There is a lot of cross-discussion regarding the viability of solar power to overtake conventional and nuclear based power generation as a primary electricity producer. Many misinformed persons help to spread confusion into the overall picture. It’s basically hearsay: “This energy expert runs a blog and he said this” or “I heard that”, and all of it consists of canards repeated ad-infinitum or information that is woefully out of date.
Forget what the naysayers say. Solar power is indeed the future of energy production for a growing world civilization. Anyone who cannot wrap his or her head around this concept is going to lose out on one of the biggest single investment opportunities that has come along in the last 100 years. And it is no fantasy but hard fact.
The reason is simple: solar power and other renewable power systems are matters of scientific and technological evolution. Human beings are building better tools to accomplish more work using less effort and less material. Judging future performance of solar systems by present day or even past limitations inevitably leads to errors in reasoning. Unfortunately, because of the sheer amount of misinformation put out into the mediaspace, the noise-to-signal ratio remains rather high.
Each new technological development results in a further lowering of costs and greater performance. This fact cannot be overemphasized enough. Price drops have already been observed over the last ten years until solar systems are now attaining grid-parity, the same price per kilowatt/hour for electrical generation, as coal-fired powerplants. Before very long, grid-parity with natural gas-fired powerplants will be achieved. As for nuclear power, it cannot even begin to compete. Its problems range from the expense in reactor construction, fuel waste containment, the extra engineering required to maintain safe operation, to the increasing political resistance to nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
To give an example of technological innovation driving prices downward, new research is finding a means to use iron as the material to capture and convert sunlight. Presently, ruthenium is the material basis for photon conversion into electricity. Ruthenium is a comparatively rare metal and therefore quite expensive. But the use of a new iron-based dye formulated to effectively capture visible light photons for conversion into current would cut costs massively. Replacing ruthenium with the most commonly available metal in nature would advance solar technology at the forefront of renewable energy generation into any foreseeable future.