The solar industry is on the brink of something special if we are to believe data from a recent Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) study, in which they state that solar has come further than other energy source, in much less time, with relatively little help from the government and is exploding in popularity.
As you can see from the graph above, solar is still in its infancy, sitting alone in the ‘early adopters’ stage, although you must remember that some renewables, such as bio-related fuels are not included, whilst the majority of other forms of generation are well past the early/late stages. Alongside this, the amount of federal spending is plotted on the y axis as a way of showing us how much each form has been propped up by the subsidy programs, for the good or bad.
Its plainly obvious that solar has received very little extra cash to help it along, a theme well-known by those who follow the industry. Despite this shortfall in subsidies, and the unfortunate bankruptcies of some large and heavily funded companies such as Solyndra (twisted by the media to overplay the role government support had in their demise), solar is still ploughing on ahead, always looking forward.
430,000 jobs are expected to be created if solar gets to full power within the next decade, growing at a rate which would put all the golden oldies, oil, coal, nuclear and gas to shame - no mean feat. With this much support and popularity, subsidies would be increasingly refocused on the solar explosion, and before you know it, every factory, house, block of flats and supermarket will be able to cheaply and easily afford a solar panel or ten of their roofs.
Unfortunately, many governments, the US most importantly, have decided to continue subsidising sectors such as the dying coal industry, despite the large drops in coal use and support domestically, and a strong call for mobilisation into the natural gas industry. Even nuclear continues to receive backing, and here I’m talking about the insanely expensive, relatively unsafe and insecure, decade-long old generation reactors. This is especially surprising, as given poor public support and a terrible track record in keeping to budgets and timescales, many see it as effectively throwing money into the uranium pits. If this money as perhaps redirected into new Gen IV reactors, or Small Modular Reactors (SMR) the nuclear industry could be revived, but these areas are seeing slow uptake.
Still, if solar has managed to grow to the size it is at now, with effectively pocket money from the government and nothing but sheer ingenuity and some serious public backing, imagine what it could do with an increased cash flow in the next few years. This is why I speak of ‘no return’. This is not a negative term, if anything it is a highly positive one. If solar manages to jump the ‘chasm’ between early adoption and majority uptake (spoken about in the original article below), it will find itself going down a path of success and huge opportunity it will in all likelihood, be unable to bail out of.
With that much funding, ever-increasing public and industry support and the constant technological upgrades coming from the R&D sectors, theres surely no way it could fail?