Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas by half

I'm very keen on cheap, effective solar power, so I read with great interest this article in the UK newspaper the Telegraph on cheap solar power that will supposedly be here in five years time. I also read the Forbes article on green energy scams today, so let's just say I wish some of the claims made in the Telegraph piece could be proven to me right now. Still, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's article does fill me with hope that just when we get some decent all-electric vehicles, we might also have a way to power them with sunlight.

The lede reads thusly: "Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with carbon-generated electricity, even in Britain, Scandinavia or upper Siberia. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to half. Technology is leaping ahead of a stale political debate about fossil fuels."

How's that for tempting? You can read the whole thing here. The upshot of the piece is that new technology, mass produced solar power cells will bring the cost of solar power falls below $1 (51p) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power, sometime soon and down to 50 cents a watt in a decade. Currently, solar power costs about $3 to $4 per watt. Cheap solar will undercut oil and gas prices and send those fuels packing. Shell's chief executive Jeroen Van der Veer told Evans-Pritchard otherwise: "We have invested a bit in all forms of renewable energy ourselves and maybe we'll find a winner one day. But the reality is that in twenty years time we'll still be using more oil than now."

Another thing to think about the article's glowing description of how solar energy use has increased in Germany is that Germany uses the feed-in tariff method, as opposed to the Renewable Portfolio Standard that is in effect in the US (not exactly a solar power powerhouse).

[Source: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard / Telegraph UK, thanks to Ann]

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