Solar Outshines Coal In Uncertain Times

Solar Outshines Coal In Uncertain Times

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Solar Waxes Strong In Spite of Stiff Resistance

Has the energy industry finally reached the tipping point? Certain industry professionals seem to think so! Optimistic early adopters of solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and other renewable energy sources have long envisioned a future free from fossil fuels, and the latest outlook report from Bloomberg shows that the real world is finally falling in line.

renewable energy surpasses fossil fuels graph

It’s no secret that renewable and green energy is so named because it relies on consistent, sustainable resources that won’t run out anytime soon, so it’s good news to see that major industrial sectors and first world countries have gotten in on the adoption of these power sources over coal and oil.

The secret to any industry, of course, is cost – as prices drop, more people buy in. Whenever a new technology (such as solar panels, electric wind turbines, etc) enters the marketplace, it does so at an increased cost that eventually lowers in price as new methods of manufacturing it are developed, new resources for that technology are found, and an increase in customer demand drives the economics behind it. Solar panels in 1977 cost around $76 per watt, compared to an average of $0.74/watt in 2013. That’s a massive decrease in price over a course of 36 years, all due to more affordable manufacturing, an increasing customer base, and government incentives to help people embrace solar power more readily.

A Sign of the Times

According to the report from Bloomberg, within 4 years, solar will be cheaper than coal, with some of the biggest new marketplaces being highly industrialized countries such as China, India, and Pakistan. By 2040, the report estimates that solar prices will have decreased 67% in the US and 85% in Japan, which will allow more and more people to access affordable renewable energy for their homes and devices – indeed, entire cities may soon be powered by solar.

solar to outperform coal and oil by 2040

The Bloomberg report comes in at a vital time – with California announcing an initiative to go 100% renewable by 2045 only a few weeks ago. The drastically lowered cost of entry to install solar power is likely to help this plan in the years to come, as the cost of converting from oil and coal to renewable energy sources has been cited as a major hurdle to overcome.

The transition is not going to go uncontested, however, oil and coal are still major industries which many political and corporate interests are heavily invested in. Just recently, political commentator John Oliver came under fire from coal magnate Robert E. Murray, owner of Murray Energy, regarding “defamatory comments” made during his assessment of the coal industry and President Trump’s statements regarding the importance of the diminishing industry (current estimates place coal industry jobs are around 76,000 in the US, compared to a growing 800,000+ jobs in the renewable energy sector as of March 30, 2017).

John Oliver speaks out about Coal and it's value

The Future Looks Bright

So the question must be asked: can solar and coal coexist? Of course they can, but should they? While keeping people employed is an important factor to consider, there’s no question that renewable energy is dominating the job market with new opportunities every day. There’s also the environmental factor to consider, of course, over 70% of Americans believe climate change is a very real threat and support initiatives to stop or slow it. States beside California have gotten in on green energy initiative, in fact the top “solarized” states are California, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, Massachusetts, Georgia, Texas, and New York.

The fact that these top solar states include states of both major political persuasions is a major boon for successful renewable energy initiatives. While coal and oil are traditionally associated with the “red state” mentality, renewable energy concerns and affects both sides – it’s not only good for environment and has the potential to help combat climate change, but it’s also a growth industry providing thousands of jobs and also cutting down on costs long term – a solar array is a lot lower maintenance than an oil refinery, after all!

The future looks bright for solar while coal and oil’s flame starts to flicker out.  As solar prices go down, turnkey solutions and DIY solar power systems are at an all-time low, reducing your barrier to entry and allowing you to help influence future renewable energy growth on a personal level.

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