Government predictions about the growth of renewable energy sources such as solar electricity have proven to be a remarkable underestimation of what actually occurs. While it’s true that solar power and wind power currently provide a small fraction of the electricity around the world, they are expanding at a remarkably quick pace. The solar power growth includes investments in solar panels made by homeowners and small businesses.
BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy shows that the use of solar energy has rapidly increased on a global scale in recent years. In 2011, the world used 55 terawatt hours of solar power. Compared to the amount of power consumed annually in the United States alone, that amount of solar power may seem like a mere drop in the bucket.
But the growth rate of solar power actually is stunning, particularly since solar panels continue to get dramatically less expensive. If the current acceleration of solar power growth were to continue, by 2019 almost 10 percent of the world’s electricity could be provided by solar energy.
Various official agencies habitually underestimate the growth of renewable energy sources. For instance, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that solar will provide merely 4.5 percent of the electricity worldwide by 2035. Their predictions regarding how quickly solar electricity and wind energy can grow have proven to be consistently well below the actual solar power growth rate.
As an example, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook in 2000 predicted that non-hydro sources of renewable energy would supply 3 percent of worldwide energy by the year 2020. But that milestone was reached back in 2008, in less than half the amount of time predicted.
Of course, the mechanisms which have contributed significantly to solar power growth in recent years could change. Solar and wind have made great inroads in the past 10 years due to subsidies and other governmental support in the U.S., Germany, and China. Government incentives to invest in renewable energy have equipped many homeowners who have wanted to go green to take the leap and equip their homes with solar panels. Not all states have great incentives that can be tacked onto Federal subsidies, but homeowners in New Jersey, Michigan, Connecticut, Iowa, and many more areas around the country have been able to take advantage of significant state assistance on top of Federal aid.
Unfortunately, budget crunches in countries around the world along with the financial crisis could cause such renewable energy subsidies to dwindle. But with an increasing world mindset that renewable energy makes too much sense to ignore along with the growth of solar energy and wind power in the face of pessimistic predictions, there is reason to hope the trajectory of renewable energy use could continue in an upward trend.
Another factor which creates a bright outlook for renewable energy in the future is the reality that if only current technology were used, renewable energy sources could provide the majority of U.S. electricity by 2050. This pans out, even though the wind isn’t always blowing and the sun doesn’t always shine. Then consider the fact that new technologies in solar power are being revealed on a regular basis. Researchers are continuously discovering more efficient, less expensive ways to harness energy from the sun. The outlook for the continued use and expansion of renewable energy and increased solar power growth is excellent.
And as an added proof that solar futures are bright, this week a Canadian solar-panel company which has manufacturing operations in China, purchased 122 megawatts of solar power projects which are currently under development in the U.S. The Canadian company made the purchase as a part of its plan to build and to own generating assets.
For homeowners, small businesses, and large investors alike, statistics don’t provide the only persuasion that now is an ideal time to invest in solar power. If you are ready to install solar on your home or business, contact the NASS store near you. Each of our qualified member solar stores is a brick and mortar establishment that is certified and experienced in Solar PV and Solar Thermal installation and maintenance.
Photo Credit: NAIT, Mymonty