Man on the Moon
In most cases, the impossible is in fact feasible, if we just try. If you had asked in the 1950s whether it was possible to send a man to the moon, people would most likely have laughed in your face. Only a little over a decade later it happened. Although there are some skeptics who still believe it all happened in a Hollywood studio... but who can blame the disbelievers? In the USA anything is possible.
Now, let’s take a look at solar PV. All of the last decade’s forecasts in global market growth have been surpassed. With the exception of the somewhat modest growth experienced during the “crisis-year” 2009, 2008 to 2010 saw the global market growing an astonishing 100%. Numerous markets, for example Italy and Germany, have demonstrated that a growth rate of over 100% is indeed very feasible. So, if they are in a position to do so, more countries will hopefully follow suit. It is a proven model. The solar industry is growing with increasing speed - so fast, in fact, that analysts are worried about an oversupply situation this year for solar cells and modules.
The “Impossible” Scenario
Now, let’s think of “the impossible.” Let’s envision a scenario of a yearly market growth of 100% for the next decade. How impossible is that in fact? It has been done before. What would be the result within one decade?
Well, that would lead to an annual market size of 30,000 GW (yes, gigawatts, not megawatts) in 2021, just a decade ahead. Conservatively estimated, that is equal to the output of around 8,500 GW of new coal fire plant capacity, or equivalent to 8,500 coal plants of 1 GW capacity each. Not bad. And enough to cover up to seven times’ the forecasted growth in global electricity demand till 2020 according to IEA studies. This means we would cover the growth and part of the current electricity demand. It means in fact closing down fossil power capacity for solar power. If we did just two years at 100% growth - and indeed the industry is eager for growth - it no longer seems so “impossible” after all...
33 Trillion Kilowatt Hours of Solar Energy
According to the IEA, the electricity consumption forecast by 2030 will be around 33 trillion kWh. In order to provide this totally by solar PV, based on an average of 1,600 kWh/kWp system yield (assuming most of this power is installed in sunny regions such as India, China, the Sahara, etc.), this would require 20,600 gigawatts of cumulative installed solar PV power. According to the 100% year-on-year growth scenario, this cumulative amount of solar power will be installed by 2020...
The conclusion can therefore be drawn that a continued rate of 100% year-on-year growth until 2020, which has proven possible during the last three years, will be sufficient to cover the entire world electricity consumption in 2020 and onwards. Imagine... this would not only mean unlimited, clean, cheap, reliable, predictable green power for everybody in PV, but also in grid management, energy storage, etc.
Nike and McDonalds
Like the global market, the Germans, Italians and several other countries have demonstrated that 100% year-on-year growth is possible for a few years in a row. There are over 150 more countries to follow suit. The solar industry proved it is possible in 2010, with 118% cell production growth. And I bet the industry is ready to take up this challenge for another decade. The task is to prove that the “impossible” scenario is in fact possible. We are investing in sending people to Mars - it makes sense to clean up the mess on Planet Earth home first, within the coming ten years.
Nike said it in an advertisement campaign: “Just do it!” And to add another famous slogan to that one: “I’m loving it!” too...