I’ve been writing about the “solar singularity” for a decade now and my projections for dramatic growth in solar are coming true, in spades
It’s been amazing to see solar power growing so fast in the US and around the world, with records falling each year.
According to new projections from Boomberg NEF, solar growth for 2023 is expected to be 56% globally and 52% in the US in the same period.
This is in line with my suggestion over the years of my writing about the “solar singularity” — the point at which solar becomes so cheap that it becomes the default new power source — that solar growth may actually accelerate over time rather than slow down.
Many large-scale trends slow inevitably, often based on S-shaped logistical growth patterns. It appears solar is still very much in the almost vertical growth stage of the S-curve and we have a long long way to ride this particular trend globally.
I predicted way back in 2014, in my first essay on the “solar singularity” and then in my 2015 book, Solar: Why Our Energy Future Is So Bright, that solar and other renewables would become the world’s dominant power sources by the mid 2030s. We are well on track to achieve that amazing end game. And it may occur even sooner due to this accelerating trend of solar installations due to ever-lower solar panel costs, which then lead to more installations and even lower costs, in the ultimate “virtuous cycle.”
I wrote in my latest “Solar Singularity update” in 2020 specifically about these trends (not gonna lie it does feel good to be proven correct many times over on these large-scale renewable energy projections I’ve made over the years):
All else being equal, global solar growth figures will inevitably slow as we move steadily toward higher penetration, or at least that’s the conventional wisdom. But many markets around the world have barely begun to install solar. And the political will toward climate mitigation is growing rapidly in many places, even if the U.S. has bucked that trend under President Trump.
Moreover, all else is not equal when it comes to solar growth. Two key limitations in growth rates to date have been the fact that solar has historically cost more than traditional power sources and the fact that solar has not been dispatchable.
The central assertion of my “solar singularity” framework is that we are at or near the point where solar in many places around the world is cheaper than traditional sources. The solar singularity is defined as the point at which solar becomes so cheap that it’s the default choice for new power generation. We are now reaching that point in an increasing number of markets around the world. Importantly, solar is increasingly being combined with large-scale battery storage.
Two major factors that have been holding solar back from ubiquity — cost and dispatchability — are now for the most part gone. This should result in practically vertical solar growth as more and more jurisdictions cross over into singularity dynamics. “Vertical” in this context means that growth will max out at 100 percent of new annual global energy demand, whatever that amount may be each year.
Buckle your seatbelts. The green energy race is only just now beginning.