Photon Consulting says we can achieve 50% solar by 2050

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Anne A's picture
Anne A
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Joined: Oct 9 2011
Posts: 6
Photon Consulting says we can achieve 50% solar by 2050

I searched the forum for info on solar replacing fossil fuels and didn't find much recent, though it's probably here somewhere, so I apologize if this is a repeat. I was reading the Sept/Oct 2011 edition of Green American from Green America (which for some reason they are still sending me). The feature article is on Solar Energy For All. Their executive director claims that "We are so far ahead of the curve, in fact, that we can achieve 50% solar by 2040 or 2045." The article quotes Photon Consulting which estimates we'll have enough solar by the end of this year to equal 6,000 coal plants.

This is a different perspective from Chris' book, p. 172 where he writes "if solar power capacity grew at the incredible rate of 25% per year over the next 14 years (2006 to 2020) it would provide roughly 1% of global electricity demand."

Can anyone shed some light?

Many thanks.

Damnthematrix's picture
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not the same thing.......

Anne, your Photon Consulting people and CM are not talking about the same thing.  PC is talking about the efficacy of converting solar power (~1000W/m2) into usable electricity, which is currently 15% for commercially available panels and ~24% for very expensive state of the art stuff used by NASA.  What Chris is discussing in the book is that there is currently so little penetration of solar GLOBALLY, that even if it grew exponentially at 25% pa (a staggering amount, three times China's growth as a comparison) then by 2020 1% of the world's electricity would be generated by solar.  Even accounting for special places like Germany and Spain.  Which today only generate 2% of their electricity with solar...

Yes it would be more than that if efficiency of 50% was really available (I have my doubts but I have not researched your sources yet), but in any case this level of efficiency, according to PC themselves, would not be reached for 25 years AFTER Chris' growth period.

Then you have to realise that all solar energy devices are 100% made with Fossil Fuels.  What happens when post crash, they become either unavailable and/or unaffordable?

Hope this helps?


Anne A's picture
Anne A
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Posts: 6
Thanks, Mike

Thanks, Mike! I'm sorry I didn't see your response till now. I understand what you are saying but I'm not sure if Photon is talking about efficiency. "The article quotes Photon Consulting which estimates we'll have enough solar by the end of this year to equal 6,000 coal plants." - That sounds like actual electricity supplied that they are talking about. However, I don't see how that is possible.

And yes I do understand how fossil fuels are needed to produce panels and all that. It's really ridiculous to see them as much or a solution, given we are hell bent on burning up fossil fuels (which as you point out are needed for PV)  as fast as possible, it seems. While I envy people who can afford to go "off the grid" I don't think they will fare all that well, either, in the long run, when repairs are not possible, etc.

Anyway, thanks again for your insight.



FriscoMike's picture
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Joined: Mar 17 2011
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I believe that solar will be

I believe that solar will be a HUGE part of the future of our energy needs.  There is much debate about this subject but solar can provide 100% of our energy needs if we wanted....  would we need to reduce our current amenities?  Sure.  Until we are forced to change - it will be business as usual.  As petro prices rise - solar prices reduce.  Solar is a BOOMING industry now and it will only continue to get better.

The solar panels need to be built somehow - since we are out of unicorn dust... I guess fossil fuels have to suffice until we can build more factories like these...

Kind of ironic eh?  Boeing and GM building renewable factories to produce fossil fuel guzzlers...?  What-ev. 

Obviously the mining and transportation industry will have to transform.  But honestly - we will always have the need and the use for large diesel powered tractors and mining machinery.

Entire neighborhoods can be constructed in a renewable sense.  All homes within this community will have solar panels and the power of the neighborhood - sharing power has a huge potential.

I realize that we have a major energy epidemic fast approaching....I guess I am more of a technical optimist at this point.  Just like everything, I believe that the technology sector is moving at an exponential rate.  As solar gains popularity, we will see vast improvements to the efficiency.   I am not ready to just throw in the towel and build a bunker with dry food.

This is a good documentary if you are interested.

red baron's picture
red baron
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Above I have copied the internetlink to the webpage showing the part of photovoltaic generated power in Germany. The page is in German but the number in the table below shows the numbers. Last year it alreay was 5%. Looks like a very nice example of exponentiel growth I would say.

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