By Mark Hertsgaard
[Note from NC WARN: This is a very heartening article on solar advances — though we’re a little uncomfortable with their lead statement that we’re winning, which fails to recognize that millions are already being hammered by climate change.]
As the IPCC sounds another alarm about climate change, solar energy supporters believe they have a solution.
”We’re actually winning the fight against climate change, but most people don’t know it yet.”
That may seem a strange statement to make in a week when a landmark scientific report declares that humanity must quit fossil fuels within thirty years or risk catastrophic climate change. But Danny Kennedy, a former top Greenpeace activist who helps run the global solar company Sungevity, says that solar and wind power are growing so fast worldwide that they will displace fossil fuels much sooner than usually thought. He has lots of supporting data, much of which comes from the crazy tree-huggers at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Deutsche Bank and the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Meanwhile, it’s renewables to the rescue. Kennedy argues that wind and especially solar are growing exponentially as millions around the world leave fossil fuels behind. In Germany, which has pledged to forsake fossil fuels and nuclear, “there are now thirty gigawatts of solar on rooftops—that’s the equivalent of thirty nuclear power plants,” he says. In China, renewables will make up more than half the power capacity added through 2030, when renewables’ capacity will equal coal’s, projects Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The solar growth rates in Kennedy’s homeland, Australia, are even steeper, rising from a mere 900 households in 2006 to 1 million today. “There is nothing else like these rates of adopting a new technology,” he says. “They’re faster than the adoption rates for cellphones.”
Solar is expanding even faster than wind power, thanks to plummeting costs and financing programs that enable people to put solar panels on their roofs with no money down yet lower monthly bills. “Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” said Jon Wellinghoff, chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in August. “It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.”