Futurist Ray Kurzweil sees solar energy advancing at an exponential rate, soon reaching the tipping point towards universal use.
Futurist, scientist and Singularity proponent Ray Kurzweil has a more than optimistic view on climate change. In concordance with his Law of Accelerating Returns, Kurzweil sees solar power technology growing at an exponential rate similar to that of computing power. According to Kurzweil, within twenty years, solar power capability will rise and the cost will drop to the point of effectively replacing fossil fuel use worldwide.
As Kurzweil tells Lauren Fenny of PBS:
One of my primary theses is that information technologies grow exponentially in capability and power and bandwidth and so on. If you buy an iPhone today, it’s twice as good as two years ago for half that cost. That is happening with solar energy — it is doubling every two years. And it didn’t start two years ago, it started 20 years ago. Every two years we have twice as much solar energy in the world.
Today, solar is still more expensive than fossil fuels, and in most situations it still needs subsidies or special circumstances, but the costs are coming down rapidly — we are only a few years away from parity. And then it’s going to keep coming down, and people will be gravitating towards solar, even if they don’t care at all about the environment, because of the economics.
So right now it’s at half a percent of the world’s energy. People tend to dismiss technologies when they are half a percent of the solution. But doubling every two years means it’s only eight more doublings before it meets a hundred percent of the world’s energy needs. So that’s 16 years. We will increase our use of electricity during that period, so add another couple of doublings: In 20 years we’ll be meeting all of our energy needs with solar, based on this trend which has already been under way for 20 years.
Kurzweil’s energy prediction is in line with President Obama’s State of the Union pledge to engineer a nationwide 80% renewable energy use by 2035 and Hans Rosling’s statistical view of a worldwide trend towards increasing health and wealth.