Why Solar is Taking Over

July 18, 2014

More from Rocky Mountain Institute on the Solar juggernaut.  A tech revolution moving faster than cell phones.

13 Responses to “Why Solar is Taking Over”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    Just remember that the RMI is an organization dedicated to for-profit free-market ‘solutions’ for renewable energy.

    The report spoke glowingly of $750 billion spent on solar through for-profit entrepreneurs, but did not analyze how much more power could be produced investing that same amount of money in non-profit public projects. Nor did it analyze how much money the public would keep in its pocket over the long term with public non profit projects, versus these “free” market entrepreneurial ventures.

    “Free market fundamentalism” is likely the enemy. Just sayin’.

  2. jimbills Says:

    I understand the urge for this sort of cheerleading. It’s to get people excited to jump on the solar train – which would be good for society in general (‘the ends’).

    ‘The means’ irk me, though, because this is the kind of data manipulation ones sees all the time in the energy industry. All the various sources do it to pump up their own value in the public’s mind. I wish the energy industry would just report the facts without their own agendas.

    It also bothers me from the perspective that cheerleading like this supplies greater complacency in the public than action. If one sees a video like this without studying the energy industry in sum, one would think we’re on the right track and there’s no reason to be worried – that the status quo is fine and will be fine. This ties in with what Roger (Ginger) is saying. Lovins tacitly indicates by the video that the free market is solving the problem on its own. What if it’s not?

    A third reason it is troublesome to me is that industry spin can always and easily be picked apart. I’m not sure over-selling or bending the truth really wins that many converts in the end. I could be wrong on this point – the climate denial industry has certainly won many over by using the same tactics.

    Here is a chart that shows the percentage of renewables plus nuclear compared to total energy on a global basis:
    http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.COMM.CL.ZS/countries/1W?display=graph

    Solar may be rising dramatically, but it’s still less than 1% of global energy production:

    Click to access 15e-inventaire-Chap01-Eng.pdf

    • jimbills Says:

      The vast majority of solar gains in the United States have been in California (1 state in 50):
      http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-industry-data

      California tends to lead the country in trends, but it’s also excellently positioned for solar power, and not every state is. It also HASN’T just relied on the free market, but has mandated and incentivized much of this action in recent years.

      Besides an over-estimation of the magic of the ‘free’ market, the basic problem we face is growth (economic and population). Many people hear that and just shut down, I know, but any look at the energy projections and historical charts shows this to be the case. For instance, RIGHT NOW, if energy use hadn’t grown from 1958 to now, we’d be able to supply all our electricity needs with renewables. Unfortunately, growth has raised the total over 7 times since 1958. Go to this chart, click on the various sources, the click on the small ‘Graph’ icon underneath ‘Year’:
      http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/showtext.cfm?t=ptb0811a

      You’ll also see there that fossil fuel use has risen just as rapidly the past few years as renewables. One can take just the data from renewables growth and ooh and ahh, but one also has to take that figure and compare it to the total trends of all energy sources.

      Are we really improving, or are we just moving faster and faster along the same path?


    • I dont know about cheerleading. I do know this. This technology is having a major impact and will continue to do so. It is a big change. So its worth reporting. Its also worth explaining to folks what exponential growth is all about. I say this: study exponential growth like you life and the future lives of all our grandchildren depend on it. Its why we are in trouble.

      There is a reason nobody saw it coming. Exponential growth is a tiny spec on the horizon one second and freight train rocking your world the next. You cant see it coming unless you know what to look for.

  3. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    Similar to “Whether you think you’ll succeed, or whether you’ll fail – you’re right.”
    Anything that helps progress to transition, bring it on…

    • jimbills Says:

      I question if deceiving ourselves with wishful thinking and misleading graphs is actually helping, or is just leading us down the same, wrong path we’ve been on.

      The problem with your quote is that success or failure needs a realistic game plan, too. I can think I’ll create cold fusion technology or that I’ll be drafted as a quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys, and really believe I’ll do it, and still not do it.

      I’m actually an entrepreneur. I’m not a very good one, mainly because I could give two farts for money beyond keeping myself and wife fed and relatively comfortable, but I’ve been one for close to 15 years. Anyway, I see businesses all the time shut down within a year because they had either no business plan or a business plan reliant on faulty data. I don’t like, or trust, wishful thinking and misleading data, because it’s more likely to lead to failure than success, no matter what our beliefs are.


      • Its not misleading or deceiving and its not cheerleading, either. Its noticing that solar and wind development can be plotted on a logarithmic graph. Thats math, not cheerleading. Just because the math says it can be done, does not mean anyone will do it. But it does mean that solar and wind economics are like any other technology that has those characteristics. Math is not cheerleading. No amount of renewables can change consumption of FF as long as the philosophy is to just use up all the resources until they are depleted. That is the crux of the problem. FF have to stay in the ground. No one has devised a method of doing that so far. Consider. We would have to convince all the coal companies to voluntarily go out of business. How would that happen? Well they might be driven out of business by a lower cost competitor, hopefully a lower GHG competitor, but that does not mean that endless growth and consumption would stop. It would just move on to consuming something else. Consume til we hit a limit, or see the limit coming and do something. Our choice. So far, so bad. When someone wakes up and realizes what compound interest has to do with exponential growth, then figures out how to have a revolution in economics that deals with the excesses it causes, then we will see some real progress. Some of those same factors are behind the exponential progress of solar. But in the end we will have to solve the problem of growth.
        http://rameznaam.com/2013/11/14/solar-power-is-dropping-faster-than-i-projected/


  4. Jimbills, I’m with you all the way on this. Solar/wind/biomass cheerleading, the cherrypicking of data, the cult-like belief that they can’t be wrong – if it reminds me of anything, it’s the AGW deniers. Indeed, I think that many of the so-called greens would rather become AGW deniers than admit that nuclear power is needed to solve the AGW problem.

    As the cost of electricity goes through the roof in Denmark and Germany, the cheerleaders will insist to the bitter end that that their “green alternatives” are cheaper and more reliable than nuclear, coal or anything else. When the brownouts and blackouts hit, they still won’t believe they were wrong. Rather, they’ll blame it on the utilities sabotaging green technology.

    A few cult members might come to their senses, but it will be a long, painful process, and many will cling to their new religion right to their death bed. Meanwhile, the Earth will be transforming itself into another Venus, but the greenwashers will never accept that they contributed significantly to the problem.

    Some ancient wisdom (below) that bears repeating…

    “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one…”
    – Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, 1841

    • ppp251 Says:

      Seems like you’re the one ignoring facts. Solar and wind have gotten cheaper than nuclear.


      • Thats right. The name calling greens or lefties or commies or hippies is not going to make any difference. I dont think Citigroup has been called any of those names…. or maybe not until recently. The age of renewables is here. Your wake up call….. (not you ppp251, youre already awake)
        Nuclear 11c/kwhr and rising, wind 5c/kwhr and falling. Read the rest. And please dont argue with Citigroup financial experts results. Its silly. Not unless you are prepared to step into a world of financial experts.


  5. Oops. Like Bullwinkle said. Must be the wrong hat. Heres the Age of Renewables.
    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/citigroup-says-the-age-of-renewables-has-begun


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