Cost$ for Solar Electricity Keep Falling

by Duane Nichols on December 4, 2016

Solar Cost Below $1 per Watt

Solar Is Booming … Costs Keep Falling

News Article from the Climate Reality Project,, December 2, 2016

Today, solar power is everywhere. It’s on your neighbor’s roof and in tiny portable cellphone chargers. There are even solar powered roads. And as solar power heats up, prices are going down. In fact, over the past 40 years, the cost of solar has decreased by more than 99 percent!

But how did we get here? Ready for a quick history lesson on one of the world’s fastest growing sources of energy?

You might find this hard to believe, but we can trace the idea of harnessing the power of the sun back to 1839. A bright (pun intended!) young French physicist named Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect—the creation of an electric current in a material after being exposed to light—while experimenting in his father’s laboratory. Over the following hundred-plus years, scientists continued exploring this phenomenon, creating and patenting solar cells, using them to heat water and doing extensive research to increase the efficiency of solar energy.

The 1970s brought a period of change not only in the form of political and cultural upheaval, but also saw the rise of solar as a viable way to produce electricity. The first solar-powered calculator was commercialized, the Solar Energy Research Institute (now called the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) was established, and U.S. President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House for the first time. But it was also quite expensive, costing an average of $76 per watt in 1977.

But as advancements in the industry continued, the costs began to fall. Over the next 10 years, the price would drop sevenfold to less than $10 per watt, hitting a plateau in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Fast-forward to a few years later and solar technology was really hitting its stride as huge cost reductions were made in recent years, causing world leaders, governments, and the private sector to get on board and moving solar from a niche technology into the mainstream. Soon, regular people in communities all over the world were installing panels on their roofs and in numerous other applications thanks to the technology’s improving economics and innovative incentives and financing models.

Which brings us to today, when solar power can cost a minuscule61 cents per watt.

In a relatively short period of time, it’s become clear that an incredible future is ahead for this renewable source of energy. And as you might expect, the more the price falls, the more attractive it becomes. Forty years ago, the total global installation of solar was around 2 megawatts. Today, total global installation is closer to 224,000 megawatts.

And as we start down the road forward after the historic Paris agreement, we’re noticing just how many countries are working to meet their carbon emissions reduction goals by going solar.

That’s why we’re hoping you will join us December 5-6 for 24 Hours of Reality: The Road Forward as we travel the world for a look at how solar power is revolutionizing access to electricity in Mexico, Malaysia and Venezuela. We’ll visit southeast Asia to meet a “solar monk” in Thailand and to South Africa, where sheep and solar live together on one solar PV farm. We’ll even hear from oil-rich countries in the Middle East that are starting to prepare for a future beyond fossil fuels—and renewables like solar are becoming more and more cost effective.

See also:


New Windmills Rated at 7.5 Megawatts

Cities and States Lead on Climate Change

Op-Ed Article by Jeff Biggers, New York Times, November 30, 2016

PHOTO: A wind turbine in Adair, Iowa. Credit Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

IOWA CITY — THE wind turbines that rise out of the cornfields here reminded me on a recent drive of one postelection truth, even in the red state of Iowa.

As President-elect Donald J. Trump considers whether to break the United States commitment to the Paris climate accord, the rise of clean energy across the heartland is already too well entrenched to be reversed.

By 2020, thanks to MidAmerican Energy’s planned $3.6 billion addition to its enormous wind turbine operations, 85 percent of its Iowa customers will be electrified by clean energy. Meanwhile, Moxie Solar, named the fastest-growing local business by The Corridor Business Journal of Iowa, is installing solar panels on my house, and is part of a solar industry that now employs 200,000 nationwide.

