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The Solar Singularity Is Nigh

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“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” quipped Yogi Berra. I keep his wise admonition in mind as I make predictions about our energy future, but we have many reasons for optimism when it comes to the future growth of solar power.

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Here’s the summary: solar is taking over. We can now see many years into the future when it comes to energy, and that future is primarily solar-powered. Why my optimism? Well, let me explain.

The “solar singularity” will, by my definition, occur when solar prices become so cheap that solar becomes the default power source based on cost alone and without subsidies. We aren’t there yet but we’re probably just a few years away from that point, particularly since we’re seeing energy storage costs declining significantly already. (I’m not going to address storage in this article further but, of course, a grid can’t run on variable solar power alone so we’ll need storage and other backup technologies to ensure reliable grids as solar power penetration grows).

Swanson’s Law, named after the founder of SunPower, a large American manufacturer of solar panels, states that the price of solar panels generally drops by 20 percent with every doubling of shipped panels. This has been the general trend since solar became a viable technology — hence its designation as a “law,” even though there are times when some deviations from the trend take place. For example, from the mid-1990s until 2008 solar costs declined by relatively small amounts, primarily due to stubbornly high silicon prices in a backdrop of increasing commodity prices across many markets, until the crash of 2008. Since 2008, however, panel cost declines have accelerated and the general trend is now back and then some.

When we compare recent cost declines for solar to other energy prices we get a pretty picture indeed and this is why solar is now getting very serious attention by investors and pundits alike.

REN21, a nonprofit organization, releases an annual report on the global status of renewable energy. Their 2014 report showed a phenomenal 39 percent growth in solar power, with 39 gigawatts added. REN21 haven’t released their figures for 2014 yet but we can expect similar figures for 2014 to those we saw in 2013. It must be satisfying for Swanson to see his predictions come true in spades. When he wrote his 2006 paper, global solar installations were only about 5 gigawatts. We are now, in early 2015, at almost 200 gigawatts, about forty times the installations in 2006, with prices declining much as he predicted.

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Figure 1. Global solar power growth through 2013 (source: REN21).

REN21 global solar growth through 2013

Total U.S. installations now stand at about 20 gigawatts, or 10 percent of the total and enough power for about four million U.S. homes. The U.S. was a latecomer to the global solar party, but with 2014 installations at about six gigawatts the U.S. is now back at the top of the heap in terms of largest markets for solar.

What About Subsidies?

Subsidies have been a big part of getting solar to where it is today but subsidies are becoming increasingly unnecessary as solar prices plummet. This is additional good news. California’s residential and commercial solar rebate program (the California Solar Initiative or CSI) is all but gone as the rebates have been used up, and yet California’s retail solar market is still growing strongly.

On the wholesale side, the federal 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) is set to decline to 10 percent at the beginning of 2017. The conventional wisdom is that we’ll see a big drop in installations when this happens. However, a silver lining to the Republican-controlled Congress and their antipathy to green power is that there is little hope at this point that the 30 percent ITC will be extended.

tambookThis means, contrary to the similar discussion with respect to wind power’s tax credits over the last decade (they’ve expired a number of times, leading to a slowdown in installations for a year and then a rebound when the credit is renewed), there won’t be a slowdown in anticipation of an eventual renewal of the tax credit. We should see solar companies simply adjust to the lower tax benefit and keep on trucking.

SunPower, a major player in today’s markets, is already predicting little impact from the reduced ITC, based on the ability to develop profitable projects even with the reduced ITC of 10 percent.

James Smith, an investment analyst at Catapult Research, recently issued a very bullish report on solar, providing some good corroboration of my predictions here. He stated in his report, excerpted here: “I’m saying that if the cost of solar drops 20% in price every time the installed base doubles, it is only a matter of time before solar takes over from fossil fuels. My best guess is that it starts to really happen from 2017 onwards.”

Is The Past A Reliable Guide To The Future?

Making predictions (especially about the future) is difficult because there is no guarantee, of course, that the past is a reliable guide to the future. However, when it comes to solar power we see the very clear trend of price reductions continuing for some time because there are no inherent limits to further reductions. Jeremy Rifkin has made the case that solar panels will become practically free with zero marginal cost for production, in his book The Zero Marginal Cost Society. As we’ll see below, this is a reasonable prediction.

