Argument: Fast growing solar industry can dramatically cut emissions now

Issue Report: Solar energy


Jon r. Luoma. “Solar’s Time Has Finally Arrived”. Yale Environment 360. 28 July 2008 – Today, solar photovoltaic (p.v.) output still represents far less than one percent of the world’s four terawatts (four trillion watts) of electrical generating capacity. But according to some industry analysts, today’s size isn’t the story. The real story is what’s already been happening for more than a decade: a pattern of exponential p.v. growth that now promises to turn the world largely solar, at ever-accelerating speed. Overall bullishness about solar is widespread. BCC Research, a Massachusetts-based market research firm specializing in technology and energy, expects that the global solar sector will grow from $13 billion today to $32 billion by 2012.

“The Gun Has Gone Off” is the title of a report from respected industry tracker Michael Rogol and colleagues at the consulting firm Photon Consulting, summing up what seems to be a consensus among industry analysts. Some long-term growth predictions are simply jaw dropping, including estimates that non-polluting, carbon dioxide-free solar p.v. will become fully price-competitive with coal and nuclear power in most of the world sometime in the next decade or two — without any government or utility incentives. (This goal of so-called “grid parity” is the holy grail of solar enthusiasts.) And with solar costs continuing to plummet into the future, these analysts say, solar will out-compete other forms of electric generation on its own terms until it is preeminent.