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Plummeting costs of solar power are disrupting energy technology: greenhouse gas emissions reduced

Climate change and the great disruption, Press Republican 5 Nov 17  RAY JOHNSON Climate Science “…… The pie chart from the Environmental Protection Agency website titled “Total U.S. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions by Economic Sector in 2015” indicates that “Electricity” generation accounts for 29 percent of the total while “Transportation” is not far behind at 27 percent.

Let’s concentrate on one portion of the U.S. GHG emissions: “Electricity.”

A reduction in GHG emissions here will greatly help in addressing climate change. Technology disruption can be observed in the graph “Swanson’s Law.” It’s based on an observation by Richard Swanson, “that the price of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules tends to drop 20 percent for every doubling of cumulative shipped volume” (Wikipedia). The log-log graph shows the cost reduction for the price of crystalline silicon PV cells in $/watt. In 1977 the cost was $76.67/watt, and by 2014 the price had dropped to $0.36/watt.

Thus the cost is more than 200 times lower than in 1977 (based on 2014 data). This graph is also called “the learning rate.”

Module costs have dropped in half since 2008. The implication is that if one made a business decision in 2008 to proceed with a nuclear or fossil-fuel-burning generating plant based on the cost of PV modules at that time, that business plan may have to be scrapped today due to the rapidly falling PV costs. It would not be economical.

And, this is exactly what is happening around the world. Hundreds of coal-burning plants are being retired, mothballed and/or construction stopped, with China taking the major initiative.

The bar chart “Global Solar Energy Capacity (GW)” details this extraordinary PV growth. It highlights the gigawatts of PV capacity and its near exponential growth in the last 15 years. Separately, for the U.S. alone, this trend indicates that solar could contribute 20 percent of total electricity consumption by 2030.

 This growth in solar will reduce coal mining, number of coal-burning plants, nuclear power facilities and even oil sand extraction and drilling in locations that are expensive (deep water, difficult locations — Arctic) and so on.

And we have not even discussed the impact of wind turbine technology yet. Next time.

Meanwhile, our planet continues to warm. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration bar chart shows that warming trend with the first nine months of 2017 among the top three warmest in the 137-year climate record.

And so it goes.


November 6, 2017 - Posted by | climate change, renewable, USA

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