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MIT: MIT releases report on the future of solar energy

Solar energy holds the best potential for meeting humanity’s future long-term energy needs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions — but to realize this potential will require increased emphasis on developing lower-cost technologies and more effective deployment policy, says a comprehensive new study, titled “The Future of Solar Energy,” released today by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI).

“Our objective has been to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long term, which we view as necessary,” says MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, the Chevron Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT.

This report highlights enormous potential and discusses pathways toward affordable solar energy.

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NASDAQ: Is Solar Energy Ready To Compete With Oil And Other Fossil Fuels?

The solar energy industry may prove to be a dark horse in the race to provide global energy security. The world has renewed its interest in solar energy investment as it searches for a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to conventional fossil fuels. Countries like China, Germany, the UK, the US, Japan and Canada have already made significant investments in solar power.

Who are the other players who are investing big in solar energy? With its own set of limitations such as high installation costs and high plug-in time, are consumers across the world ready to choose solar energy to power their daily lives? Or, are the conventional energy sources still the best bet?

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THE TELEGRAPH: Can a £2,500 ‘solar box’ power your house at night?

It’s the holy grail of home owners who have invested in solar panels – the ability to store power for use when the sun isn’t shining. A growing number of households, thought to number in the few thousands, are using hi-tech blackboxes that store up solar energy to use at night.

Currently, solar panels create “free” electricity as it is being generated, but if home owners need power at night, the energy is drawn from the National Grid and bought from their energy supplier as usual. Used in conjunction with efficient solar panels the new devices could cut bills by 60pc, manufacturers claim. But experts are more sceptical. Some have dismissed the gadgets as “overpriced and oversold”, because savings are cancelled out by the £2,500 outlay of buying and installing one of the blackboxes, as well as regularly replacing internal batteries.

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REUTERS: Solar energy enjoys a glowing outlook

According Deutsche Bank’s recent bullish report on solar power, unsubsidized rooftop solar power costs $0.08 – $0.13 per kilowatthour (kWh) globally, which can be as much as 40 percent below retail electricity prices. As this Reuters graphic shows, Australia’s rate for solar power is $0.15/kWh, less than one-third of electricity’s average price there, making the country an exemplar of grid parity. Meanwhile, in oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, solar is still more expensive than the overall electricity price.

In the United States, the levelized cost of solar energy is $0.17 per kWh, a penny cheaper than electricity’s average price. But solar sees just a faint shadow of the popularity that other power sources enjoy, with solar projects adding up to less than one half of one percent of the megawatthours generated in the U.S.

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Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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