Falling prices and easy accessibility mean the world will ‘go solar’ very soon, writes Jason Rothman
The world is embracing solar power. The energy source is becoming increasingly popular and has now reached a tipping point where it makes much more economic sense to use a combination of solar, wind, and storage, rather than coal, fossil fuels, natural gas, or nuclear power to run our planet.
Solar power and batteries are going to become ubiquitous globally. The price will become so attractive that eventually most people around the world will go solar simply because not going solar will cost them more money.
Eventually most people around the world will go solar because not going solar will cost them more money
Tariffs cannot stop solar power in the US
Even in the US, where tariffs are slowing down solar growth, the market is still growing. A main driver of this growth has been Tesla’s decision to change its business model from leasing solar panels to consumers, to developing and selling its own solar shingles. You can take away net-metering programmes, tax breaks, add tariffs, and it is still less expensive to get solar on your home right now than it is to pay a utility to give you power.
Right now, wind power is more attractive on an industrial scale than solar power, and harnessing wind is an important way to get energy, but the simple fact that you can deploy solar panels on homes, car, trains, businesses, as well as on an industrial scale, solar is going to win. Even if people have the option of installing energy-creating wind turbines on their homes, it will still be more practical to manufacture and install solar panels.
We can argue all we want and a solar power revolution will still happen
We can talk about climate change all we want – on both ends of the argument – but the solar industry will continue to evolve, innovate, and create new solar panels with higher efficiency, using new materials, and the world will buy in.
In the last 10 years the solar market has produced three styles of panels. The efficiency of the solar panels has increased from 10 per cent to almost 20 per cent and the cost of manufacturing them has almost halved.
Today you can buy monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film solar panels. There are solar roof-shingles from more companies than Tesla, and now both MIT and Cambridge universities have created windows that are solar panels and developed solar panels that can bend and come in different colours. If you think it will be many years before those hit the market, it won’t. This industry evolves fast and the companies only using yesterday’s material are left behind.
In the meantime, large utilities are finding that if they combine solar and storage on a massive scale, they will use less energy themselves while gathering and storing energy for the rest of us. Put simply, utilities will save money by running on solar power. Oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power has to be bought on a wholesale market, whereas with solar and storage, there is little cost to get the power.
All power plants have a large upfront cost to build. It’s the solar and storage power plants that don’t have to keep baking the wholesale power cost into their rates. They make the power.
Solar installations continue to grow every year
Right now, solar is a small part of the overall power picture, but it is growing every year. Eventually there will come a tipping point. There was no Internet, Google, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram until there was. People didn’t always use smartphones or devices but now the global populace cannot envision their lives without this technology.
The same thing will happen with solar; every roof eventually has to be replaced and in time the prices of solar will become so attractive that getting a solar roof or putting solar panels on a new roof will make financial sense.
When solar windows or a solar roof just becomes part of standard construction and batteries increase in capacity while dropping in price, this will be the moment that most people will want to go solar. That moment is closer than you think and it gets closer every day.
Residential solar is already reasonable
Already, the price of installing solar on homes is less expensive than most vehicles, and financing them through home equity loans will give an average homeowner in the US a less expensive monthly payment than they are already paying their utility for power. People even have monthly phone bills that are more expensive than financing solar. And that is today. Imagine the case in 10 years.
Every hour the sun hits the earth with 430 quintillion joules of energy. It’s a number so big that it has 19 zeros in it, and it is more energy than we consume in a year. All we have to do is harness part of that power and it will change the world.
I am not saying that solar energy will end global warming, but I am saying that it will cut or eliminate our need to extract and burn fossil fuels for power. It won’t happen tomorrow or next year, but it will happen. We are getting to the point where it just doesn’t make sense to deny it any longer.