By 2028, the world will be mostly powered by solar energy. This is the bold prediction of Ray Kurzweil, the man who also predicted the mobile internet, cloud computing, and wearable technologies about two decades ago.
The basis? Starting from 0.5 percent in 2012, the global market share of solar power doubles every two years ending at 2 percent in 2016. Applying this rate to what Kurzweil calls the Law of Accelerating Returns – “as new technologies get smaller and cheaper, their growth becomes exponential”— it would take less than 6 doublings or 12 years for the solar power to completely conquer the power industry.
Currently, the total capacity of solar power installed is estimated to exceed that of nuclear power, which is at 0.4 terawatts. Unwittingly, this also how much solar power China is planning to install in the coming ten years. In comparison with wind energy share, however, solar is still behind big time. In Germany, the solar power generation share in 2015 was 6 percent, while wind share was 12 percent. In Denmark, however, the solar power generation share last year was 3 percent, while wind power’s share was 16 times more or 48 percent.
To effect a stable expansion of solar power, it is very important to have long-term energy frameworks for companies and citizens. The government of Denmark establishes energy frameworks that are effective for ten years in order to ensure a stable investment environment its industry. In its latest agreed framework in 2012, the tariffs and incentives for solar power industry were very unstable that currently there is completely zero incentive. Moreover, the Danish government has conveyed its doubts that solar can be competitive with wind power.
In the past few years, the cost of solar power has dropped and since it belongs to electronic devices, prices will continue dropping for some time. Because of this price drop in addition to improvements in efficiency, solar power is increasingly becoming more competitive.
From 98,585 solar power plants all over Denmark, the country’s total solar capacity has reached 906 megawatts, and about 20-35 more megawatts are planned to be installed this year, and about 190 more megawatts are projected to be installed in the coming years. This expansion would be an important factor in the discussions of the country’s next energy framework. According to the Danish engineering community website Ingeniøren, there must be a clear and long-term strategy for the solar power following its few years of instability.
In a meeting held just last week, a total of 10-15 percent share of power generation should be sourced from solar cells by 2050 was agreed by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Aalborg University researchers and the Danish Industry. That is, around 10 gigawatts is planned to be installed and operated in 32 years.
Amidst the Danish government’s doubts on solar cell’s competitiveness, Poul Erik Morthorst of DTU thinks otherwise and expresses confidence in the profitability of solar cells compared to wind turbines, “I think solar PV will play a major role in the energy supply of the future, and we may actually underestimate the impact.”
In the other part of the world, it was just reported that the Australian government will be converting 50,000 houses into a giant, interconnected power plant as it will be receiving solar panels and Tesla batteries. This means a power generation of 250 megawatts and 650 megawatt-hours of battery capacity, at a price of only $25 million, without requiring additional land for installation.
Today might be the best time for wind energy, but solar is undeniably growing at a pace that might make wind eventually not feasible.