In 1839, Alexandre Becqueral witnessed the photovoltaic effect by using an electrode immersed in a conductive solution that was exposed to light. In simpler terms, he discovered that sunlight could be captured and transformed into usable energy. If we track the evolution of solar cells since this time, then we can see how efficiency rates have steadily climbed from less than 1% to now over 40%. Perhaps an even bigger development, however, is how China has significantly reduced the cost of producing solar panels. The price of a solar panel in 1977 was $76 and has dropped to less than $.36 today.
There is more to this story, however, than just efficiency and pricing. Using satellite imaging and even Google Earth, people can now determine whether a particular location is a good candidate for solar panels or not. Another key advancement is battery storage. Imagine having the ability to capture solar energy during the day, efficiently store it, and then use it during the night. As with solar panels, however, batteries must also be both highly capable and affordable. The good news is that this is already happening. Tesla’s Gigafactory alone is expected to produce 35 Gigawatts worth of batteries by 2020, which is more than the total global battery production capacity for 2013. Add all of this together and we are seeing for the first time how solar energy is now a practical, cost effective energy source for people all over the world. There is no doubt that the advancements in technology are empowering what is now called the “rooftop revolution.”
Peter Diamandis cites the statistic that “5,000 times more solar energy is hitting the Earth’s surface in a year than humanity uses today.” Given the abundance of solar energy and the growth rate of driving technologies, UBS estimates that an entire value chain in developed electricity markets will be completely disrupted in the next 10-20 years. What does this mean? For starters, households and entire neighborhoods will have the ability to use and store solar energy to satisfy their energy needs and not rely on large, bureaucratic power companies. It also means that many of the poorest nations are also the sunniest, and solar energy can significantly help raise their standard of living. The rooftop revolution is well underway based on the premise that energy from the sun is an abundant gift for all of humanity. Let’s just hope that governments will be supportive and not protective of the status quo.
For more information on Solar Energy, please refer to the following articles:
Solar Energy Revolution: A Massive Opportunity, Peter Diamandis, September 2nd, 2014, (http://tinyurl.com/nnha97h)
Wikipedia: Timeline of Solar Cells: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_solar_cells
Five Reasons Solar Will Power the Future, Will Doig, October 13th, 2014 (http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/resilience-solar-power-future-success)
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