Renewable energy, such as wind power, solar power, and hydro, has been becoming less expensive and more efficient, so how soon will it take over?
Over the last thirty years or so, thanks to renewable energy adoption, the power grid is ever so slowly becoming decentralized. Whereas public utility companies have long been the center of the grid, responsible for producing and distributing energy, as well as maintaining infrastructure, thousands of individuals with their own solar panels and wind turbines are upsetting the status quo.
In Germany, which has been at the forefront of renewable energy development, especially wind power and solar power, some days their renewable energy generation surpasses their utilization. Germany actually exports emissions-free energy to other countries. Part of the reason this has become possible has to do with the ever dropping costs of renewable energy, which has already broken even with fossil-fuel power in some places. Residential solar power systems, for example, going back only as far as 1998, cost nearly $12/W (per watt), according to the DOE’s NREL (Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory). Those same systems today cost less than $1/W, commercial installations even less, which means even more people and companies can afford to install them.
As Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SolarCity, notes in the video, the planet is essentially solar powered, so we need to be solar powered. True, the fossil fuels we’re digging out of the ground today were at one time living solar powered, their burial hasn’t been permanent. What we need is a fundamental change in thinking if we’re going to really bring ourselves into the next Age. We started with the Industrial Age, when we really started to exploit fossil fuels. Now, are we nearing the end of the Information Age? The dropping prices of renewable energy sources could mean we’re on the verge of the Solar Age, which Elon Musk predicts could happen within twenty years.
Image © Department of Energy