Aerial view of a solar farm

If there’s one reason to be optimistic about climate change, it’s solar power.

Switching off fossil fuels for electricity is the most critical step in our transition to a net-zero carbon world. But solar also shows us how to scale other solutions we need.

By @lachlanjc, October 2022

The price of solar has dropped
99.6% in the last 4 decades.

No other source of energy has dropped in price so drastically.
Solar is now the cheapest form of electricity in most places.

Try starting the graph in 2008…

As we install more,
solar gets cheaper,
driving more installation.

As production scales, it creates economies of scale: the same reason if you’re making a cake, making two isn’t twice as hard. Plus, after you make thousands of cakes, you get faster, & the cakes are better. In solar, this drives down prices, increasing demand, & improves efficiency, creating a virtuous cycle.

installed capacity
↓ 20%
price of modules

Price per Watt vs Installed Capacity (MW), Logarithmic Scale

Not sure how to read a log scale?

The result? We’ve 30x’d solar capacity—in just a decade.

CIS: a group of former Soviet countries in Eurasia.

What would it take to use solar for all electricity?

While not a feasible grid strategy, as solar is intermittent, here’s a thought experiment for the potential scale of solar in an energy-abundant world.

Land area required:
0.1% or less
Below 1%
Below 5%
Over 5%

Data source: Carbon Tracker

Want to dig way more into renewables’ land use? ↗

Here’s the solar energy produced today.

Hourly data in MWh from 10/16/2022 covering the MISO region of the Midwestern US.
Data source: MISO.

Aerial view of a solar farm

There’s many more technologies critical to a net zero world we need to scale up & bring prices down: hydrogen electrolyzers, batteries, heat pumps, carbon removal, & water desalination, just to name a few.

Solar power’s startling progress this decade shows the path for scaling our upcoming climate solutions.