Solar panels are not the only cost component for solar systems and they are increasingly becoming a minor cost because of ongoing panel cost reductions. The main components of overall costs are now soft costs like labor and the “balance of system” costs for equipment like inverters, racks and wiring. However, these other costs are also declining substantially and groups like GTM Research predict further major cost reductions.

The basis for my predictions is, however, quite simple: we have reached the point where low costs are driving installations higher, which in turn drives costs lower, which in turn drives installations higher… The virtuous circle seems to be locked in and based on history we can expect further 20 percent cost reductions with each doubling of capacity, with no inherent limit to cost reductions over time.

Under this trend, we can expect by 2020, under a 30 percent global rate of growth, to see total solar costs for utility-scale systems at around $0.84/watt, based on GTM Research’s projected $1.10/watt for 2017. By 2025, the cost drops to about $0.54/watt and by 2030 it will be a practically free cost of $0.34/watt. By 2040, we can expect under these trends to see costs at about 14 cents per watt. A five kilowatt home-size system costs at this price only $700.

That counts as free in my book because that system will provide power for about 25 years at almost no cost above that of the initial installation. 25 years of production for $700 equates to about 2.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. For comparison, the average retail cost of power in California today is about 15 cents per kilowatt hour, so this future cost of solar power will be less than 1/5th the cost of today’s power. And this analysis leaves out inflation. If we include inflation the comparison is even more favorable.

What Could Derail The Solar Singularity?

While I’m fairly confident in the coming solar singularity I’d be foolish not to recognize some inherent uncertainties about making such predictions. I’ll discuss a couple of the biggest uncertainties here.

The biggest source of uncertainty is the rate of growth in installations. In my calculations above I assumed a 30 percent rate of growth, which is reasonable given the far higher rates of growth we’ve seen in recent years (this results in approximately a 2.3-year doubling time). However, it is likely that we’ll see growth rates decline for a variety of reasons. If installations increase at only 20 percent per year we see about $0.54/watt by 2030 and $0.28/watt by 2040. At only 10 percent growth we see about $0.75/watt by 2030 and $0.56/watt by 2040. At these price and installation levels the singularity still arrives but it’s delayed.

The second biggest source of uncertainty is the degree to which there are fundamental limitations in how fast power generation fleets can turn over. Most power generation assets are financed (amortized) over the course of many years and these investments often require long power sales contracts to justify such investments. This means that a lot of the fleet is locked in contractually at any given time. If a ton of solar is installed in any particular grid system the threat of “stranded costs” — costs that are at risk of not being recovered due to under-utilization or an early shut down — becomes high.

We’ll see how the stranded cost issue shakes out in each country but there is good reason to believe that even if some grids see a slow-down in solar installations because of concerns about stranded costs, or other problems, that other countries will take up the slack and the general global trend of ever-increasing solar will continue apace.

One issue that I don’t think will be a real problem in the next couple of decades is lack of space for new solar. For all practical purposes, the space for installing solar around the world is infinite. We’ll run out of power demand long before we’ll run out of space for solar. As costs plummet for solar, more and more countries will see it become economically viable and more and more locations, such as roadways, areas over metro rail lines, etc., will be covered by panels.

In sum, we have some very good reasons to believe that the solar singularity is indeed nigh. What does a world of free or practically free energy look like? That is a topic for another column.

Tam Hunt’s new book, The Solar Singularity: Why Our Energy Future Is So Bright, will be released later this year. 

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Alternative News

Female Sorcerer’s Fascinating Arsenal of Charms Discovered In Pompeii

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Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    On August 12th archaeologists uncovered a trove of jewels in Pompeii that are thought to have been part of a 'sorcerer's treasure trove' used to bring fortune and fertility, and protect against bad luck.

  • Reflect On:

    As we dive into all of the magic that crystals, amulets, and similar tools have in this day & age, it's even more magical to see this latest finding & remember that we have been utilizing such tools for as long as we can look back all over the world.

My initial reaction to this story was, ‘WOAH. I love and have to share this!’

As someone who has gone on a very specific path in life, my journey has been filled with tools much like these. I am forever fascinated by all things magic (you can tune into my interview with Collective Evolution The Magic Within on CETV to understand this even further if you wish) and when news like this pops into my frequency, it solely reaffirms that there are so many of us out here and that energetic practices are, of course, nothing new.

