To say that the solar energy sector is on fire would be an exaggeration. But solar power is unquestionably the front runner in the world’s conversion to a low-carbon future. Energy from the sun is decidedly the largest component of any energy source available on our planet. The world’s entire energy use during one year can be provided by just one small dot of the sun’s entire surface. World energy use is only 16TWy (Terrawatts per year) compared to the sun’s 23,000 TW yearly capacity.

Solar Power

While the focus has been on coal, oil, natural gas and uranium for the last 200 years, humanity is now poised for the greatest energy leap ever. If only we had looked to the sun before the industrial revolution rather than waiting until now. What a different world it would be. The following info-image shows our global energy potential with a comparison of renewable and conventional energy sources. For renewables, the amount of energy is shown per year, while for conventional sources, the total reserve is displayed.

Solar Power: Here Comes The Sun, Below2C

Image credit: Wikipedia Commons, Richard and Marc Perze et al

Here Comes The Sun

We are just at the very beginning of the clean energy revolution. And as renewables become mainstream, the era of fossil fuels will come to its torturous end. The transition from high-carbon to low-carbon energy has been called the clean disruption by Tony Seba from Stanford University. Of course, the timing is perfect as the world struggles to meet emissions reduction commitments made in 2015 during the Paris Accord talks.

This post highlights the strong leadership from the state of California, China and India in solar power. Other notables are France, Germany and Sweden.

California

The state of California has seen solar rise from 0.5% of its energy generation in 2010 to 10% in 2017. In fact, on March 5, solar provided an astounding 50% of the state’s energy needs. California’s current mandate to generate 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 is now considered very achievable. Moreover, the state Senate is proposing legislation that would required 100% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2045.

China

China is well ahead of target with recent installations of a “a stunning 35 gigawatts in just seven months—more than twice as much as installed by any other country in all of 2016,” Greenpeace analysts Jing Yan and Lauri Myllyvirta report on EcoWatch. “As a result, total solar PV capacity (112 gigawatts of installed solar capacity) now exceeds the government’s 2020 goal of 105 GW, set as recently as last year.” (excerpt from The Energy Mix)

A primary example of Chinese solar innovation is the world’s largest floating solar farm atop a closed-down coal mine.

India

During the COP21 climate conference held in Paris in November 2015, India’s Prime Minister Modi floated the idea of forming an International Solar Alliance (ISA). His proposal was welcomed and subsequently led to the first International Solar summit co-hosted by both India and France on March 11. The 58 countries which have joined the International Solar Alliance support the ambitious plan of mobilizing $1 trillion in investments for the harnessing of solar energy. French President Macron has pledged 700 million Euros to the ISA. (Photo credit: India government)

India’s actions since the signing of the Paris Agreement reaffirm an unwavering commitment to reach its carbon emissions targets by reducing its dependency on fossil fuels. India has adopted the ambitious goal of increasing the non-carbon share of its electricity mix to 40% by 2030.

Discoveries and New Developments

The following is but a small sample of the ongoing advancements we are witnessing in clean energy technology:

  • The Solar industry in the United States is creating new jobs at a rate 17 times faster than the overall economy.
  • Battery storage is expected to grow tenfold in the next 5 years in the US – from 295 megawatts in 2017 to 2.5 gigawatts by 2022. Battery storage technology is the fastest growing component of the solar energy market.
  • Global solar capacity will rival nuclear capacity in the coming months. Global solar installed capacity reached 390 GW at the end of 2017 compared to nuclear with an estimated gigawatt capacity of 391.5 GW according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
  • TheGuardian reports the invention of rain-or-shine solar panels that can also capture energy from raindrops.
  • And what about the next generation of solar panels? Check out the Smartflower. It’s 40% more efficient than rooftop panels and it looks great.

Solar power now comes in the form of a flower

Forget rooftop panels. This is the next generation of solar power.

Posted by CNBC on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Credit: Facebook, CNBC video

While fossil fuels will continue to dominate the energy market for a few more years, the future of energy is clearly solar. And this transition to clean energy is decisive, irrefutable and unstoppable. As the Beatles once sang….Click Here!

Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right. Sun, sun, sun, here it comes. (The Beatles)

Other similar posts…
Catching the sun…
Clean Tech triumphs of 2017

9 COMMENTS

  1. Before you start celebrating you might want to check out this story by consultant Kurt Cobb citing a report in the MIT Technology Review: “At our current rate of transitioning to renewable energy, it will take 400 years to transform the energy system” . ShortLink: https://wp.me/pO0No-4g2

    By the way, according to the International Energy Agency, only 1.5% of the world’s energy is provided by all renewables combined.

  2. Good information, all of it.

    As it has to do with California, its story is surely an interesting one. The amount of solar generated in state according to a graphic published in the Los Angeles Times shows that utility generated electricity via solar energy was 9.6 percent in 2016, while “rooftop solar” was responsible for producing 4.2 percent, for a total 13.8 percent. Source of graphic is the Energy Information Administration. It was also mentioned that summertime in California is typically when demand for electricity is “higher,” around 50 percent higher than what is needed in winter. It was mentioned in the article as well that roughly 25 percent of the Golden State’s energy supply is from renewable sources. So, that would put solar’s contribution to the renewably-provided supply at more than 50 percent.

    That all said, it is indeed puzzling why on just one day – March 5th – half of California’s energy requirements were solar-power-derived. One is led to believe that other types or sources of energy generation were scaled back and solar filled in, but “why?” remains the looming question.

    The L.A. Times article in question: “California invested heavily in solar power. Now there’s so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it,” by Ivan Penn, date of publication: 22 June 2017.

    • Alan – thank you for supplementing the information in the article. California continues to be exemplary in its transition to a clean energy platform. Some will say that it’s all because the state has sun all the time. But the same potential is available elsewhere.

      And thanks for following Below2C.

  3. Potential energy has nothing to do with the actual solution. I do not want a planet covered in solar panels. You know we have to mine those ingredients, right? Not to mention recycling difficulty, plus mining and recycling of storage (batteries) to attemp to even out intermittency.
    Let’s get real. Please show the same figure with total energy actually used.

    • Heather – are you saying that you prefer to continue to use dirty energy from fossil fuels even if that is killing the planet? That hardly seems like a good solution for future generations.

      Thank you for your comments and welcome to Below2C.

  4. This comment was emailed to me by Carole Lavallee, a climate advocate affiliated with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada.

    “sets a very powerful, positive tone, it redirects the often negative political rhetoric to a more motivating one. You can add links to music anytime ….music bypasses logic and goes right to the heart. Because we know most voters vote with the heart not with logic, we have in music a powerful source of influence.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here