In 2004, global solar energy production was 2.6 terawatts(1). By 2014 it jumped to 185.9 terawatts. That’s an increase of 71.5 times in ten years! Where else have we seen this level of growth in the last ten years?
Apple Computer and some social media companies are about the only other companies that come to mind that have had a run that is even comparable. The most interesting thing about the solar energy boom is that at 185.9 global terawatts, solar energy is powering only .79 percent of current electricity demand. This is just the beginning of the solar energy boom, since there are a vast number of fossil-fueled generating plants that solar energy is destined to replace.
What makes me think the solar energy boom will continue? For one thing, price is asolid indicator showing that it is going to continue. As an example, In 2005, the price of crystalline photovoltaic cells (PV) was about $5.00 per watt. By 2015, the price has fallen to about 30 cents per watt (2). This is a 94 percent drop in price over theten-year period! This trend actually started way before 2005 and it is projected to continue as greater economies of scale reduce prices every year.
Technology is also on the side of solar power. Most conventional PV solar arrays have an efficiency of 14-19 percent, and efficiencies over 30 percent have been achieved on specialized panels. Compared to 2005, when typical efficiencies were closer to 10%, the average system is over 50 percent more productive than systems builtten years ago.
Ever increasing demand is another component of the ongoing solar energy boom. Oregon and 29 other states have renewable energy mandates. Each year the state mandates get more and more strict. (Hawaii has a mandate to be 100 pecent renewable, for example). In addition, more states are adopting renewable energy mandates each year. At some point the federal government may pass a renewable energy mandate or carbon tax. Most states and the federal government are trending towards reducing emissions and supporting solar energy development.
How does this trend impact us locally? Here in Bend, we have two utility scale projects underway. There are two 100-acre solar farms in development south of Neff Road, north of Hwy 20, and west of Erickson Road. If the projects are built as planned, Bend will finally be on the map for utility scale renewable energy!
Momentum for solar development continues to build. Prices are falling, technology is improving, and demand is growing. Solar energy has only just begun to take hold here in Bend and across the U.S. In the next ten years, I anticipate solar energy to produce 10 percent of our electricity. Solar energy development presents an opportunity for investors who are interested in a steady growth industry for decades to come.
1.Growth of Photovoltaics and Concentrated Solar Power Deployment Around the World.
2. Bloomberg New Energy Finance
3. Bullis, Kevin (2014-06-13). “A Record-Breaking Solar Cell | MIT Technology Review”. Technologyreview.com. Retrieved 2014-06-22.