Solar Power To Someday Usurp Fossil Fuels?

Solar energy is the most abundant resource on earth, more so than wind and geothermal. Approximately 100 petwatts (1,000 terawatts) of solar energy reach the earth daily, only a fraction of which, 15 terrawatts, is needed to power the entire earth. As photovoltaic technology continues to improve, solar may become the most economical form of generating electricity.

The IEEE believes that as prices drop for solar technology, there will be unlimited market growth and solar will spread even further and faster than it is today. One of the only challenges limiting photovoltaics (PV) is efficiency. The materials needed to create more efficient panels would increase the price of PVs exponentially. Luckily, as technology in general continues to advance, so does the availability of the necessary materials. For example, silicon, one of the main components of solar PVs, is more readily available now than five years ago. The advancement of thin-film materials and concentrated PVs have also helped improve efficiency.

Image via Advanced Solar Products

According to the International Energy Association (IEA), IEEE said, global solar PV capacity has been increasing at an average annual growth rate of more than 40 percent since 2000. By 2050, it is expected that solar PV will provide 11 percent of global electricity production, corresponding to 3,000 gigawatts of cumulative installed capacity. That would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 2.3 gigatons, equivalent to reducing emissions from electricity use from 253 million homes per year, nearly the combined populations of Russia and Japan.

The IEEE is gathering experts in order to spread the adoption of solar PVs. It has expanded its IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conference to include more than 1,000 technical presentations on solar cell research, development, implementation and manufacturing. It has also launched the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics. Aside from this, its headquarters in New Jersey have rooftop solar arrays that generate 50kW of energy with plans to expand to 220 kW.


  • Reply June 21, 2011


    Some futurists Ray Kurzweil has predicted 100% of the worlds energy will come from solar within 20 years.Thanks to technological advancement he expects exponential growth of 50% per year. u00a0Solar pv growth has been 60% per year from 2004-2010. u00a0 u00a0Your number of 11% by 2050 seems incredibly low. u00a0 Perhaps you dont want the fossil fuel industry to feel threatened?

  • Reply June 22, 2011


    I agree that solar cost need to come down and efficiency needs to come up. But you should embrace where we are. A typical homes solar system can pay for itself with incentives,tax exemptionsu00a0and rebatesu00a0depending on whether it was paid for cash, leased or financed within 3 to 7 years.

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