Solar photovoltaic and wind energy will replace all coal, oil and gas in 20 years
Solar photovoltaic power generation is now the main source of new generation power generation in the world.
Solar photovoltaics and wind power are quickly becoming cheaper and richer - so much so that they are expected to fully replace the world's fossil fuels within two decades, and their time frame will mainly depend on politics. The protests of some of our politicians who needed to build new coal stations sounded weird.
The fact is that solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy gains provide us with the only realistic possibility of avoiding dangerous climate change.
No other greenhouse solution is drawing to a close and it is difficult to imagine a timely response to climate change without involving much of the heavy work of photovoltaics and wind power.
About 80% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions originate from the use of coal, oil and natural gas, which are typical features of industrialized countries. Most of the rest is the land department.
Tragically, due to technical difficulties and high costs, trying to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels has lost its significance. Therefore, in order to reduce global warming, we need to completely replace the use of fossil fuels and use energy that meets the following criteria:
Very large, preferably ubiquitous resource base
Low or zero greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts
Rich or unlimited raw materials
Minimal security concerns in war, terrorism and accidents
Prepare for mass production.
Solar photovoltaics meet all these criteria, and wind energy also meets many of these standards, although wind energy is not as globally prevalent as sunlight. We will have billions of years of sunshine and wind. It is hard to imagine that humans will fight against the sun.
Australia's 2016 greenhouse gas emissions.
Most of the world's population lives in low latitudes (below 35°), with plenty of sunshine and little change between seasons. Wind energy is also widespread, especially in high latitudes.
Photovoltaic and wind have the least impact on the environment and water use. Photovoltaic raw materials - silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, aluminum, glass, steel and a few other materials - are virtually unlimited supply.
Wind energy is an important complement to PV because it is often produced at different times and locations, resulting in a smoother joint energy output. In terms of global annual power production, wind power is still ahead of photovoltaic power generation, but development is slow. The wind energy resources are much smaller than the solar energy resources, so PV will probably dominate in the end of the year.
Complete replacement of all fossil fuels requires solar and wind energy collectors to cover less than 1% of the world's land surface. Most collectors are installed on rooftops and in remote and arid areas, thereby minimizing competition with food production and ecosystems.
The world's more widespread distribution of photovoltaic and wind power, natural disasters, wars and terrorism are less risky for large-scale damage.
Other clean energy technologies can only play a minor supporting role. The solar thermal energy industry is hundreds of times smaller than the rapidly growing photovoltaic industry (because of the higher cost). Hydropower, geothermal, tidal energy and tidal energy are of great importance only in specific areas.
Biomass energy is inefficient, and the demand for soil, water, and fertilizer makes it conflict with food production and ecosystems. Nuclear power is too expensive and the construction speed is too slow to capture photovoltaic and wind energy.
Paths dominated by photovoltaics and wind. In 2018, photovoltaic and wind power may account for 60% of the world's new generation.
Renewable power grid
Photovoltaic and wind power are often described as "intermittent" energy sources. However, it is relatively simple to stabilize the grid and use storage and high-voltage interconnects to eliminate local weather effects.
So far, the leading storage technology is pumping water and electricity, with a market share of 97%.
For decades, the cost of photovoltaics and wind power has rapidly declined and is currently in the range of A$55-70 per megawatt hour in Australia. This is cheaper than building new coal and natural gas installations. There are many reports on the production of photovoltaic power generated by large-scale power plants at the rate of 30-50 US$/MWh.
Solar photovoltaic and wind energy have grown exponentially for several decades and have now reached economic take-off. In 2018, photovoltaic and wind power will account for 60% of the world's new power generation. The remaining coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, water power and other renewable capabilities. From a global perspective, this year will only invest 161 billion U.S. dollars for solar power generation, while the new coal and natural gas will total 103 billion U.S. dollars.
The growth rate of photovoltaic and wind energy makes the total installed capacity of photovoltaic and wind energy have already reached half of coal, and will pass coal in mid-2020, depending on their respective trends.
In Australia, photovoltaics and wind power make up most of the new generation of capabilities. It is expected that approximately 4.5 gigawatts of photovoltaic and wind energy will be installed in 2018, while the national power market has a peak demand of 35 kilowatts. At this rate, by 2030, renewable electricity in Australia will reach 70%.
The current trend of world power generation is presumed to be 2032.
At present, photovoltaic and wind power produce about 7% of electricity. In the global scope of the past five years, photovoltaic capacity has increased by 28% annually, and wind speed has increased by 13% annually. It is worth noting that due to the slow or non-existent growth rate of coal and natural gas, the current trend is to make the world reach to 100% renewable electricity by 2032.
Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (by 80%) require that fossil fuels be excluded from all sectors of the economy. The way to achieve this goal is through the electrification of all energy services.
The straightforward and cost-effective initial steps are to reach 100% renewable electricity; convert most land transport to electric vehicles; and use renewable electricity to push gases out of low-temperature water and space heating. These trends have been established and the outlook for the oil and gas industry is relatively poor.
The best available price of PV has been matched with Australia's current natural gas wholesale price (A$9 per megajoule, equivalent to a heat of A$32 per megawatt hour).
High-temperature heat, industrial processes, aerospace and transportation fuels, and fugitive emissions may be replaced by renewable fuels and electricity produced from synthetic fuels, plastics, and other hydrocarbons. Depending on the future price trajectory of PV and wind, there may be a modest extra cost.
Of course, the electrification of the entire energy sector of our economy means that electricity production needs to increase substantially - an increase of about three times over the next 20 years. The sustained and rapid growth of photovoltaics (and wind energy) will minimize dangerous climate changes while at the same time affecting minimal economic disruptions. Many policy tools can be used to speed up deployment. The government should use photovoltaics and wind energy as the last chance to provide necessary solutions for global warming.
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