The total solar energy hitting Earth each year is equivalent to 12.2 trillion watt-hours. That’s over 20,000 times more than the total energy all of humanity consumes each year.
And yet photovoltaic solar panels, the instruments that convert solar radiation into electricity, produce only 0.7 percent of the energy the world uses.
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So what gives?
For one, cost: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates an average cost of $156.90 per megawatt-hour for solar, while conventional coal costs an average of $99.60 per MW/h, nuclear costs an average of $112.70 per MW/h, and various forms of natural gas cost between $65.50 and $132 per MW/h. So from an economic standpoint, solar is still uncompetitive.
And from a technical standpoint, solar is still tough to store. “A major conundrum with solar panels has always been how to keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shining,” says Christoph Steitz and Stephen Jewkes at Reuters.
But thanks to huge advances, solar’s cost and technology problems are increasingly closer to being solved.
Read more at: http://theweek.com/article/index/244437/are-we-on-the-cusp-of-a-solar-energy-boom
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