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How Rooftop Solar Can Stabilize the Grid

Following Germany's lead, California gives advanced inverters a bigger role in the grid

4 min read
How Rooftop Solar Can Stabilize the Grid
Rooftops for Reliability: Germany is using smart inverters to give solar a role in stabilizing the grid. California is following its example.
Photo: Bernhard Lang/Getty Images

Rooftop solar power systems are picking up a second job on the distribution grids that deliver electricity to California homes and businesses. Right now, their photovoltaic panels just generate electricity (meeting about 1 percent of the state’s consumption), but within a few months some systems will also start moonlighting as junior grid regulators—a role that could keep them busy even after the sun goes down.

While the development in California is the result of a state-specific standard, approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in December, it is also part of a global movement: Germany, Japan, and other countries where solar is booming are implementing a similar change to empower rooftop solar installations to regulate voltage levels and perform other grid-support tasks.

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Here’s How We Could Brighten Clouds to Cool the Earth

"Ship tracks" over the ocean reveal a new strategy to fight climate change

12 min read
Silver and blue equipment in the bottom left. A large white spray comes from a nozzle at the center end.

An effervescent nozzle sprays tiny droplets of saltwater inside the team's testing tent.

Kate Murphy
Blue

As we confront the enormous challenge of climate change, we should take inspiration from even the most unlikely sources. Take, for example, the tens of thousands of fossil-fueled ships that chug across the ocean, spewing plumes of pollutants that contribute to acid rain, ozone depletion, respiratory ailments, and global warming.

The particles produced by these ship emissions can also create brighter clouds, which in turn can produce a cooling effect via processes that occur naturally in our atmosphere. What if we could achieve this cooling effect without simultaneously releasing the greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants that ships emit? That's the question the Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) Project intends to answer.

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