Solar, the choice of the future

Solar Sciences

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Just a short time ago, solar power was a groovy little niche industry in the broad field of energy generation. But something happened in the last couple years, solar began making strides toward a future in which it will challenge — and perhaps out-compete — other types of energy. Here are five reasons the future of solar is bright indeed:

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Demand Has Never Been Higher

Most industries would salivate over the solar sector’s current growth. Last year, demand for solar power increased by 41 percent, making it the second-biggest new source of energy generation after natural gas. Residential projects leapt even higher, surging 60 percent over the previous year. It was, according to industry analysts, a pivotal year. “2013 offered solar market the first real glimpse of its path toward mainstream status,” one expert told Time magazine. And the growth shows no signs of stalling: in August, Merrill Lynch issued a report to investors advising them to pour their money into solar stocks, which the firm expects to soar in value over the next three years.

Panels Are Cheaper Than Ever

How many products can say they’re getting cheaper by seven percent per year? That’s the cost trajectory for solar voltaics according to John Farrell, director of the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. In fact, according to Forbes, solar is already cheaper than utility power in our cities on a rand-per-kilowatt-hour basis — it’s only installation costs that keep it more expensive overall.

China is Part of the Reason It’s Getting So Cheap

Complicating the view of China as a rampant polluter, a major reason that solar is growing the world over is thanks to cheap Chinese panels. Subsidies from the Chinese government have helped companies in that country capture half the world’s solar panel manufacturing market, up from 20 percent in 2008. China shows no signs of slowing its output — one analyst called the scale of the Chinese market “astonishing,” adding that “PV [photovoltaics] is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install.”

Big Business is Falling in Love With Solar

A survey of the Fortune 100 companies by the Solar Energy Industries Association found that the top 25 had increased their solar capacity significantly, from 300 megawatts at 730 facilities in 2012 to 445 megawatts at 950 facilities in 2013. That means that those businesses are no longer just taking a chance on solar — they’ve seen its performance and decided to double down on it.

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