Most people consider solar power a new and developing technology. The truth is actually quite different. The technology allowing us to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity has been around for over one hundred years. However, the fact that the technical knowledge has existed for a long time does not necessarily mean the market for the technology is “mature.” A contemporary example of this is electric vehicles. The first electric vehicles were created in the mid-1800s, around the same time the first solar cell was developed, but have yet to reach mass-market production. Solar power on the other hand has shown its ability to develop in great leaps over the past 50 years. Currently, solar power is clearly outperforming electric vehicle markets and has established itself as a strong and growing industry, for a couple of important reasons.
Much of the news in the past few years has centered on stagnant economies and a general lack of job growth across the globe. On the whole, this may be true, but the solar industry has been a bright spot in the gloomy global economy. Two examples of this are in the US and Germany. Over the past year, the US has added 14,000 new solar jobs, an increase of more than 13%. In Germany, the past decade has seen the solar industry grow to an astonishing 400,000 workers. These growth numbers are staggering, especially considering the fact that all other sectors in the US grew at less than 3%.
Solar power, and renewables in general, look even better when compared to the fossil fuel industry. During this same time period of rapid growth in solar power, over 4,000 fossil fuel jobs have been cut. Another interesting to note comes from a recent study by the University of Rio de Janeiro, which shows that renewable energy jobs area also higher paying than jobs in the fossil fuel industry. We are beginning to see a paradigm shift in the energy sector, both in terms of economic growth and employment.
The better news is that these numbers are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The solar industry is experiencing exponential growth in terms of installed capacity. The growth in capacity has brought about a drastic decrease in the cost of solar power, which brings us to the second reason solar is more mature than we might think.
The price of installing solar power has dropped by over 95% in the last 30-35 years. The technological learning that solar power has experienced in recent years is among the best for any modern energy technology. These price reductions create a sort of positive feedback loop in the industry, leading to more jobs, more installations, and therefore even more price reductions. The future looks bright for solar power, and the present may be brighter than you think.
- 18 Nov, 2013
- Kit Man Chan
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