In his new book, "Solar Revolution," fund manager and former corporate buyout specialist Travis Bradford says that is happening not so much because solar is the clean, renewable source of energy but because it has proved to be cost-effective. Solar Revolution outlines the path by which the transition to solar technology and sustainable energy practices will occur.
"The shift will happen in years rather than decades and will occur because of fundamental economics."
Although that process could be expedited by more government incentives for the promotion of solar energy use and disincentives for investment in fossil fuels and nuclear power, the inevitable dominance of solar will not depend on government assistance, Bradford writes.
Developments in the photovoltaic (PV) industry over the last ten years have made direct electricity generation from PV cells a cost-effective and feasible energy solution, despite the common view that PV technology appeals only to a premium niche market. Bradford shows that PV electricity today has become the choice of hundreds of thousands of mainstream homeowners and businesses in many markets worldwide, including Japan, Germany, and the American Southwest.
Solar energy will eventually be the cheapest source of energy in nearly all markets and locations because PV can bypass the aging and fragile electricity grid and deliver its power directly to the end user, fundamentally changing the underlying economics of energy. As the scale of PV production increases and costs continue to decline at historic rates, demand for PV electricity will outpace supply of systems for years to come.
Ultimately, the shift from fossil fuels to solar energy will take place not because solar energy is better for the environment or energy security, or because of future government subsidies or as yet undeveloped technology. The solar revolution is already occurring through decisions made by self-interested energy users. The shift to solar energy is inevitable and will be as transformative as the last century's revolutions in information and communication technologies. Solar energy has emerged as the wave of the present for replacing dwindling fossil fuels as the primary source of the world's energy needs, Bradford.
Despite his argument for the inevitable dominance of solar energy, Bradford acknowledges that the world's energy needs will continue to be met by a variety of energy sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear and such renewable alternatives as hydroelectric, geothermal, fusion, wind and biomass.
The primary problems that Bradford foresees for solar are an inability to keep up with growing demand, lack of the support businesses that such a growing industry needs and opposition from entrenched utility companies and fossil-fuel and nuclear interests.
Travis Bradford is President and Founder of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, a nonprofit organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts, focused on using the power of the business and financial sectors to deploy cost-effective and sustainable technologies. Before founding Prometheus, he was a partner in various New York based corporate acquisition and investment funds and served as a board member and manager of dozens of public and private companies. He has lectured at universities including Columbia, Harvard, and Duke, on topics in finance, entrepreneurship, and alternative energy economics.