Report shows bright potential for solar energy by mid-century

The Nellis Solar Power Plant covers 140 acres in southern Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay)
The Nellis Solar Power Plant covers 140 acres in southern Nevada and ranks as the 2nd largest in North America. (Nadine Y. Barclay/Wikimedia)
Nick Fetty | September 30, 2014

Solar energy could become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050 according to research by the International Energy Agency.

The IEA produced two reports (one for photovoltaic energy and one for thermal electricity) which lay out ways for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to provide 16 percent of the world’s electricity consumption by 2050, while solar thermal electricity (STE) from concentrating solar power (CSP) plants would provide an additional 11 percent. Solar would replace fossil fuels are the largest supplier of electricity and could save an estimated 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050.

Solar technology has decreased in price in recent years and this trend must continue for the IEA to reach its goals. The potential of electricity production through PV systems has increased significantly since the 2010 report which predicted it would produce 11 percent of the world’s electricity consumption. The new report anticipates that solar will overtake fossil fuels as the top electricity supplier between 2025 and 2030.

It should be noted that these reports offer suggestions for improving solar energy usage based on current and projected trends and therefore are not meant to be forecasts.

In 2012, Iowa’s solar energy capacity was 1.2 MW compared to 5,133 MW from wind power. A report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance projected that Iowa could produce 20 percent of its electricity consumption through solar panel use on rooftops and earlier this year the state’s largest solar array opened in Kalona.


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