Futurist Ray Kurzweil has been saying for a while that we’ll be able to power the world with solar energy by around 2027. He has noted that the relationship between solar panel prices and efficiency gains have been tracking a Moore’s Law pattern for the last 20 years. I’m not endorsing anything that optimistic, but it seems like some important changes are happening in the solar market:
The solar industry is predicting that solar energy will be able to compete on price with fossil fuels in just 3 years:
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US solar power will compete on price with conventional generation within three years without subsidy thanks to plummeting costs, industry leaders say.
Researchers at MIT have developed a radically new approach to the design of batteries that could provide a lightweight, inexpensive alternative to existing batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid…
One important characteristic of the new design is that it separates the two functions of the battery — storing energy until it is needed, and discharging that energy when it needs to be used — into separate physical structures.
This new design should make it possible to reduce the size and the cost of a complete battery system, including all of its structural support and connectors, to about half the current levels. The researchers said that this dramatic reduction could be the key to making electric vehicles fully competitive with conventional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles. This means a ten-fold improvement in energy density over present liquid flow-batteries, and lower-cost manufacturing than conventional lithium-ion batteries.
Now, because I think climate change is an urgent problem that requires immediate action, I think Congress ought to take back the subsidies they keep giving to oil and ethanol, and use the money to restore the cuts to solar subsidies. Even if you don’t care about climate change and want to see a free market prevail here, propping up dirty energy industries while cutting support for clean energy industries has nothing to do with a free market. It’s picking winners.