Solar power will win like the Internet did

Remember BITNET, FidoNet, or UUCP? Nope, the Internet overtook all of those. And in 20 years that’s how young people will remember coal and natural gas plants, although the waste-disposal costs of nukes will be with us for ten thousand years. Solar power is going to overtake all other power sources within a decade. Here’s why I think that.

Jerry Grillo quoted me in Georgia Trend July 2013, Sun Dancing: As Georgia’s solar capacity shoots skyward, a new state utility is proposed,

“Solar power is the fastest-growing industry in the world, and it’s growing along in the same way the Internet did,” says John S. Quarterman, a Harvard-educated author and Internet pioneer who launched the first commercial online newsletter, among other things, and who lives in rural Lowndes County.

“Think back 20 years to 1993. How many people had heard of the Internet? And look at how far we’ve come. What I’m seeing with solar energy is the same kind of exponential growth. It’s clean energy that works, and it generates jobs.”

Here are 1992 ten-year graphs of Internet growth from that newsletter, Matrix News, using the only data then available, Internet hosts (computers connected to the Internet):

Those graphs show exponential growth like compound interest, for a decade. From them, I projected forward (see forthcoming post) to the inevitable victory of the Internet over all other communications networks.

For how strange that must have sounded in the early 1990s, watch this outtake from NBC’s Today Show in 1994, (“Allison, can you explain what the Internet is?”):

Back to those 1992 Matrix News Internet growth graphs. Perhaps they may remind you, as they do me, of this graph from last year:

Or this graph from this month:

And it’s not an accident. Many factors converged to make Internet growth take off (I wrote a book about that), but the key underlying factor was the continually plummeting price of integrated circuits, known as Moore’s Law. As I’ve previously explained, the same thing is happening with solar photovoltaic panels:

This is why I project that solar power will overtake every other U.S. power source in actual deployed capacity within 9 years, and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff estimates about ten years. If you aren’t familiar with these kinds of growth curves or the price drops and deployments of solar panels, like the Today Show wasn’t familiar with the Internet in 1994, your jaw will drop at how fast solar power will beat every other energy source.

The dark night of fossil fuels and nukes won’t last forever. The sun will rise on this heating world. It will even rise on our poor benighted south Georgia, as even formerly all-mighty Georgia Power fails to stop rooftop solar, the straight road to clean energy and jobs, and the disruptive challenge that will burn the century-old baseload utility business model.

As Thomas Edison said 82 years ago:

We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

We don’t have to wait until then. Solar power will overtake everything within a decade. Will we let Georgia lag behind, or will we insist that Georgia Power and Southern Company lead the state, the region, the country, and the world into that bright new day?