Solar energy is on track to become the world's dominant energy source by 2050, surpassing even fossil fuels, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.
UK researchers say solar policy and its falling cost could push solar to a "tipping point" that positions it to "dominate global electricity markets" in the future - a trend they say is likely to continue even without additional pro-solar policies.
The researchers used a model to forecast energy sources until 2060, looking at 22 types of energy ranging from nuclear to natural gas. The data is collected from all over the world.
Their find? Solar power is likely to be the dominant source, accounting for more than 50 percent of the generated power in 72 percent of the simulated scenarios.
"We currently have a fossil fuel-dominated system, and without additional policies we're getting to a state that's mostly solar-dominated," University of Exeter professor and lead author of the study Femke Nyse told Bloomberg.
However, all is not clear for the world, which is already experiencing the worsening effects of global warming.
The researchers raise several questions that could affect the wider use of solar energy. One of them is the impact of solar mode on grid stability. Solar energy is fickle as not every day will be sunny. Researchers say this problem can be alleviated by adding other renewable energy sources, better battery storage and an overall upgrade of the world's electricity infrastructure.
Other factors they believe could hinder the increase in solar energy use are the availability of financing for these projects in developing countries, the political implications of job losses in the fossil fuel sector and problems with the supply chain of raw materials. Solar panels are made up of polymer, glass and various metals, some of which must be mined under poor labor conditions in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, if we can overcome these challenges, there may be a bright future in solar energy - a cheap source of energy that, while not a perfect solution, has far fewer drawbacks than fossil fuels. /BGNES