There is no doubt that the question of how to generate cheap, clean, and sustainable energy will be one of the most pressing challenges for this generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.
In the wake of the plunge and fluctuations of crude oil prices the past two years, much has been made of the attractiveness of natural gas as an energy and heating source. Yet, there is another alternative to crude oil that's becoming increasingly economically viable: solar power.
Ahead of Natural Gas
As the current presidential administration is on its way out, one of the legacies it leaves behind is an emphasis on developing alternative forms of energy. This "green energy" initiative, which focuses on identifying and nurturing renewable alternatives to burning fossil fuels, is finding new adopters all over the globe, as well. Significantly, the recent climate accords struck in Paris include major commitments by China and India, two of the most rapidly growing—and certainly the two most populous—economies in the world.
The greater adoption of solar energy solutions has been at the forefront of this trend. New construction of natural gas power generators and wind power plants in the U.S. is expected to add 8 gigawatts and 6.8 gigawatts of total capacity to these sectors in 2016, respectively. (No new coal power plants were believed to have been built this year.)
We won't have the final numbers from the Department of Energy until March of this year, but all indications point to new solar plant construction outpacing both natural gas and wind power facilities. The addition of 9.5 gigawatts of power-generating capacity this past year alone is enough to power 1.8 million homes. It also triples the amount of solar power generating capacity from the previous year.
Although the long-term implications of this energy revolution cannot be overstated, it's unrealistic to suggest that the entire industry is going to change overnight. Nobody is going to stop burning oil yet. The point is that we are approaching a crucial threshold where the momentum shifts in favor of clean energy sources like solar. Even if we must concede that the process is slow and gradual, we are seeing emergent technology like solar energy displace the older fossil fuel technologies, eating up an ever-larger share of the global energy market. (This should have an impact on the precious metals, as silver is an indispensable component in the manufacture of solar panels.)
Solar power also offers the potential to transform how people interact with public utilities, and how these types of services are delivered to the consumer. In many places, those with solar cells installed in their homes can actually sell back any surplus electricity generated to the energy grid in exchange for a standard rate of pay.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.