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Solar Is Booming ... Costs Keep Falling

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Today, solar power is everywhere. It's on your neighbor's roof and in tiny portable cellphone chargers. There are even solar powered roads. And as solar power heats up, prices are going down. In fact, over the past 40 years, the cost of solar has decreased by more than 99 percent!

But how did we get here? Ready for a quick history lesson on one of the world's fastest growing sources of energy?

You might find this hard to believe, but we can trace the idea of harnessing the power of the sun back to 1839. A bright (pun intended!) young French physicist named Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect—the creation of an electric current in a material after being exposed to light—while experimenting in his father's laboratory. Over the following hundred-plus years, scientists continued exploring this phenomenon, creating and patenting solar cells, using them to heat water and doing extensive research to increase the efficiency of solar energy.

The 1970s brought a period of change not only in the form of political and cultural upheaval, but also saw the rise of solar as a viable way to produce electricity. The first solar-powered calculator was commercialized, the Solar Energy Research Institute (now called the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) was established, and U.S. President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House for the first time. But it was also quite expensive, costing an average of $76 per watt in 1977.

But as advancements in the industry continued, the costs began to fall. Over the next 10 years, the price would drop sevenfold to less than $10 per watt, hitting a plateau in the late 1980s and early '90s.

Fast-forward to a few years later and solar technology was really hitting its stride as huge cost reductions were made in recent years, causing world leaders, governments, and the private sector to get on board and moving solar from a niche technology into the mainstream. Soon, regular people in communities all over the world were installing panels on their roofs and in numerous other applications thanks to the technology's improving economics and innovative incentives and financing models.

Which brings us to today, when solar power can cost a minuscule61 cents per watt.

In a relatively short period of time, it's become clear that an incredible future is ahead for this renewable source of energy. And as you might expect, the more the price falls, the more attractive it becomes. Forty years ago, the total global installation of solar was around 2 megawatts. Today, total global installation is closer to 224,000 megawatts.

And as we start down the road forward after the historic Paris agreement, we're noticing just how many countries are working to meet their carbon emissions reduction goals by going solar.

That's why we're hoping you will join us Dec. 5-6 for 24 Hours of Reality: The Road Forward as we travel the world for a look at how solar power is revolutionizing access to electricity in Mexico, Malaysia and Venezuela. We'll visit southeast Asia to meet a "solar monk" in Thailand and to South Africa, where sheep and solar live together on one solar PV farm. We'll even hear from oil-rich countries in the Middle East that are starting to prepare for a future beyond fossil fuels—and renewables like solar are becoming more and more cost effective.

Sign up today to receive reminders about these inspiring stories. We'll see you Dec. 5-6 for The Climate Reality Project's annual 24 Hours of Reality live event. You won't want to miss out!

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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