Harvard professor David Keith once doubted that solar energy could compete in the marketplace. But now he believes the technology has a bright future.

Keith: “Solar is one of the things we can really imagine being scaled to supply a significant fraction of global energy use without a big environmental impact.”

Keith says solar is attractive because it can produce renewable power on less land than some other sources. But for a long time, solar energy was too expensive to deploy on a very large scale. The economics, however, have changed dramatically. Keith says the cost of big industrial solar systems is now about a third of what it was just five years ago.

David Keith

Keith: “And if you’d have asked me five years ago, I would’ve said the only way to get solar down to the costs we see now was by some kind of breakthrough that changed the current technology. But what in fact has happened is there’s been no single breakthrough. There were simply enormous economies of scale, and a whole host of each individually important but small manufacturing improvements that allowed the costs to come down this far.”

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Keith says challenges and limitations remain since solar is not equally suited to every region, and no power is generated at night. But with falling prices, solar power is finding its place in the sun.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...