On August 12th archaeologists in Pompeii discovered an array of amulets, gems, and lucky charms thought by researchers to have belonged to a female sorcerer who could have been a victim of the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius more than 2,000 years ago.

More than 100 miniature objects were found in a wooden crate which had all but decomposed except for its bronze hinges. The findings include miniature dolls, phallic amulets, necklace beads, and a tiny skull among other objects made of bone, bronze, glass, and amber. The researchers have come to the hypothesis that they were likely used for adornment or protection by a woman in the years before Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, which later buried the city and its population in volcanic ash.

“They are objects of everyday life in the female world and are extraordinary because they tell micro-stories and biographies of the inhabitants of the city who tried to escape the eruption,” said Pompeii’s general director, Massimo Osanna, in a statement.

See items from the treasure trove below.

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Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

“The objects… were found at the Casa del Giardino, the same area where an inscription was recently uncovered that made historians change the date of when they think the Vesuvius eruption that destroyed Pompeii took place, shifting it from August 24 to October 24 79 AD.” – ANSA

Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

At this very location, the researchers also discovered a room containing the bodies of ten victims, which included women and children. Archaeologists will use DNA analysis to determine if the victims were related. “Perhaps the precious box belonged to one of these victims,” Osanna suggested. “The iconography of the objects and amulets invoke fortune, fertility, and protection against bad luck,” Osanna said. He has suggested to the Italian news agency Ansa that it could have been a “sorcerer’s treasure trove.”

Since there was no gold found in the trove, it is likely these objects belonged to a servant or a slave, rather than the owner of the house, Osanna told Ansa.

Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

 

Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

Courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA).

The jewelry will go on display soon at Pompeii’s Palestra Grande in an exhibition set to be a follow-up to its recently closed show on Roman jewelry called “Vanity.”

The Takeaway

Though the past potential usage for these items is stressed to be simply a hypothesis at this time, it is incredible to simply see and imagine the time they existed in through these images.

As humans in a material, physical, 3D world, we ourselves are continuously building our own treasure troves in a way. Every piece of jewelry or product we purchase, find, or create flows its way into our homes, cars, pockets, backpacks, etc. and in the end shall remain and live on well beyond us to share a glimpse into our story. What would you like to leave behind? A trunk filled with magical amulets, or a legendary story (or both)?

Though it is nearly impossible to always be thinking of this when adding more ‘stuff’ into our lives, I do believe it serves as a good reflection point that these things are simply that – things – and that the real magic lies within each and every one of us. Remember that the energy and intentions that we at times give to others, things, or tools, is always coming from & through US.

Now, this is not to say that treasures themselves can not be treasured. If you just so happen to love the look, feel, and energy that they give off or wish to utilize these physical objects as an extension of yourself, by all means (and I get it – I’m with you!). As a final note, however, from a real-life gem collector to the hearts of all of you,  know that the answer, the love, the magic IS YOU.

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Consciousness

Study Shows That Horses Understand Our Emotions & Remember Us Deeply

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    In a recent study, researchers at the universities of Sussex and Portsmouth have discovered that horses can recognize and recall human expression.

  • Reflect On:

    We are all interconnected and it is beautiful to see more studies coming up that clearly showcase just how aware and in tune animals can be and are.

The more in tune with myself I strive to become, the more drawn I am to explore how connected we all are – not solely with one another, but with everything. This, like many other deeper concepts surrounding life, begs to answer the ever-present question of ‘are there other emotionally intelligent beings out there?’

One could argue that their dogs or other galactic beings (if real) could be emotionally intelligent, but as we look at all of the research, it is clear that most living organisms actually display a very obvious intelligence. From lobsters to plants, they have all been known to display some form of intelligence. This is precisely what was revealed when a recent study explored horses and their interaction with humans.

Let’s take a step back real quick. If you have ever owned or spent a lot of time riding with one particular horse, chances are good that you’ve felt some sort of special connection with them — and wondered if horses even like humans. Maybe you’ve felt like they were actually your friend, or a small part of your family, and wanted to know if the feeling was reciprocal. Research is now confirming that that connection isn’t all in your head — and anyone who has ever had a pet before, horse or not, definitely won’t be surprised at some of these recent findings.

