Solar prices are down 75% in the last ten years. Greg Nemet UW Madison Professor and Author of the new book, How Solar Became Cheap joins the Wisconsin Energy Broadcast to explain how we got here. He reviews the global historical trends and the crucial role the US Defense Department, Germany, Japan and China have all played in reducing the costs since the invention of solar. And he tells us how this knowledge can help increase the viability of other renewable technologies.
Solar PV is exciting not just because of the massive solar resource available and low current prices, but because of how far solar has come. I am convinced that the payoff from understanding the reasons for solar’s success includes learning how to support other low-carbon technologies with analogous properties. While many technologies do not fit into the solar model, some including small nuclear reactors and direct air capture, have the characteristics that make them suitable for following solar’s path. They can benefit from solar’s drivers: scientific understanding of a phenomenon, evolving R&D foci, iterative upscaling, learning by doing, knowledge spillovers, modular scale, policy-independent niche markets, robust policy support, and delayed system integration challenges.