June 26, 2023


The Silent Rise of Solar Power: A deep dive into how the coming solar revolution may change the global energy landscape. (Anna-Sofia Lesiv June 8, 2023, Contrary)

The early 2020s have already been a period of many firsts for the solar industry. In 2022, the world surpassed one terawatt (i.e. 1,000 gigawatts) in total solar installations. Replacing coal-power plants with solar and wind plans became cheaper than continuing to run existing coal plans. And for the first time ever, more electricity was generated with solar power than with natural gas in Europe.

The coming decade may prove to be the one that completely changes the global energy landscape away from fossil fuels for the first time since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Over the past five decades, the US has already installed about 140 gigawatts of solar power generation capacity, enough to supply more than 3% of its energy needs.

If current estimates hold, 600 gigawatts of solar generated-energy may come online by 2030. One gigawatt is about the average energy produced by a nuclear power plant, so by 2030, the United States may be able to add the equivalent of 600 nuclear power plants in clean energy production.

Though the promise of solar power as a sustainable energy source has been touted since the 1970s, progress has been slow in terms of growth in production capacity and decline in cost,  leading many to lose faith in solar energy's potential to have a transformational impact. 

But just as it began fading from public attention, over the past handful of years the solar industry has quietly made incredible strides in everything from the cost of production to panel efficiency. The solar industry is expected to undergo exponential expansion in the coming years; the US Department of Energy predicts that 40% of the US's electric demand could be supplied by solar by the year 2035.

Though other exciting technologies like fusion promise to reshape the global energy landscape in the longer term, the timeline for commercializing this technology is uncertain, with many technical and cost hurdles still ahead. By the time it takes fusion to reach maturity, solar will already have taken on a much bigger role in global energy generation.

Additionally, since solar panels are made from silicon, the production of solar panels may soon enjoy the same kind of massive scale, production, and transformative effects that we have seen in the semiconductor industry. Indeed, the solar industry may represent the second silicon revolution we experience in our lifetimes - and the start of a genuine shift towards cheap, abundant, sustainable energy.

Posted by at June 26, 2023 12:00 AM