Ray Kurzweil: Here’s why solar will dominate energy within 12 years

April 27, 2016

Growth is exponential just like processing power. Ray Kurzweil has made a bold prediction about the future of solar energy, saying in remarks at a recent medical technology conference that it could become the dominant force in energy production in a little over a decade.

That may be tough to swallow, given that solar currently only supplies around 2% of global energy. But Kurzweil’s predictions have been overwhelmingly correct over the last 2 decades.

Kurzweil’s basic point, reported by Solar Power World, was that while solar is still tiny, it has begun to reliably double its market share every 2 years — today’s 2% share is up from 0.5% in 2012.

Many analysts extend growth linearly from that sort of pattern, concluding we’ll see 0.5% annual growth in solar in the future, reaching 12% solar share in 20 years. But linear analysis ignores what Kurzweil calls the law of accelerating returns — that as new technologies get smaller and cheaper, their growth becomes exponential.

So instead of looking at year over year growth in percentage terms, Kurzweil says we should look at the rate of growth — the fact that solar market share is doubling every 2 years. If the current 2% share doubles every two years, solar should have a 100% share of the market in 12 years.

Technically, that would suggest solar would have a 128% share of the market in 12 years — highlighting the fact that Kurzweil’s prediction is only partially grounded in the real world. Even 100% share is extremely unlikely, fossil fuel giants are not going down without a fight.

But those giants ignore Kurzweil at their own peril. He predicted the internet, cloud computing, and wearable tech nearly 20 years ago — on the basis of the same principle of accelerating returns that’s behind his solar call.

related reading:
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Solar Power World | “Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts solar industry dominance in 12 years”