By Roy L Hales
Peter Sinclair’s video “Birthing a Solar Age” illustrates the disruptive power of solar technology. As Jerry Rifkin points out in one of the interviews, Germany obtained 75% of its electricity from renewable energy one day last month. Critics will, correctly, point out that this was only for one day and solar only produced 6% of the nation’s power during the first five months of 2014. They are missing the fact solar is a developing technology. Solar modules are continuing to become more efficient, lighter (which means they can be installed faster) and cheaper. Now that the “plus battery” option is becoming feasible, it is only a matter of time before this technology can be a “100%” solution. Solar’s market share will increase, dramatically.
As Rifkin points out, the day Germany obtained 75% of its energy from renwables the price of electricity fell below zero. Think about it. Utilities actually do have fixed costs. No business can afford to give away its’ product. That day was a body blow to Germany’s utilities and, as the solar industry continues to grow, there will be more of them.
At the end of the video Elon Musk predicts that at some point within the next twenty years solar will become America’s #1 energy source, it may even become the majority power source.
Rifkin predicts that in the future utilities will not want to sell electricity. They will lose money doing that. Their role will primarily be reduced to technical support.
Both are probably correct and this can actually be a little frightening. There are unknown factors in this vision of things to come. What will it mean for homeowners who, for whatever reason, can not use solar? What effect will this have on energy sources that cannot compete but are still needed to pick up part of the load?
This change also seems inevitable.
The bright parts of this picture are that, done right, solar is more environmentally friendly and rooftop solar can put energy production in the hands of home owners. The principal power plants of America’s future will be inexpensive utility scale solar facilities and people who put modules on their roof.
Watch the video from Peter Sinclair of the Yale Climate Forum.
(All images taken from the video)