A recent study shows that solar energy could produce more than one quarter of all our energy needs in 40 years.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, "By 2050, the world could be getting a quarter of its electricity from solar power, the International Energy Agency said."
The agency said two new technologies - concentrating solar power and photovoltaics -- could lead to the production of 9,000 terawatt hours of energy by 2050.
Photovoltaics refers to an array of cells that contain solar photovoltaic material that transforms solar radiation into direct current electricity, according to Wikipedia. The production of photovoltaics has been doubling every 2 years, according to the website. It has been "increasing by an average of 48 percent each year since 2002, making it the world's fastest-growing energy technology."
According to Wikipedia, the electricity generated by photovoltaics can power equipment and even recharge batteries. "The first practical application of photovoltaics was to power orbiting satellites and other spacecraft, but today the majority of photovoltaic modules are used for grid connected power generation."
Now they are looking at the technology for smaller off-grid uses, such as power for remote homes and even power for vehicles.
Concentrating solar power refers to focusing a large area of sunlight into a small area by using mirrors or lenses. It is much like using a magnifying glass to start a small fire. It is believed that this technology was used in ancient China and maybe as early as 212 BC.
Using the concentrated solar power in conjunction with the photovoltaics is what will lead to the increased production and affordability of solar power.
The announcement about the potential of these two technologies was made at the Mediterranean Solar Plan Conference in Valencia, Spain.
The Los Angeles Times article quoted agency officials saying that this could slash carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 6 billion metric tons per year - equal to the weight of 900 million elephants. It would also help improve energy security.
The agency also said that using this technology means that by 2030, it will be able to compete with coal and nuclear power plants.
"The technology is currently responsible for just 0.1% of electricity generation around the world," said the Times article. "The study, which was requested by the G8 member nations in a 2008 meeting as part of a series of 19 energy technologies, covers the science, financing and policy necessary to make photovoltaics an integral part of the global power infrastructure."
As a result of this study and the agency's statements, governments are encouraged to set goals and policies in line with the technology to encourage production and investments. It would also be beneficial for governments to establish financial incentives, the agency said.
Currently, only German, Spain, Japan and the United States produce more than 1 gigawatt from photovoltaics technology, said the article.
Countries right on their heels are Australia, China, France, Greece and India, it said.
In as little as a decade, power from this technology will be as affordable as electricity, said the article.