Solar Energy’s Future

In speech after speech, when President Obama touts renewable energy, solar is never far from his lips.

With all the talk and 10s of billions that taxpayers have funneled into solar, you’d think it is a major player in the energy sector. It isn’t. Nor will it be in the foreseeable future.

Though they didn’t know it, that tidbit hit home in a small graphic included with a Wall Street Journal story today:
Clouds Linger for China Solar
– Tom Orlik, Wall Street Journal, 3/21/2013

A Graphic Tale

The WSJ story itself is about how China’s solar market is booming while world supply and demand remains unbalanced.

As a result, big companies are still going through bankruptcies as businesses continue consolidating… remember Solyndra?… blah, blah, blah.

That isn’t the real story.

The real story is the picture.

The graphic shows two important things:

  • Outside China, world demand for solar will DROP in 2013
  • Total solar energy output is microscopic

The 2nd thing isn’t as obvious until total solar energy output gets compared to total world energy usage.

30-35 gigawatts sounds like a lot until you compare it to 2010’s total world energy usage. That was 15,214,010 gigawatts according to converted EIA data.

The tale at the tape is that 2013’s total projected solar energy output is about 0.0000023% of 2010’s total energy usage. THAT, folks, defines microscopic!!

Solar energy output would have to double every year for 16 straight years to supply just 1% of 2010’s global demand.

That ain’t gonna happen. Why? It costs to danged much! That’s why.

According to the EIA, even in 2016, solar thermal is still the most expensive alternative energy source there is.

It costs almost 5 times more than eco-friendly conventional natural gas.

In 2016, solar powered regular old AC will cost 3 times more.

No sane electric utility would invest seriously in solar until costs come down.

Unless, of course, governments require it. That happened in California. The utility there negotiated the right to charge ratepayers directly for the higher cost of solar over the next 25 years!


Solar is a perfect niche solution for some things like remote satellites, roadside phones, signs and earth-bound light mobile devices; but not lots more.

Solar power doesn’t supply enough energy now to even blip an electric grid, let alone enough to curb CO2 emissions. Given its excessively high cost, even the new Pope couldn’t command enough divine intervention to make solar happen faster.

Until things drastically change, the future of solar energy is no future at all.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Mar 21, 2013, in Business, Climate, economics, Economy, Energy, green energy, news, Opinion, Politics, science. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The best solar collector and CO2 destroyer is your ordinary tree leaf. Until man really discovers how to make man-made-photo-synthesis present day solar panels will be boon doggle or at best demonstration projects.

    I sometimes ponder that the two parties have oligopolized energy policy. The Dems push billions the green solar wind biomass way, and the Repubs reward the oil and gas guys. The two parties have simply cut a deal to each get rich feeding their fish.

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