Boosting the Demand for Solar Energy


How can solar become the largest source of electricity in the world one day? The International Energy Agency released two reports on Monday to tell you how.

The two reports outline the technology improvements and policies needed to make solar a big part of the world’s energy production by 2050. While equipment and installation costs have come down significantly in the past 5 years, their continual decline is a must to get to that 2050 milestone, the IEA said. The group also advocates for consistent policies, which is always helpful for building a market for new technologies.

Reports about the great promise of solar aren’t hard to come by. They are done by government agencies, academic institutions and businesses that benefit from solar-friendly policies. The IEA reports are worth checking out because the organization represents 29 countries that have policies in place to promote clean energy development. The membership includes United States, many European countries and two from Asia (Japan and South Korea).

The IEA uses computer modeling and data that reflect the best-case scenario for increasing solar energy generation to conclude that two types of solar technologies could collectively account for 27% of the world’s electricity production by 2050.

The first technology uses semiconductors to convert sunlight into electricity, and it shows up as solar panels that you see on some rooftops today. The second technology, called concentrating solar thermal, uses mirrors or lens to concentrate and direct sunlight to heat up a fluid — it could be water or a synthetic compound — to generate steam. That steam then goes to run a turbine-generator to produce electricity.

If all goes well, the world could see 4,600 gigawatts of solar panels and 1,000 gigawatts of concentrating solar thermal power plants by 2050, the IEA said.

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