Solamon Energy Blog: President's Report

October 25, 2011


20 Years of Solar Innovation

Solamon President Jay Yeo and his Grade 4 science fair project on solar energy

That was me twenty years ago. Well, I wish I could say twenty years ago. Nonetheless, in grade school I embarked on my first discovery into the world of solar technology with a science fair project. As I set out to understand this technology that offered “limitless power” from such an abundant resource, I had no idea that years later I would be at the helm of a renewable energy developer in one of the most exciting periods of global energy reform.

So, what’s happened since this photo was taken? Well, like me, solar matured. Here’s a quick comparison of PV Solar from 1990-2010:

PV Solar 1990 vs. 2010

What’s Changed
1990
2010
Price Per Watt – Panels
$5.00
$1.30
Panel Efficiency
9.5%
15.9%
System Price Per kWh
$0.45
$0.20
Installed PV Capacity Worldwide
10 GW
40 GW
Worldwide PV Module Production
46 MW
23,500 MW
Global Electricity Consumption
102.3 TWh
142.3 TWh

In the 1990s there was only an installed solar capacity of 10 GW worldwide, twenty years later we have 40 GW online producing clean, renewable electricity with much more in the pipeline. PV adoption and development during the last twenty years has accelerated due to supply issues with oil and natural gas, global warming concerns and the improving economic position of PV solar relative to other energy technologies.

As the semiconductor industry flourished and the integrated circuit market boomed during that era, increased silicon production allowed the cost of solar panels to significantly decline. Scientists like Ray Kurzweil are convinced that solar technology will grow at an exponential rate similar to that of computing power. According to Kurzweil, within twenty years, the capability of solar power will rise and the cost will drop to the point of effectively replacing fossil fuel use worldwide.

Growth of this magnitude is written all over the consumer electronics sector. If you buy a hot tech-toy like an iPhone today, it’s no doubt twice as fast as it was two years ago for half that cost. This phenomenon, governed by Kurzweil’s “Law of Accelerating Returns”, is happening with solar energy — doubling every two years! Therefore, every two years we have twice as much solar energy in the world. How’s that for a brighter future?

How bright is that future you ask? Well, some analysts are forecasting that by 2030, solar electricity is likely to cost half what coal electricity does today. Solar capacity is already being deployed at an exponential pace. Naturally as oil and gas prices escalate and establish alternative energy sources as more favourable, that pace will only accelerate. Just recently the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) concluded that “66 Sunbelt Countries” would have 1.1 Terawatts (TW) of installed solar PV capacity by 2030 – a report that listed many Caribbean nations such as Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic as viable markets for solar.

Twenty years ago, the coaxing of my eco-conscious parents and teachers provoked me into exploring solar electricity as a science fair project. Today I’m motivated by making good on those discoveries and the promising future that solar opened my eyes to. In that spirit, Solamon Energy remains a proponent of solar advocacy in the schools and communities we serve, hopefully attracting the next generation of bright minds to learn more about solar technology and articulate its merits and benefits to their peers.

Clearly solar has come a long way in the last twenty years, but one thing has remained constant, knowledge is power.

Solamon Energy Blog: Jay Yeo solar energy business president Report The President's Report is written periodically by Jay Yeo, President of Solamon Energy Corporation, a renewable energy company that develops Solar Photovoltaic power plants for Sunbelt nations.