Daily Sentinel – What future role for solar energy?

by Richard Perez
University of Albany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center

Can solar energy deliver an abundant, reliable, affordable, and environmentally benign energy future for New York?

This is still a matter of debate for many. Let’s look at the facts.

• Abundance: The sun powers the weather and life on earth without us paying much attention to it. New York receives as much solar energy in six hours as used annually for everything, so it is abundant indeed. A practical aspect of abundance is the technology — photovoltaics, PV — that can transform the resource into a usable form: electricity.

Remarkably, the amount of PV deployed worldwide has grown at a stable annual rate of 30% since the 1980s. The reason is the technology’s systematic improvement in efficiency, versatility, and cost, enabling it to capture new markets and grow. It is widely believed that this trend will continue for many years. Interestingly, projecting the 30% rate into the future implies enough PV to power all the economies of the world by the 2040s.