Solar power is becoming cheaper and more popular quickly. A report by the US Department of Energy suggests that solar power employs more people in electricity generation in the States than natural gas, oil, and coal combined. The installation of residential and business solar panels alone add heavily to this number before even considering the industrial sector.
It is a bit baffling that the Trump administration has not outlined Solar’s role in their energy plan. These are well paying jobs that are invigorating communities in States not often associated with the green movements. It is no surprise that California has seen a large uptick in solar jobs, but it may be a bit more confounding when Indiana, Texas, Michigan, and Utah are mentioned in the same breath. I understand that many unemployed fossil fuel workers in the rust belt voted for President Trump and that his administration needs to stay within the narrative that “Trump digs coal,” but I hope that the DoE under Trump will continue to invest in Solar. Especially considering that solar grew at 17 times the rate than the rest of the US economy had in 2016. Refusing to continue investment into this sector would be tantamount to leaving a lot of money on the table.
Regardless of government investments though, solar may be here to stay. It’s an attractive and lucrative energy source that is virtually unlimited and increasingly cheap. Innovation in solar technology and the sector benefiting from an economy of scale has drastically decreased the cost per kilowatt hour. The average price per kilowatt hour of solar today is about $0.57, down from about $4 in 2008, and down from $76 in 1977.
Cost reduction and market potential has courted the interest of many large companies and entrepreneurs. Solar is not just for tree huggers anymore. Tesla’s Powerwall is a home battery that looks to capture and store the energy from a home’s solar panels. It is clever and can run a home off battery power during peak grid hours, and calculate the most profitable times to put excess energy back into the grid. Receiving a check from a power company instead of sending one is a real possibility now.
In addition to large companies catching solar fever -not to be confused with sun stroke-, more decentralized attempts at making solar cheaper and thus more widespread exist as well. One example of this is actually an altcoin called “Solarcoin.” This altcoin looks to reward solar energy producers per MWh that they produce. With a market cap valued around $3.4 Million, it may not be the largest or well known crypto but it is an aspect of the explosive potential of both a blockchain managed asset and the growing solar industry.
I think solar is growing and will continue to grow because of one very real number. The time between now and the Earth’s fossil fuel reserves is much shorter than the time between now and when the sun stops generating energy via fusion. We may be only seeing the beginning of a full blown solar revolution as an economy of scale and technological innovation continue to make solar cheaper for consumers and more profitable for businesses.
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