Doomsday scenarios about the climate have abounded in the aftermath of the November election. But responsibility for effectively reining in carbon emissions also rests with business, and with the nation’s cities and states. Those are the battlegrounds. Worldwide, cities produce as much as 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of the planet’s cities lie along the coasts and are threatened by slowly rising seas. Seventy percent of those cities are already dealing with extreme weather like drought and flooding. Add in aging infrastructure and waves of migrants and it is obvious that city planners, mayors and governors have had to re-envision how their cities generate energy and provide food and transportation.

“The concept of a regenerative city could indeed become a new vision for cities,” the Germany-based World Future Council reported recently. “It stands for cities that not only minimize negative impact but can actually have a positive, beneficial role to play within the natural ecosystem from which they depend. Cities have to constantly regenerate the resources they absorb.”

This idea won broad support at a recent gathering of city leaders from around the world in Quito, Ecuador, hosted by the United Nations. The Habitat III conference approved a “new urban agenda” that urges cities to adapt to climate change but minimize their harm to the environment and move to sustainable economies.

In a changing climate, these approaches make sense. As Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, told the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce recently, “Cities, businesses and citizens will continue reducing emissions, because they have concluded — just as China has — that doing so is in their own self-interest.”

With or without significant federal support, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require major private investment, as it has here in Iowa, and ambitious private-public initiatives from mayors and governors. We need to activate a new era of “regenerative” cities and states.

California’s recent move to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 is a hopeful shift that other cities and states should emulate. This would involve setting high benchmarks for developing green enterprise zones, renewable energy, cultivating food locally, restoring biodiversity, planting more trees and emphasizing walkability, low-carbon transportation and zero waste.

Following this regenerative approach, the Australian city of Adelaide reduced its carbon emissions by 20 percent from 2007 to 2013, even as the population grew by 27 percent and the economy increased by 28 percent. The city experienced a boom in green jobs, the development of walkable neighborhoods powered by solar energy, the conversion of urban waste to compost and a revamped local food industry. The city also planted three million trees to absorb carbon dioxide.

Over 10,000 climate initiatives are underway in cities worldwide, according to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which represents 80 major cities. In nearby Des Moines, for instance, Mayor Frank Cownie recently committed the city to reducing its energy consumption 50 percent by 2030 and becoming “carbon neutral” by 2050.

Initiatives like those have become a “fill the potholes” reality for many mayors, regardless of political games in Washington. In San Diego, the Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, helped to push through a climate action plan that commits the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Other cities are following his lead.

“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else,” the urban visionary Jane Jacobs wrote. “But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”

In an age of climate change, and a possible shift in the federal government’s priority on climate action, never have those words been truer.

>>> Jeff Biggers works include Reckoning at Eagle Creek, recipient of the Delta Award for Literature and the David Brower Award for Environmental Reporting and The United States of Appalachia, praised by the Citizen Times as a “masterpiece of popular history.”  Biggers serves as the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Iowa’s Office of Sustainability, where he founded the Climate Narrative Project and cofounded the Ecopolis Forum. He is editor of a forthcoming book, Ecopolis: Envisioning a Regenerative City in the Heartland, for the University of Iowa Press.

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WV League of Women Votes Program on Climate Change

See this Lecture & Slide Show by Jim Kotcon, WV Sierra Club, entitled:

“Green Jobs & Renewable Energy”

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News: Unprecedented ‘Super Fires’ Devastate Smoky Mountains with 11 Dead

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UK Photographer Has the Largest Collection of Climate Change Images

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Climate Reality has a Way of Seeking Attention Now or Taking its Toll Later

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NOTE: “Remembrance Day for Lost Species” is November 30th

November 26, 2016

Why don’t we grieve for extinct species? From an Article by Jeremy Hance, The Guardian, November 19, 2016 Photo: Martha flies again. Martha was the world’s last passenger pigeon, who perished on September 1, 1914. Once the most populous bird on the planet, passenger pigeons vanished remarkably quickly due to overhunting and habitat destruction. In 2014, mourners [...]

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Trees Planting Project Started in 2013 to Honor Civil War Dead

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