In a recent study, researchers at the universities of Sussex and Portsmouth showed domestic horses photographs of humans with either a happy or angry expression on their faces. Then, later on, the horses were introduced to the same people they saw in the photographs, now with neutral expressions. This new study shows that horses can actually understand and remember human emotions, which is something that makes them seem even more magical than they already did.

“Researchers watched the eye movements of horses as they met the photograph subjects in real life. The horses perceived those who had been photographed with an angry face as more threatening.” – UPI

Horses were more wary of people they previously saw in a photo with an angry expression on their face. Photo by University of Portsmouth/University of Sussex

UPI reports that previous research showed horses tend to focus on negative or threatening objects and events with their left eye, as the right hemisphere of their brain is tasked with assessing risk. In the new experiment, researchers found horses stared at subjects who had been photographed with an angry expression using their left eye.

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“What we’ve found is that horses can not only read human facial expressions but they can also remember a person’s previous emotional state when they meet them later that day — and, crucially, that they adapt their behavior accordingly,” Karen McComb, a professor at the University of Sussex, said in a news release. “Essentially horses have a memory for emotion.”

Scientists have previously shown horses can recognize expressions, but the latest findings, published this week in the journal Current Biology, are the first to show the mammals can recall an expression linked with an individual’s face.

“We know that horses are socially intelligent animals, but this is the first time any mammal has been shown to have this particular ability,” Portsmouth researcher Leanne Proops said. “What’s very striking is that this happened after just briefly viewing a photograph of the person with a particular emotional expression — they did not have a strongly positive or negative experience with the person.”

This is a beautiful discovery in and of itself as stated above, outside of ourselves there had not been any recording of other mammals showing this ability.

The Takeaway

With more of us beginning to turn inward for growth, it is beautiful to see that more and more research is coming to the forefront revealing our fellow animal kingdom as being connected and in tune with us as much as their surroundings. At times when everything else seems to be chaotic, remember to be still. The real magic within us and our connectedness to everything is what oneness consciousness is all about. You are not alone in this world, let alone in the universe. It is in our awareness that we allow bonds that were seen as less than to blossom — it is in our remembrance of Self that we re-member as One with all.

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Consciousness

“There Is Someone In There” – Professor Presents Remarkable Evidence of Plant Consciousness

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Monica Gagliano, a thirty-seven-year-old animal ecologist at the University of Western Australia has conducted multiple experiments with plants that suggest they are a living, thinking, feeling and emotional beings.

  • Reflect On:

    Does consciousness reside in all things? Is a brain necessary to posses consciousness? Is consciousness dependant on a brain?

When it comes to the topic of consciousness, it’s something, in my opinion, all living life forms posses. Including plants, and I believe there is conclusive evidence for that. In fact, the question of whether consciousness is something that resides outside of the brain, or is a product of it, has long been the subject of scientific debate. Parapsychological studies, which have gone through rigorous testing and according to statistics professor, Dr Jessica Utts at UC Irvine, have tighter controls than any other area of science, hint to the idea that consciousness is not solely located within us. This is evident by the fact that humans have the ability to “perceive” remote locations regardless of geographical distance (remote viewing) and it’s also evident by the fact that human thoughts and intentions can alter physical material reality at a distant location, at both the quantum level and at the human level.

For example, a paper published in Physics Essays explains how the double slit experiment has been used multiple times to explore the role of consciousness in shaping the nature of physical reality. The results clearly indicated that human intention, via meditators, were able to collapse the quantum wave function in that experiment, similar to the way observation or measurement does. The study received a 5 Sigma result, the same result that was given to CERN when they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2013 for finding the Higgs particle, which turned out not to be Higgs after all).

I also like to point towards this document I found in the CIA’s electronic reading room titled “Research Into Paranormal Ability To Break Through Spatial Barriers” as another example that goes beyond the quantum scale.

Again, the point I am trying to hammer home is that I don’t believe biology is necessary for consciousness, but perhaps sometimes acts like a vessel for it without consciousness being dependant on biology. Near Death Experiences (NDE’S) are also a great great example hinting to the idea that consciousness is not dependant on biology, and perhaps one of the best.

But what if plants are conscious? But they don’t have a brain. Would that destroy the idea of the brain being a vessel of consciousness?

