Solar power to be more affordable than fossil fuels?

6th Mar 2012

Solar power has the potential to become more affordable than fossil fuels in the future, an expert has indicated.

Stephen Chu, US energy secretary, explained that this goal is becoming a growing reality, especially as other renewable energy sources are already showing high performance levels.

For example, onshore wind is proving cheaper than coal-fired energy – although gas still remains more affordable than both these options.

Writing for RenewEconomy, Giles Parkinson explained that the cost of gas currently stands at 5.5c/KWh, compared to between 15 and 24c/KWh for solar power.

However, the intention is to lower solar to 6.5c/KWh by the end of the decade, showing there is potential for this renewable source of energy.

Experts from the International Energy Agency predict India, the US and China will account for half of all energy demand in 2035 – and that each of these economies anticipates a fall in the price of solar power.

India, however, may take longer to implement the technology due to its poor infrastructure and other problems encountered along the way.

Mr Chu told the ARPA-E conference: "New materials and manufacturing methods can change the landscape of energy solutions.

"We have the possibility to create a second industrial revolution that will give us clean energy and a path to a sustainable world."

Some countries already demonstrate a strong reliance on solar panels, such as Germany, where approximately 37 per cent of the world's plants are located.

The country was recently called upon by France when a surge in energy demand was experienced during Europe's cold snap, meaning the grid was unable to keep up, Reuters revealed.

Jean Bergougnoux, a former chief executive of EDF energy, highlighted that countries such as France tend to rely heavily on electrical equipment, making it difficult for electricity suppliers when demand soars.

He explained: "One million mobile electric heaters are sold in France every year, give or take, especially in large spaces.

"Many of them are used during cold periods, in poorly heated locations and/or poorly insulated ones."

Germany therefore stepped in to help with electricity generation at this difficult time, showing just how valuable solar power can be in developed nations.

US energy secretary Stephen Chu noted that in the Middle East, it has already been recognised that solar is more affordable than the oil-fired plants it uses at present.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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