Krugman: Here Comes the Sun

November 7, 2011

Obviously Paul Krugman read my post last week about the Moore’s Law driven transformative power of solar energy.


For decades the story of technology has been dominated, in the popular mind and to a large extent in reality, by computing and the things you can do with it. Moore’s Law — in which the price of computing power falls roughly 50 percent every 18 months — has powered an ever-expanding range of applications, from faxes to Facebook.

Our mastery of the material world, on the other hand, has advanced much more slowly. The sources of energy, the way we move stuff around, are much the same as they were a generation ago.

But that may be about to change. We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That’s right, solar power.

If that surprises you, if you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives.

These days, mention solar power and you’ll probably hear cries of “Solyndra!” Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company both a symbol of government waste — although claims of a major scandal are nonsense — and a stick with which to beat renewable energy.

The Koch Brothers funded astro-turf “citizens group”, Americans for Prosperity has this ad in heavy rotation precisely because they know that the Moore’s law driven earthquake in energy production threatens the Oil Industry’s 19th century model of economic power and influence.

Krugman continues:

But Solyndra’s failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn’t keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating — we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.

Remember 1993? Back then, the personal computer was still the province of oddball geeks and the occasional gamer. I couldn’t imagine why I would need one. By 1996, we were all on line 3 hours a night checking email, and net surfing. Not because the government mandated it, but because it was so damn cool that the world came rushing to it.

Wind is here. Solar is coming. The Koch Brother’s Tea Party is about to get crashed, big time.


5 Responses to “Krugman: Here Comes the Sun”

  1. BlueRock Says:

    > The Koch Brother’s Tea Party is about to get crashed, big time.

    It’s their party and they can cry if they want to.

  2. climatebites Says:

    Thanks for flagging this. It’s is a terrific, positive narrative to explain what’s going on: solar’s coming, hold on to your seats.

    And Solyndra failed, not because of corruption, but the “creative destruction” of capitalism, as prices plummet and competition heats up.

  3. […] Koch Brother’s Tea Party is about to get crashed, big time.” submitted by BlueRock [link] [2 comments] environment Posted on November 7, 2011 by acousticlife. This entry was posted in […]

  4. Does the graph at the top consider transmission cost in the US average price of electricity? I ask because here in NYC electricity costs ~$0.14 but the effective rate after transmission cost and taxes is ~$0.26.

    If the numbers provided for PV cost/Kwh are provided from private installation, and not ESCO sources, then it is the case that PV cost/Kwh might have already dipped below the average effective price of electricity in the U.S.

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