Solar power is advancing at a remarkable rate. Major investments by the Obama administration and much greater investment by the Chinese government have accelerated competition, driving down prices for high-quality solar modules. Installation of solar projects in China has exploded. In China, 195 projects, with a total capacity of over 1.8 GW, will be installed within 2011, comparable to installations in the United States. In today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman describes how the fossil fuel industry and its allies are attacking solar’s success:
We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That’s right, solar power. If that surprises you, if you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives. [...]
Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.
Solar powered-electricity is getting close to the price of coal-fired electricity, Krugman notes. “And if we priced coal-fired power right, taking into account the huge health and other costs it imposes, it’s likely that we would already have passed that tipping point.”