How solar energy got so cheap, and why it's not everywhere (yet)



A lot speaks for solar energy. It’s clean, renewable – and now even cheaper than energy from fossil fuels like coal or natural gas. Sounds pretty great, right? But it only makes up a tiny bit of global electricity production. Why don’t we use a lot more of it yet?

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Cost of solar:

Solar and wind in global electricity production:

The duck curve:

Growth of solar energy:

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Author: Malte Rohwer-Kahlmann
Video Editor: Cem Springer
Supervising Editor: Kiyo Dörrer

44 comments

  1. Solar energy is not cheap, think of the pollution created mining the material and refining, and making the panels. Then installation, wiring ,batteries, electronics. Solar panels are only 10 to 15 % efficient.

  2. Why put all our eggs in one basket for the future of clean energy. Why not have a mix of both Solar and Wind.

  3. How solar energy got so cheap? Well, simple answer, because China entered the game… That's how everythign got cheap

  4. Sure ! Let's make more solar panels ! It's greener ! It's free energy !
    And then, to compensate, let's make a lot of polluting batteries in large volume everywhere ! What could go wrong ?
    Oh, and don't forget to add equivalent capacities of fossil fuel power generators for the rainy days ! Or even coal !
    Who cares ? It's green, we told you so.

  5. Lithium ion will do more harm then good. Since the batteries are practically not recyclable and that production (mining and especially refining) of lithium causes much devastation to the environment. Miliona of tons of explosives and acids are used every year to produce lithium, and all of that ends up in the ecosystem, of Canada, US, Australia, and probably in a few years Europe.

  6. Ok, why don't scientists are talking about a global grid system? It's night in Japan, when there is sunlight in USA. So can't electricity produced in USA be shared to Japan and vice-versa? Then the need for energy storage will decrease. Is it really that much expensive to build a global gridline or is it just politics?

  7. What if you had a global network of interconected solar panels literaly around the world so if you have extra energy you use it to lit the part of the world that ain't lit yet so you dont have to store energy, you just keep it moving.

  8. Actually there have always been large mismatches between electricity supply and demand look at curves 20 years ago they were even worse the peak was just at about noon instead of the evening. There has always been a need for peaking plants.

  9. Liquid air batteries are being built. Just Have a Think explains how they work. It's a good idea and simple with no polluting.

  10. I live COMPLETELY offgrid. Solar and wind are my main sources of power. I do have a gas powered generator to pick up for windless and overcast days but those days are rare. I weld steel from solar power. I wash clothes from solar power. I have 2 freezers and 2 refrigerators on solar power plus all other peripherals including internet, computers and etc.
    I work from home so I dont travel to the city but once a week cutting down on my carbon footprint.
    The idea that solar and wind is not a viable alternative is ridiculous. If we all did it the world would be a much cleaner place

  11. Keep in mind that Chinese solar panels last a quarter the length of an American made one, and they produces the same electronic waste after its lifetime. Pretty sus when you already have a silicon shortage like we do.

  12. is it cheaper and better to make global power network instead to use power storage ? in example transfer power from east asia to europe and vice versa during the day and night. America has a problem…because there is not huge time difference between east and west coast.

  13. Unfortunately there is no way solar production can grow as fast as consumption. We need more nuclear.

  14. All i saw through this whole video was all that land being cleared away for these panels and more resources being wasted on something that in the long run cannot be sustained. If the population keeps growing, solar ain't gonna do f**k all for the planet except continue to cook birds in mid flight. Which i love how that was just left out of this video 😑. And what about those batteries? Unless they last forever they are counter intuitive to say the least. We need permanent sustainable solutions. Not the same trash power company's who already knew the damage they were doing long ago and now are only pandering to eco activism to continue to focus on making capitol. Cmon ppl this is not hard. What it is is predictable and no different from any other corporate plan to keep the 1%, the 1%.

  15. There are so many problems associated with lithium batteries, such as material shortages, environmental sustainability, mining conditions and price increases.
    The real solution would be artificial photosynthesis, i.e. directly from light to hydrogen (without any electrolysis), but that is still very inefficient and far from marketable

  16. Orbital solar solves the problem. You get a new one with microwaves. That's how you get your power back to the world. They're also the best frecrencys to transmit cell phone signals.

  17. Big oil is doing whatever to stop renewable energy 😡😡😡 including brainwashed morons in comments sectiin🤦‍♂️

  18. If places like California have excess solar energy during the day, it should be used to desalinate sea water.

  19. Well i think that we can also use flywheel batteries. Theyre not talked as much but for this problem of solar it may be the best bet. It has big efficiency(up to 89 percent pls repair me if im wrong) and it is reliable especially with the modern one. Wich are in vacuum casing and are using magnetic force (or how to say it) to keep them in place. For the final part of this comment they can be used immediatle when needed.

  20. My family house will get solar panels on the roof in a few months. We don't know whether we want to take a 11.2 kW or 9.9 kW version

  21. In my opinion, we are at the brink of an era of pollution that the world has never seen before. Fossils are bad enough. But we're going to replace every coal mine and oil tower with five more facilities for rare minerals to feed our batteries – which become highly toxic waste pretty soon. And if we want car-owners to switch to e-cars and then to make it possible for them to load their cars in the evening for the next day – well, then even the most developed countries will have to multiply their electricity production (only with renewables?!) and to replace their whole electric infrastucture so that it can handle the – at least – five times higher tension. (Not to forget: the higher tension in the grids the more power gets lost.)

    This poison green industrial revolution is good for China in economic terms which has those "rare-earths" in abundace and the most experience in building batteries – and wants to be the number one regarless of the costs. And they are going to be high. For all of us.

  22. I love the jerk offs telling me I'm killing the planet while they fly around in their jets. When they start walking I'll start listening until then shut up.

  23. I hate that lithium ion batteries are a economically effective way of large scale energy storage. They have a huge environmental impact, are also based on a limited resource (which we are trying to AVOID with renewable energies) and degrade over time. I am bidding on either hydrogen or more sustainable batteries such as carbon based ones.

  24. That’s because it’s incredibly inefficient and causes tremendous environmental damage !! Nuclear is the alternative period !! Not wind not solar ! The amount of damage to environment caused by the mining to get the materials to make solar and wind plus the batteries that’s required this is a stupid disastrous path stop pushing it!!

  25. Pump storage could be put on the coast. The lower reservoir is the sea. The upper reservoir is built into the top of the cliffs. Then there is no need to find two lakes separated by a hillside.

  26. The problem was NOT solved. There is a huge seasonal output difference between winter and summer months. There is still no economically possible way to save the huge amount of energy produced in the summer months to be used during the winter so far. Home owners with solar cells on their roof still wand to get energy from the grid in the winter, when their batteries are empty.

  27. Everybody is generating electruseicity to reach the 110/220 V for home use. Then at home almost all transform it to 10 V in DC. Why not from the beginning we generate what we need. And stop all the losses from transforming.

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