What comes to mind instantly here are the books written by hypnotherapist Delores Cannon. She has hypnotically regressed thousands of people with regards to supposed past lives, and found that many people have experienced past lives on our planet as well as on other planets as multiple different life forms, including trees, animals and plants. Now, how would one in a regressed state access these experiences? Where are they stored? These are questions that remain unanswered. The regression sessions are legit in the fact that the patient is actually in a hypnotic state sharing these experiences, there is no question about that, but we have no way of knowing whether or not what they are sharing is real, but the consistency with regards to past life regression among thousands of subjects is interesting. Many children also share stories that can even be verified regarding their past lives.

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When it comes to plants, I’ve always thought that they were living, thinking, breathing, conscious beings. Grover Cleveland Backster Jr., was an interrogation specialist for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who became well known for his experiments with plants using a lie-detector machine. Through his research, he believed that plants feel pain and have extrasensory perception (ESP). Author Michael Polan describes his experiments quite well in a piece he wrote for the New Yorker a few years ago regarding plant intelligence:

(Cleve) hooked up a galvanometer to the leaf of a dracaena, a houseplant that he kept in his office. To his astonishment, Backster found that simply by imagining the dracaena being set on fire he could make it rouse the needle of the polygraph machine, registering a surge of electrical activity suggesting that the plant felt stress. “Could the plant have been reading his mind?” the authors ask. “Backster felt like running into the street and shouting to the world, ‘Plants can think!’ ”

Backster and his collaborators went on to hook up polygraph machines to dozens of plants, including lettuces, onions, oranges, and bananas. He claimed that plants reacted to the thoughts (good or ill) of humans in close proximity and, in the case of humans familiar to them, over a great distance. In one experiment designed to test plant memory, Backster found that a plant that had witnessed the murder (by stomping) of another plant could pick out the killer from a lineup of six suspects, registering a surge of electrical activity when the murderer was brought before it. Backster’s plants also displayed a strong aversion to interspecies violence. Some had a stressful response when an egg was cracked in their presence, or when live shrimp were dropped into boiling water

His (Backster’s) work on this was published in the International Journal of Parapsychology. 

Poland also describes the work of  Monica Gagliano, a thirty-seven-year-old animal ecologist at the University of Western Australia. He describes an experiment she conducted with the plant Mimosa pudica, a fast moving plant that can be seen by the naked eye, kind of like the Venus Fly Trap.

Gagliano potted fifty-six of these plants, and had a system that dropped them from 15 centimetres every five seconds. When they are in danger, these plans curl up, and close their leaves. The plants did this after a few drops, but then realized that the drops weren’t really harmful so they remained open after that. It wasn’t just fatigue either, when the plants were shaken they closed up, and furthermore, the plants retained this knowledge because Gagliano tried again a month later and got the same response.

Gagliano said, imagining these events from the plants’ point of view. “You see, you want to be attuned to something new coming in. Then we went back to the drops, and they didn’t respond.” Gagliano reported that she retested her plants after a week and found that they continued to disregard the drop stimulus, indicating that they “remembered” (source)

Clearly, they learn, remember and apply that knowledge. These are all factors associated with consciousness and thinking. There has to be something or someone in there that’s responsible for that learning.

Fascinating isn’t it? Brains and neurons don’t seem to be a necessary requirement for factors associated with consciousness. What makes us assume that we need brains and neurons to be conscious? Why can’t we see any other type of possibility?

It sort of reminds me of the idea that planets have to be “Earth-like” to sustain or have life. How do we know? How do we know there aren’t beings that breath some sort of gas we’ve never even discovered? How do we know there aren’t beings that don’t need to breath?

Humans and their assumptions/limited imaginations…We are conditioned to ‘see’ things a certain way.

In the video below, in the second half of her interesting talk, Gagliano describes another experiment that suggests “someone” is in there. She conducted a similar experiment as Pavlov did with his dogs and makes some very interesting points.

“There is someone in there.”

The Takeaway

Consciousness is not limited to humans and animals. It’s something that extends to plants, trees, insects, perhaps even the soil we walk on and much more that we take for granted. Perhaps our entire planet is awake and aware in ways we have barely yet to understand, perhaps our entire universe is?

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