So I've talked a bit about solar panels in the past and I'm a big fan of them, not least because one of America's most successful inventors of all time predicated they would ne the ultimate in energy production.
To my mind, the piece we're missing is *inexpensive* and *easy to manufacture in bulk* are the key pieces missing. Looks like we might be nearly there.
Recently, however, the US department of Energy's Berkeley lab demonstrated a solar cell which can be made cheaply and easily using a well known and commonly used manufacturing process from the semi-conductor industry.
In other words we're more or less talking about solar cells being printed as if they are silicon chips.
On a related note, even without this technology, the naysayers (such as Exxon Mobil) are saying that in their estimation, solar will continue to grow at 10% annually till 2030.
Back In reality, however, the installed base of solar has been doubling every two years, not every seven. At that rate of growth we will see 10% of electricity supplied by solar by 2022 and 20% by 2024. Along with wind, hydro and nuclear we should be easily over 50% by the projected end date, with the balance made up by coal, natural gas and greater efficiency.
Given the greater efficiency of electrically powered transportation - 4x - (by far the greatest consumer of oil), it is not a stretch of the imagination to take a guess and say that even if we maintain total energy production at today's rate but change the ratio from 80% fossil fuels and 20% renewables/nuclear to 50% fossil fuels and 50% renewables/nuclear then we in fact have two times the total utility from a static energy supply. Also it's worth pointing out that once we see grid parity (i.e. the cost of solar energy produced by solar is the same as that produced by other forms of electricity) we should see solar power explode in terms of installations. There is evidence to suggest that we're already there in some parts of the world and will be there in North America by 2015 and China earlier still.
If we assume (and this is incorrect - but let's play their game to be ultra-conservative) that there's a 1:1 correlation between energy utility and GDP growth then we're talking about doubling the size of the global economy by 2030. I make that to be an annual average growth rate of 3.7% even while standing still in terms of energy output. Not too shabby.