MITEI releases report on the future of solar energy

Report highlights enormous potential and discusses pathways toward affordable solar energy.

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Solar energy holds the best potential for meeting humanity’s future long-term energy needs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions — but to realize this potential will require increased emphasis on developing lower-cost technologies and more effective deployment policy, says a comprehensive new study, titled “The Future of Solar Energy,” released today by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI).

“Our objective has been to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long term, which we view as necessary,” says MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, the Chevron Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT.

The study’s chair, Richard Schmalensee, the Howard W. Johnson Professor Emeritus of Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, adds, “What the study shows is that our focus needs to shift toward new technologies and policies that have the potential to make solar a compelling economic option.”

The study group is presenting its findings to lawmakers and senior administration officials this week in Washington.

“The Future of Solar Energy” reflects on the technical, commercial, and policy dimensions of solar energy today and makes recommendations to policymakers regarding more effective federal and state support for research and development, technology demonstration, and solar deployment.

Among its major themes is the need to prepare our electricity systems, both technically and from a regulatory standpoint, for very large-scale deployment of solar generation — which tends to vary unpredictably throughout the day. To this end, the study emphasizes the need for federal research and development support to advance low-cost, large-scale electricity storage technologies.

The analysis finds that today’s federal and state subsidy programs designed to encourage investment in solar systems should be reconsidered, to increase their cost-effectiveness, with greater emphasis on rewarding production of solar energy. 

The group also recommends that state renewable portfolio standards, which are designed to increase generation of electricity from renewable resources, be brought under a unified national program that would reduce the cost of meeting set mandates by allowing unrestricted interstate trading of credits.

The study concludes by pointing to the urgent need for an ambitious and innovative approach to technology development, with federal research and development investment focused on new technologies and systems with the potential to deliver transformative system cost reductions.

The MIT “Future of …” studies are a series of multidisciplinary reports that examine the role various energy sources could play in meeting future energy demand under carbon dioxide emissions constraints. These comprehensive reports are written by multidisciplinary teams of MIT researchers. The research is informed by an external advisory committee.

Topics: Research, MITEI, School of Engineering, Sloan School of Management, Chemical engineering, Energy, Alternative energy, Solar, Policy, internet of things


Yes! Solar will definitely be a major energy provider for the world in the not so distant future.

Battery storage is also a major obstacle at this juncture, but there is some good news:

While independent energy sources are a good thing, those sources can not be increasingly back-fed into the utility grid in an uncontrolled manner, as is currently happening.

Our 120-year-old grid structure was never designed for millions of intermittent, massively fluctuating sources.

Having attended multiple international energy storage conferences, I have learned that interest in energy storage technology is global and new energy storage companies are emerging every week. Many of them are being fostered by Cleantech or Energy Innovation hubs around the world. One such hub is the MaRS Discovery District and it's Advanced Energy Centre. New energy ideas meet investors and a process to foster the new ideas into viable companies at MaRS. The Advanced Energy Centre works with a Cleantech cluster of ventures and investors to introduce new technologies to private companies. New ideas in distributed electric generation, heat energy management, energy storage, energy optimization and energy conservation are but a few of these. There are literally "better light bulbs" being introduced by entrepreneurs. As part of my firm, I work with the AEC on Community Energy projects and the Energy Internet of Things #EIOT. I believe that every "plugged in" device is connected to the EIOT platform. EIoT is where electron control and data management meet streaming big data and orchestration to optimize every energy related thing connected through communications tech. Distributed Solar generation is but one of the many things that need to be connected to be optimized. My end game is to reduce carbon released by human activity to preserve a home planet that we can survive on. There are a lot of steps to create a balance of life today for life tomorrow. This post is one small step in that direction. Thank you MIT for sharing great Solar ideas and research. Collaboration for a Planet we can continue to live on. Andy

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