Study: 5% Global Power Via Solar By 2020

Back in 2001, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace came out with their first “Solar Generation” report. In it, they predicted that by 2009 there would be 2,150 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic capacity installed worldwide. The actual number turned out to be 7,203 MW, suggesting that the new Solar Generation 2010 forecasts — that solar PV could account for 5 percent of global power by 2020 and 9 percent by 2030 — might not be pie-in-the-sky projections.

As in a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis, the new Solar Generation report credits the plummeting price of photovoltaics — 40 percent over the last two years, with a further decrease of perhaps 60 percent by 2020 — with making PV more attractive. Solar Generation says that photovoltaic (PV) efficiency, now ranging from 15-19 percent, could reach as high as 30 percent by 2020 for PV concentrator systems, further pushing prices down.

photovoltaic panels over parking lot

image Viasol Energy Solutions

The report outlines three scenarios for PV solar — a best-case “paradigm shift scenario”; a moderate “accelerated scenario”; and the “reference scenario” from the International Energy Agency. While the Solar Generation projections have in the past been outstripped by actual growth, the new forecasts for solar PV as a percentage of world power consumption are vastly more optimistic than the reference scenario: 4.2 vs. 0.4 in 2020; 9.1 vs. 0.8 in 2030; 15.5 vs 1.3 in 2040; and 21.2 vs. 1.4 in 2050.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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