all.

True, this was thanks to unusually sunny Bank Holiday Weekend. And yes, critics will note that such intermittency is in itself a challenge when you seek to balance the grid. But as renewable energy capacity grows, as our ability to store energy improves, and as the grid gets smarter and we can better balance demand with supply, it’s a fair bet that these records won’t just come more frequently—they’ll be a much smoother ride for the grid operators too.

As for owners of traditional, fossil fuel-powered generating capacity, it may not be such a smooth ride. Also reported by Solar Power Portal, the wholesale price of electricity dipped below £5/MWh. As Mike has reported before, these sudden drops in electricity prices offer renewables an advantage because solar and wind have very low marginal costs in terms of on-going generation of energy.

It will be interesting to see what happens next time the sun starts shining in back in Blightey. (Yes, you can never quite be sure when that will actually be…)

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Has solar cycle 25 begun? Solar cycle 24 was one of the shortest and weakest ever

oil tanker at sunset


Evidence of a Cycle 25 sunspot found

In our previous post: Solar activity crashes – the Sun looks like a cueball,

Our resident solar physicist, Dr. Leif Svalgaard commented and provided a link to something reported by his colleagues, something that likely would not have been possible without the fantastic solar observations of NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observeratory (SDO). He said:

Cycle 25 has already begun

It looks to me that SC25 will be a bit stronger than SC24, so probably no Grand Minimum this time

(ignore the 2014 in the top line – it is just a place holder).

It seems a small sunspot has been observed, that has the opposite polarity of cycle 24 sunspots.

From the first link at Berkeley, Tomek Mrozek and Hugh Hudson write:

This brief Nugget simply announces that YES, we really have seen Cycle 25 [sunspot activity]. An earlier Nugget hinted at this, but it was not so clear a case as presented by today’s new tiny sunspot. Why is this interesting? It’s because spots appearing this early in a cycle – even before a minimum is well established – are quite rare. We could speculate that solar minimum may arrive early and/or may be brief, more evidence regarding the seemingly stochastic component of the development of the solar magnetic cycle.

The Cycle 25 Sunspot

At the time of writing, NOAA has not identified this new sunspot with an official active-region number, and so there could be some things to quibble about. But the magnetic polarity of the region unmistakeably identifies it as a piece of the new cycle, because it reverses the polarity expected for Cycle 24 regions.

Figure 1 here shows the new spot as of this date (10-April-2018). It is marginally detectable but definitely there in relatively crude 1024×1025 .gif versions of the beautiful data from the SDO space observatory.

sun solar cycle sunspots


It requires a bit of patience to see the spot; refer to the location of the magnetic features and perhaps dither the window on your browser screen. The icon for this Nugget on the parent page here has a slightly better view derived from a 4096×4096 image.


This sunspot has been tabulated in the excellent SOLEN page of Jan Alvestad. The Nugget-writers here thank him for his thorough monitoring of solar activity, and also thank Leif Svalgaard for paying close attention as well.

Robert Zimmerman, in our previous story, noted this:

If the solar minimum has actually arrived now, this would make this cycle only ten years long, one of the shortest solar cycles on record. More important, it is a weak cycle. In the past, all short cycles were active cycles. This is the first time we have seen a short and weak cycle since scientists began tracking the solar cycle in the 1700s, following the last grand minimum in the 1600s when there were almost no sunspots.

solar cycle sunspot number progression March 2018


We’ll be watching for “official confirmation”, but if Dr. Svalgaard says Cycle25 has happened, it is almost certain to be true. Now comes the waiting to find out if Cycle 25 is going to be a strong or weak cycle.

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