Earlier this week, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs released a report on the state of utility-scale solar installations in the US. Just about everything in the report is remarkable for anyone who's followed the solar market closely. Over the past five years, prices have dropped by half, while the capacity factors are approaching that of wind. As a result, the most recent installations are offering power at prices that are competitive with natural gas—not the cost of the plant and fuel, but the fuel alone.
In 2014, utility-scale solar projects added about 4GW of capacity to the US grid. Slightly more than 6GW of solar capacity was added in total, with the remainder split between commercial and residential installs. Due to the rapid drop in prices, the majority of this capacity is in the form of photovoltaic panels.
One of the issues with utility-scale solar has been that some of the earlier plants were built outside the Southwest. This has meant less overall generation and a lower capacity factor, meaning that the panels are only producing power at a fraction of their maximal rate. Both of these raise the cost of the electricity generated. But installations in the Southwest have boomed to over 90 percent of the total installed hardware. This has capacity factors up and costs down. More recently, large projects have been getting more popular in the Southeast, which may change this dynamic in the future.
A 13-year-old Southern California boy has confessed to three different swattings, one in which he threatened to blow up a house with hostages in a suburban neighborhood, police said Friday.
"The Camarillo incident there were 20-plus officers there. I was at that call. We basically surrounded the house. The caller reported there were 10 hostages in the house and demanded $30,000 in cash or he would blow up the house," Det. Gene Martinez of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said in a telephone interview with Ars. "Whenever there is a hostage situation, we activate specialized units to respond."
The boy has been released to the custody of his parents pending a juvenile court hearing scheduled next month. Because of his age, his name was not released. He is likely to get a probation term as punishment.
If you have AT&T’s gigabit Internet service and wonder why it seems so affordable, here's the reason—AT&T is boosting profits by rerouting all your Web browsing to an in-house traffic scanning platform, analyzing your Internet habits, then using the results to deliver personalized ads to the websites you visit, e-mail to your inbox, and junk mail to your front door.
In a few select areas including Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri—places where AT&T competes against the $70-per-month Google Fiber—Ma Bell offers its own $70-per-month "GigaPower" fiber-to-the-home Internet access. But signing up for the deal also opts customers in to AT&T’s “Internet Preferences” program, which gives the company permission to examine each customer’s Web traffic in exchange for a price that matches Google's.
AT&T charges at least another $29 a month ($99 total) to provide standalone Internet service that doesn’t perform this extra scanning of your Web traffic. The privacy fee can balloon to more than $60 for bundles including TV or phone service. Certain modem rental and installation fees also apply only to service plans without Internet Preferences.