Crossing the Threshold

The world now gets over 1% of its electricity from solar power. Currently, global solar capacity is 178 gigawatts (a gigawatt, GW, is a unit of electrical power equal to a measure of one billion watts).

For perspective, a single GW can power the typical energy use of around 750,000 houses. This is a feat which would take two typical size coal power plants to accomplish.  Coal, to duly note, accounts for most of the world’s electricity at around 41%.

At the country level, Europe still has the most solar capacity at 88 GW, just about half of the entire world’s current combined capacity. China has increased its capacity the most and has a quickly expanding solar power market. The US, reportedly, is projected to become the second largest market for solar power by the end of this year.

Privatizing Solar Capacity

Privatized solar capacity is also a burgeoning market. In May, Tesla revealed Powerwall, its new home battery that stores solar energy to power sustainable homes. All available units were quickly reserved and installations will begin this summer. Due to the high level of demand, any new customers won’t get their units until well into 2016.

Daimler recently announced it will enter this new market too.  The German automotive company, will begin offering Mercedes-Benz home battery products in Germany later this fall.

Despite Tesla’s success in sales, these kinds of battery units and household solar power are not quite efficient or cost effective enough for use across the entire United States just yet. However, globalized solar power is no dim prospect.

Ramez Naam

The countries above the blue line are very sunny and solar power is already cheaper than traditional grid power there, so household batteries and panels make sense for them. These cases and the current innovations are promising harbingers of the eventual large-scale shift to solar power.


Sources: Energy Post, Clean Technica, World Coal Association
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Ramez Naam


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