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The International Energy Agency is notoriously conservative on projections for renewable energy. The agency has embraced the need for more clean electricity and fuels to address climate change and peak oil, but its outlook for the future is usually far more conservative than how reality plays out.
So when an official at the IEA says we could get up to one third of our global energy supply from solar photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and solar hot water by 2060, that’s a fairly big piece of news. But even that projection may be conservative.
Speaking to Bloomberg News, the head of IEA’s renewable energy unit explained said he thought the target is feasible:
“The strength of solar is the incredible variety and flexibility of applications, from small scale to big scale,” Paolo Frankl, the agency’s head of renewable energy, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Economic activity will shift toward the sunnier zones around the equator by 2050, making solar energy a viable power source for most of the global economy, the report said. Those regions will be home to almost 80 percent of the human race by the middle of the century, compared with about 70 percent today, and their energy needs will be higher as living standards in countries such as Brazil and India approach those of the U.S. and Europe.
The IEA is clearly responding to the fast-changing world of solar energy. It has released a new publication, Solar Energy Perspectives, that mirrors one of its flagship research products, Energy Technology Perspectives.
But in its recent World Energy Outlook, IEA barely gave solar much attention. The organization predicted fairly modest growth in the solar PV and CSP sector through 2035, with a projection that it would only make up 4.5% of electricity supply.
While solar only makes up a fraction of the global electricity supply today, the downward cost curve of technologies is pushing it toward a breaking point. By sometime in 2012, the installed cost of a crystalline-silicon solar PV system over 1 MW in the U.S. could dip to around $2.50 a watt. At around 2$ a watt we could cost-competitively meet around 30% of global electricity supply, says solar expert and Carbon War Room CEO Jigar Shah.
Shah believes solar can reach a 5% penetration level in the U.S. by 2020, with cost reductions coming mostly from innovations in hardware and installation, not dramatic improvements in the lab.
While the IEA is far less ambitious in its projections, the agency seems to agree that a “systems-based approach” to manufacturing and installation will be the key driver to reaching high penetration levels of different solar technologies. And rather than focus on specific subsidies for solar in the long-term, IEA says the most important incentive will be a price on carbon.
Solar is clearly proving itself without a price on carbon. With an effective pricing regime in place, a 30% penetration would almost certainly be low.
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WWH – More and more we see the news coming out about the injustice in the American way. We hear how the cards are stacked against the average Joe as they struggle to pay their mortgage, rent, put food on the table, pay for healthcare and the gas to get to workWWH – More and more we see the news coming out about the injustice in the... more
The U.S. solar energy industry continues to be one of the fastest growth sectors in the economy.
In the first quarter of 2011, 252 megawatts (MW) of grid-connected solar photovoltaics (PV) were installed in the US, 66% year-over-year growth over Q1 2010 installations, according to a report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
348 MW of PV modules were manufactured in the US during the first quarter, a 31% increase over Q1 2010.
Two major factors are driving growth: rapidly declining solar equipment costs and a rush to take advantage of Federal incentives (Section 1603 Treasury program) that expire at the end of 2011 (and may not be renewed given partisan politics).
Prices are also much lower for homeowners and businesses to buy solar systems: as technology costs fall and the industry matures, it's able to capitalize on greater economies of scale and streamline project development and installation.
All three PV market sectors (residential, commercial and utility) continue to grow, with commercial installations showing the strongest gains.
"On the whole, the U.S. is currently the PV industry's most attractive and stable growth market," says Shayle Kann, Managing Director of Solar at GTM Research, which collaborated on the report. "This is reflected in our report's quarterly market data and in the comments from global suppliers, distributors, and developers, all of whom see the U.S. positioned to nearly double its global market share in 2011 and support a greater diversity of installation types than has been previously seen in any leading demand center."
Geographically, the market is concentrated in just a few key states, however. In Q1 2010, the top seven states hosted 82% of installations, but in Q1 2011, 88% of installations were in those states.
The pace of installations grew more than 50% in 11 of the 21 states analyzed in the report.
"With analysts predicting the U.S. to become the world's largest solar market within the next few years, manufacturers are increasingly looking to the U.S. to site their facilities," says Tom Kimbis, SEIA Vice-President of Strategy and External Affairs. "They are finding significant value in manufacturing close to their expected source of demand. This strong demand continues to make solar one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and a source of thousands of solar jobs from manufacturing and installation to engineering and sales."
More at the link.The U.S. solar energy industry continues to be one of the fastest growth sectors in... more