Monday, September 29, 2014

IEA ups their solar forecasts

The International Energy Agency keeps revising their forecasts for solar energy.  This latest one is a revision from 2010 and it is quite different for one VERY good reason—PV solar got cheap.  Where PV was long so expensive that its adoption entailed public subsidies and political movements, it has now become arguably the low-cost way to get energy.  And because PV is merely a collection system for an energy source that is free, once the capital costs have been incurred, the rest of the costs become essentially fixed.

IEA has discovered that many people have already discovered the economics of PV.  As they put it, "Since 2010, the world has added more PV capacity than in the previous four decades."  Of course, until significant advances are made in electrical storage, living with the intermittence of solar power is still a major cultural adjustment.  Remember, wind is free too but the overwhelming majority of shipping still happens on boats with fossil-fueled engines.  Convenience and reliability make paying for fuels worth doing.  Sailing is a delightful sport but even there, most folks prefer to motor.  Actually living in a home with the operational limitations of a sailboat is probably a non-starter for most (unless solar becomes ridiculously cheap and fuels become prohibitively expensive.)  And that will be the limiting factor—solar will expand so long as folks are not inconvenienced.  Expansion beyond that will require breakthroughs in storage.

(The original article has some interesting charts.  Click on the "more" link to view.)

Solar could be world's top electricity source by 2050 – IEA

RT September 29, 2014

Solar power may become the dominant source of electricity by 2050 as generation equipment becomes cheaper, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Solar power enhances energy diversity and hedges against price volatility of fossil fuels, thus stabilizing the costs of electricity generation in the long-term, says the report.

The IEA said solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could generate up to 16 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, a significant increase from the 11 percent goal in the 2010 roadmap.

Since 2010, the world has added more PV capacity than in the previous four decades; the report says. Global capacity reached 150 gigawatts in early 2014.

Solar PV entails no greenhouse gas. In addition unlike other power generation that requires fresh water for cooling, it consumes no or little water which makes it more cost efficient in hot or dry regions.

Solar thermal electricity (STE) which is based on accumulating solar heat could provide a further 11 percent of energy production.

“The rapid cost decrease of photovoltaic modules and systems in the last few years has opened new perspectives for using solar energy as a major source of electricity in the coming years and decades,” Reuters quotes Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA Executive Director.

However despite being the fastest growing renewable energy technology since 2000, PV panels still account for less than 1 percent of energy capacity worldwide.

The People’s Republic of China is leading the global PV market, followed by Japan and the United States, while a few European countries, led by Germany and Italy, initiated large-scale PV development in 2013. more

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