Solar Energy Inflection Point will soon be reshaping the industry to make our lifestyle better
The solar energy industry is at a turning point with Solar Energy Inflection Point. We all use energy all the time specifically electrical energy where we get lighting and power for our cell phones and all of our electronic devices. It is indeed a revolutionary change to get our electrical energy even today from a photovoltaic array, implemented on our roofs or institutes or other major buildings. The traditional applications that probably are familiar now like Hubble Space Telescope, Space Station, all of these applications use photovoltaics because they are off-grid. Photovoltaics have never been cost-effective until now for on-grid applications.
People don’t sometimes realize how much solar energy falls on the Earth but most of us know that life comes from the Sun and one hour of sunlight can power the entire electric needs of the world for a year. So, the energy is there, it is not just cost-effective. Since the solar cells were invented at the time of the microelectronics revolution around 1954, sixty years later we have had that amount of time to finally get the cost down to where it is competitive with other sources like nuclear particularly. From an engineering perspective the solar energy is at grid parity which means that we can install photovoltaics at the location and it will cost the same.
Most of us know that lots of fossil fuels that are being used even today so the concern is obviously global warming air pollution. We need renewable sources that don’t emit carbon dioxide and all other gases. Today, only about eight per cent of our energy is renewable and most of that is traditional hydropower in particular. Solar is only 1% and that means we have a huge opportunity to improve our climate by using probably the cleanest fuel that is available today. One of the major advantages being that the solar energy is distributed that means it actually makes the most sense to put it where you are using it for example, on the roof of the house or an industrial building and that reduces the need for the electric grid. There is a big worry now of covering the entire land on Earth with solar panels. To power the entire needs of the United States you only need about a hundred square mile section, like in Texas there is so much land or you can even use a dessert or even float it on the ocean so there are lot many opportunities. The other interesting point here is about a third of that area is equivalent to the roofs of the houses in the U.S.
The other thing we have to look at when we think about solar is where is the solar energy relative to various places in the country and obviously there are places where solar energy capacity is much heavy as in southwest parts of America. We have about average what are called five peaks on hours a day so even with that rate of sunshine solar energy is cost-effective. The reason has to do with economics as with most things the energy costs are some of the lowest in the country and we also have a lot of other renewables such as Hydro on Missouri River and also the wind power. Back in 1954, the cost of utility prices were about $70 but it is dropped exponentially and this data was put together by a bunch of investment bankers who wanted to know when the cost of solar would equal the cost of grid energy and this grid energy is growing up because of inflation. Wind power too has exponential growth but it is slowing down as compared to solar which is accelerating because of the cost equation.
About all new generation capacity in the U.S is photovoltaics because it is quick to install and cost-effective. Most people predict that about 30% of energy will be photovoltaics in 20 years with an exception that California alone mandates 20% by the year 2020. Solar energy will make up a hundred per cent by 2100. The interesting facts are still that the leaders in photovoltaics are Germany and Japan while the U.S is below them. This is because they have much higher costs of fossil fuels as they have to import a lot of their energy while the U.S is blessed with its own fossil fuels.