Friday, May 01, 2015

Tesla’s Powerwall is the latest step toward our clean-energy future

By Vivek Wadhwa May 1 at 8:00 AM, WashPost

Most people are skeptical that we’re heading into a clean-energy future. They find it hard to believe that solar energy is fewer than 14 years away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. They argue that today solar energy hardly provides one percent of Earth’s energy needs and that we can’t effectively store sunlight — and therefore have a long way to go.

But when technologies advance exponentially as solar is doing, one percent solar means we are halfway from 0.01 percent to the goal of 100 percent. The prices of solar panels have fallen 75 percent in the past five years and are advancing on a scale comparable to Moore’s Law, as tech guru Ramez Naam has documented. At this rate, solar energy is only six doublings away from 100 percent. Even then we will use hardly 1/10,000th of the sunlight that falls on Earth, so we can increase our usage dramatically without fear of running out.

What has been holding solar back so far has ostensibly been the cost of storage. Technologies such as batteries were prohibitively expensive, large and cumbersome. Residential solar installations needed to feed into the electric grid during the day and to buy back energy during the night. This is a problem that Tesla has just fixed, though, with its Powerwall, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

(More here.)

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