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Solar power could produce 25% of global electricity by 2050, studies say

By 2050, the world could be getting a quarter of its electricity from solar power, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday.

Releasing two “roadmaps” for photovoltaics technology and concentrating solar power, the agency said that the two technologies could generate 9,000 terawatt hours of energy within four decades.

At the Mediterranean Solar Plan Conference in Valencia, Spain, agency officials said that the combination could enhance energy security while cutting carbon dioxide emissions by almost 6 billion metric tons per year by 2050. That’s the equivalent weight of nearly 900 million male elephants.

Concentrating solar power, which focuses solar radiation onto a small area and is usually applied in large-scale plants under clear skies and bright sun, will be dominated by sunny regions such as North America, North Africa and India. The agency’s Renewable Energy Division said it will be able to compete with coal and nuclear power plants by 2030.

The technology is currently responsible for just 0.1% of electricity generation around the world.

The study, which was requested by the G8 member nations in a 2008 meeting as part of a series of 19 energy technologies, covers the science, financing and policy necessary to make photovoltaics an integral part of the global power infrastructure.

Solar photovoltaics generate electricity by converting sunlight using arrays of cells.

The agency recommends that governments establish long-term targets and policies around the technology to encourage investments and installations. Incentives and financing schemes, such as funding opportunities for rural projects in developing countries, would also help.

Right now, just four countries can produce more than 1 gigawatt from installed photovoltaics systems: Germany, Spain, Japan and the U.S. But countries such as Australia, China, France, Greece and India are catching up.

In many regions by 2020, power from photovoltaics is expected to be about as cheap as electricity from existing sources – a pricing point known as grid parity.

Global photovoltaics capacity has already been ballooning by an average of 40% each year since 2000. And public expenditures around the world for photovoltaics research and development have doubled over the same period from $250 million in 2000 to $500 million in 2007.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: A solar module on the production line at the Miasole production facility in Sunnyvale, Calif. Credit: Dave Getzschman.

Comments () | Archives (9)

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Great read and informative, thanks. You’re right we don’t hear very much at all about the Greens Policies. I had no idea they didn’t recieve big biz political donations – good on them. This will be something I’ll be keeping strongly in mind when I head to the ballot box.

If they could produce more electricity. I am pretty sure that our society will not have the problem of power shortage. Keep producing solar power. I want to produce more solar power generator that can be alter in I really love solar power! Go for green!

I like that article and your post. I think the solar power will be our good equipment in our future. I read and I think it is effective source of alternative energy.

Yes, let's hope we get at least 25%. With more financing options becoming available (such as the solar PPA), we'll soon see a shift to cleaner energy. Our foolish addiction so fossil fuels is hitting too close to home, with the recent oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico. Check out to see more about what a PPA can do. Lets hope that awareness only spurs the government to provide more incentives to switch to cleaner energy.

25 % of world electric power requirements of solar energy by 2050 is definitely required and much more also is a necessity. But the process of achieving is a big question mark because the efficiency levels of solar pv is required to grow atleast to 40 to 50 % level and also the solar thermal is another promising area where large scale operations are planned and the implimentation periods will get delayed and only few large investers can think off. My idea is that this solar thermal has to go for small and medium scale operations of capacities in the range of 15 kwh, 25 kwh, 50 kwh, 100 kwh, and 1000 kwh, and the technology is to be made available for those who are interested freely so that the growth and the economics will be much better in view of the following. In India transmission losses are in the range of 30 % which can be completely eliminated. Power variations because of load varions can be eliminated. When small scale operations its avalability will become easy and many users will come forward to invest and utilise the this solar energy on a large scale for more users.

Please investigate the policy of 'net metering' in CA. It has blocked and is the single biggest obstacle to solar adoption throughout the state.

Net metering = the current scheme developed by utilities that protects their stranglehold by only requiring them to credit a homeowner or small business for solar power by spinning back the electric meter. Since the meter only spins to zero, excess power beyond what you use is taken free by the utility.

Most SFR's do not use enough power to make panels economical. Moreover, this policy utterly fails to incentivize the desirability of solar, nor does it maximize the size and placement of panels in optimal locations like sunny areas over shady areas.

If utilities were required to purchase excess solar power at a fixed competitive rate (as is required in other countries like Germany which now has the highest rate of solar adoption), most would happily install solar panels on our roofs. Solar would quickly pay for itself and reduce the need to build huge centralized solar farms in pristine desert areas.

I for one in LA would happily slap excess panels on my home to generate maximum power and compensate for those with non-optimal shady locations.

It's just going to get better for solar power. The prices are coming down and education for consumers is getting better and better. Let's hope 25% of the worlds power is generated by solar much earlier than 2050!

25% is not enough. We need a whole lot more than 25% and we need it a lot sooner than 2050.

This just proves that being involved in solar energy is a smart move. It is a growing industry that is only going to go up.


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