Solar Power’s Growth: Why Renewables Are Taking Over (Video)

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Renewable energy costs plummet (RMI)

In a video released just last month, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute points out that the lower cost, lower risk, and scalable mass-production of modular renewable technologies (like wind turbines and solar panels) means they are now outcompeting central power stations in the world market. (See above graph.)

He also explains how half the world’s new electric-generating capacity over the past five years has been renewable, incorporating perspectives on subsidies, nuclear power, and China’s evolving energy profile.  It may surprise you that modular, mass-produced renewables compare favorably in terms of implementation speed and economics, even to efficient new gas-fired power plants, but they do.

The video talk took place at the international nonprofit Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) 2014 global conference in Vancouver, Canada. (The original talk is scheduled for a TEDTalks release. In the meantime, RMI issued its own interim recording.) Interestingly, the quote from the video that has generated by far the most attention on twitter is this one:

“Solar power is scaling up even faster than CELL PHONES.”

Palpable awe about apples and oranges, but nonetheless cheery. One observer tartly remarks, “The grid is still ancient, big companies still having the consumer by the neck. Will be interesting to see what is left after a major X flare or EMP.  Not if but when.” Your thoughts?

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3 thoughts on “Solar Power’s Growth: Why Renewables Are Taking Over (Video)

  • Lovins’ first chart is not corrected for capacity/availability factors, which for wind are at least twice as high as for solar. However, solar’s better TOD match to demand, and costs per watt now at half wind’s, mean that IIRC utility solar is now winning a few PPAs in the US against wind competition, outside the Midwest. This will probably become a trend, as it is very unlikely that wind can keep up with solar’s global learning curve.

    • If US onshore wind is now ~3.5 cents/kWh how much more “learning curve” is needed? Solar might become cheaper than wind, but there’s not a lot of room between 3.5c and “can’t happen” cents.

      Personally I don’t see competition between onshore wind and solar. They produce at different hours and complement each other. They will even share the same storage as stored wind covers the morning peak and stored solar covers the evening pre-wind peak.

  • Great video. I take great comfort in the fact that the market place will ultimately decide our energy future. Not politicians, not dubious fossil fuel utilities, or private sector interests.

    Here in Australia we are currently dealing with such a government, whose hostilities towards renewables is just unbelievable . But they to will eventually succumb to the market.

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