Important: the y-axis is logarithmic so the apparent linear development describes an exponential growth in solar installation and drop in price.

These TWO charts are enough to understand why solar power is the future of energy

We’ve explained previously why renewable energy is getting cheaper all the time, but if you found it challenging to spot the patterns among all those figures and numbers, the following charts will make everything much clearer.

Important: the y-axis is logarithmic so the apparent linear development describes an exponential growth in solar installation and drop in price.

Important: the y-axis is logarithmic so the apparent linear development describes an exponential growth in solar installation and drop in price.

The first was shared by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) Chairman Michael Liebreich back in April during BNEF’s annual conference called “In Search of the Miraculous.” What we’re looking at is the solar panel cost per installed Watt (red) versus the scale of deployment or installed solar capacity in MegaWatt (MW) plotted over the last forty years.

Since 1975, the cost of solar has dropped 150-fold while installed solar capacity has jumped 115,000-fold. Granted, there was a lot of ground to cover and picking the low hanging fruit was pretty easy up until a decade ago. But the momentum solar has gathered doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down soon. So, there’s reason to believe that these two curves can follow the same trend lines for a couple of years still until the improvements gradually become incremental, instead of exponential. Here’s where the second graph comes in.

chart-solar-energy

Credit: BNEF

The graph above illustrates a learning rate which basically means that for every doubling in the scale of the solar industry, the price of solar modules has dropped roughly 26 percent. “The chart is arguably the most important chart in energy markets. It describes a pattern so consistent, and so powerful, that industries set their clocks by it,” reads BNEF’s New Energy Outlook report from June, 2016.

In 2015, 30 million Americans enjoyed solar power cheaper than the grid. Also in the US, solar power is cheaper than fossil fuels even without subsidies in many states while coal, gas or oil receive subsidies worth $452 billion each year across G20 states. Earlier this month, Chile signed a deal for a new solar plant for 2.91$c/kWh — that’s the cheapest unsubsidized power plant in the world so far.

Many thanks to ThinkProgress‘ Dr. Joe Romm for digging these charts.

 

6 thoughts on “These TWO charts are enough to understand why solar power is the future of energy

  1. Brian

    This is so cool, so syfy. The average house and company can get all or near all the energy then need from their rooftops! Throw in parking and road roofs and it's more than we need. Cheaper than fossils or nuclear by a big factor! No war for fossils or uranium, recyclable, 100s of times less mined material per KWH. Humans paved and cover some 8% of the land, and we only need 3% to generate more form today's solar panels than our total energy use! I think we can get 60% of our energy from solar pv with EV's and time of day rates. No storage. Then add wind for another uncorrelated 20% of our energy needs, and only 20% reserve backup, long haul and chemical feed stocks hydrocarbons is still needed. We can easily get then form waste to fuels. This is a major evolution of human kind. Our energy cost will drop dramatically and be absolutely secure without war.

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  3. Fanandala

    It certainly would be nice if it were true, but I do not believe it. If it is so cheap, why do the countries – states with the highest penetration of wind and solar have the highest electricity rates?? Denmark, Germany, California? The real costs of renewables is very difficult to ascertain, because it is shrouded in subsidies. Locally our peak loads occur every day between 1700 an 2100 hrs. Solar is dead by then and I can not promise you if we have any wind either.
    Today we did not. And you want to bridge that with 20% backup? You need 100 % backup.

  4. Brian

    Denmark and Germany have low wholesale costs of electricity, but add fees and taxes to the residential bills. Don't confuse price with cost. It's fossils that get 5.3T$ in gov breaks (IMF) not even including the wars, and they have gotten them for 100 years. Most places the summer peak is heavily overlapped by solar pv. Both wind and solar are easily predicted on a day to day basis. They are backed up with the very same reserve generators that baseboard needed. 20% of the ENERGY will be from fuels from wastes, most grids already have 50-100% reserve backup, they have to. Nuclear and fossils plants go offline without warning. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/89f73a6496cdf0963ec898cdbc7cb8df2d39dcd27fa0f2b0dfcfaf6a21db5682.png

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