James Rus­sell

El­e­ment edi­tor

Element - - Contents -

The so­lar game is all about the num­bers. Be­fore you buy pan­els for your roof, you do the maths – how much? How long to pay off? Can power prices re­ally keep in­creas­ing?

On a broader scale, power util­i­ties are also fu­ri­ously do­ing the maths on the so­lar equa­tion. Will there be mass up­take? Is this re­ally a so­lar boom, or a flash in the pan? Just how low will panel prices drop?

The first lot of ques­tions are straight­for­ward. The sec­ond are harder to pre­dict, but early in­di­ca­tions are that any fore­casts will be so un­der­cooked as to be com­i­cally so.

The es­ti­mate made in 2000 that by 2010 global so­lar in­stal­la­tions would reach no more than one gi­gawatt proved to be in­cor­rect by a fac­tor of 17. And then panel prices fell through the floor. China alone says that three years from now it will be pro­duc­ing 70 gi­gawatts.

The great, hope­ful news in all of this is that coal gets struck squarely in the bread­bas­ket. It is used for pro­duc­ing elec­tric­ity around the world and is re­spon­si­ble for 45% of the world’s green­house gas emis­sions.

The same amount of en­ergy falls upon the earth as sun­light ev­ery hour as we use for the en­tire year. Do the maths. Those pan­els on your roof might just save the planet.

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