Solar could generate half of the world’s electricity by 2050 and become the cheapest source of energy, Gao Jifan, the chief executive officer of Trina Solar Co, said at the Boao Forum for Asia.
Global solar power capacity has the potential to grow to 14,000 gigawatts by the middle of the century from 800 gigawatts at the end of last year, Gao said in a panel discussion at the annual forum in Hainan. Chinese company Trina is the world’s third-biggest supplier of solar panels.
Gao said he sees solar dropping to a third or less off current costs by 2050 and this, together with more efficient panels, would be instrumental in driving uptake. The world will also need to vastly expand storage infrastructure to cope with unstable solar generation and build ultra-high-voltage transmission systems to get the power to consumers, he said.
The solar industry will have its work cut out to reach Gao’s lofty targets. More than 400 gigawatts of panels would need to be installed every year – double the record set in 2021 – amid competition from other technologies including wind, nuclear and fossil fuels backed by carbon capture technology.
Solar only produced 3.3% of the world’s power in 2020, and it’s likely to rise to 22% by 2050, according to BloombergNEF.Still, manufacturers are building new facilities to make sure the capacity for growth is there. Trina could assemble about 29.6 gigawatts of solar modules a year by the end of 2021 and has already announced plans to more than double that by adding another 41 gigawatts of factories, BNEF data show.