Experts are predicting that solar energy today is just the beginning of something huge.
When cellular phones were first released, leading consultants were skeptical, and companies were advised to withdraw their investments.
However, in just 20 years there were more than 100 million cell phones being used, and today there are billions. They are no longer considered a luxury item, and even the poor can afford them.
It is expected that this will be the same with the concept of solar energy, and it will be just as ubiquitous as cellular phones.
Author and futurist Ray Kurzweil says that as solar costs have been decreasing, solar power usage is being doubled every couple of years for three decades.
He notes that solar energy meeting 100 per cent of energy needs today is approximately six doublings or under 14 years away.
As energy usage will without a doubt continue to increase, this target is moving.
However, Mr Kurzweil estimates that in just less than 20 years affordable renewable sources will provide in excess of the world’s total energy needs.
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‘Grid parity’ has already been reached by residential-scale solar production in a number of countries, with residential electricity at an average price.
This term is used to describe when in the long term it costs no more to install an alternative energy source such as solar panels than purchasing electricity from utility providers which comes from the grid.
Solar panel prices have fallen 75 per cent lower in just five years, and it is expected they will fall even further as technology advances production scale increases.
Solar energy will be price-competitive with fossil fuel power by 2020 in most areas of the world, on an unsubsidised basis.
In a decade, fossil fuel options will be extremely most costly than solar.
Solar is not the only renewable energy source that is rapidly advancing.
Energy harnessing technologies involving biomass, wind, tidal, thermal and waste-breakdown, as well as research projects are being worked on all throughout the world in order to improve effectiveness and efficiency.
Wind power in the US has dropped in price and currently is competitive with the price of power plants that are coal burning. It is expected that wind power will be close behind solar energy.
No escaping the solar energy future
Although many experts may be skeptical, it is clear that “the era of unlimited and almost free clean energy” isn’t far away.
To begin with, fossil-fuel reliant companies will be faced with a declining demand and thus go bankrupt. Intelligent companies are already trying to get a foot in the door and start the move towards renewable energy, embracing wind power and solar energy.
Other are taking a different approach and actively attempting to stop the progression of solar, no matter the cost.
But, they have picked the wrong battle, as many large countries are choosing to adopt clean energy.
The Australian federal government has introduced a Renewable Energy Target (RET) which is designed to ensure that 33,000 Gigawatt-hour (GWh) of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.
Advancing battery storage solutions will also allow homeowners to be completely off-grid, meaning they will not have to rely on utility companies when the sun isn’t shining.
Eliminating fossil fuels will without a doubt benefit the environment, and subsequently boost the economy in most sectors.
For example, electric vehicles will soon be more cost-effective than fuel-powered, and clean water will be able to be create by boiling and condensing ocean water. Hydroponic plants could be grown vertically with cheap energy- the possibilities are endless.
Let’s hope that mankind embraces these advancing technologies and uses them to better the world.