Earlier this week I was at the premiere of Transcendent Man, a biographical overview of Ray Kurzweil’s views on the coming Singularity. Kurzweil’s main argument is that the power of the exponential in technology is major, systemic, and underappreciated.
The specific item of interest in this post is Kurzweil’s claim, repeated in the movie, that solar energy is on a Moore’s Law-like curve with a power/$ doubling time of two years:
The crossover of the tipping point where solar energy will be less expensive than fossil fuels in almost every situation is within five years.
This DOE graph says basically the same thing:
The knee of the curve is from now to 2015. However, the graph understates the possibilities significantly, since it implies about a 7% price-drop rate.
This is not purely a silicon-based phenomenon. Organic PV is sneaking up on silicon. Current-day nanotech is helping. Indeed nanotech in photovoltaics can pretty much be considered a whole field of its own nowadays.
I don’t know if a 30% annual decline in PV can be sustained, but if so, Kurzweil is clearly right, and the first common assumption that nanotech clearly invalidates, as listed in Unbounding the Future, will be
“Solar energy will never become really inexpensive.”