100% Solar Energy In 20 Yrs No Problem, Says Futurist Ray Kurzweil

by John Johnston on 02/25/2011
in The the9billion.com: Business,Politics,Technology

Ray Kurzweil
Futurist Ray Kurzweil has a prediction about the future of solar energy. He asserts that solar technology is improving at such a rate that it will soon be able to compete with fossil fuels. It will also be able to supply 100% of the world’s energy in about 20 years.

Kurzwell has previously, and successfully, predicted that a computer would beat a human in chess by 1998, and that a worldwide communications network would emerge in the mid 1990s.

Many of Kurzweil’s predictions are based on his law of accelerating returns, which maintains that technological change is exponential rather than linear, and that information technologies grow exponentially in capacity and power. This has been observed with computer processing power, which has doubled every 2 years for almost 50 years.

Kurzweil believes this is also the case with solar technology. Solar power is doubling about every 2 years globally, and it has been doing this for the past 20 years.

Today, solar energy is more expensive than using fossil fuels, but costs are declining fast. We are only a few years away from solar being around the same cost as fossil fuels. Kurzweil maintains that after that point, solar will continue to go down in price and will become more popular.

He adds that currently solar power meets a very small percentage of the world’s energy needs, and people tend to dismiss technologies when they are only a very small fraction of the total solution.

Crucially, he points out that if solar power doubles every 2 years, 8 more times, it will meet 100 percent of the world’s energy needs. Following that math, it will take 16 years, that’s 2027.

He adds that the world will increase its energy needs during that time too, so we should add another couple of times to double on top of that. So in about 20 years, around 2031, we will be meeting at least 100 percent of the world’s energy needs just with solar energy.

On the possible political obstacles involved, he says that as the cost per watt of solar falls significantly below coal and oil, people are going to change for economic reasons alone. It will cease to be a political issue.