Solar Energy vs Coal


In terms of energy investments, solar energy is crushing coal when it comes to development opportunities. Solar in many ways seems to be unstoppable. After all, the sun offers all of us a free resource for heat and light, which gives us the opportunity to turn that into multiple forms of energy to be used.

Yet coal, dirty as it may be in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, continues to do more than just survive as an energy resource. Crashing prices may have downsized the industry, but coal isn’t going to go away. Renewables like solar may see more investments in total, but investment levels for coal have been rising since 2013.

In the solar energy vs coal debate, however, it appears that solar will eventually win out as the preferred energy resource. Here’s why.

1. Solar is an industry that keeps doubling in size.

From 2000-2015, the amount of energy that has been produced by solar energy has doubled seven times over. That’s even better than other popular renewables, such as wind energy. At this moment in time, solar is able to compete with coal on price thanks to the levels of investment that it is seeing.

2. Coal prices are in a virtual freefall.

In the past, if fossil fuel prices went down, then demand would skyrocket almost immediately. Since 2013, coal has been seeing a very different result. Pricing for coal keeps falling and no one really knows when it is going to stop. Many countries have been reducing their demand for coal for 10+ years. Even in China, the demand for coal has stopped rising. And in the US, there is enough coal already stockpiled to provide energy resources for more than 400 years at current demand levels.

3. Pricing in solar is falling, creating a massive demand.

Over the past 40 years, the prices for solar installations have fallen by more than 150 times than when the technology was first introduced. Over this same amount of time, the number of installations that have been performed as prices have fallen has increased by over 115,000 times, according to an April 2016 report from Bloomberg. It’s simple supply and demand. Solar saves money, costs less to install, and reduces a household’s carbon footprint.

4. Solar is a technology.

Coal helped to get us where we are today, but solar is our future. This is because solar is a technology instead of a resource that is mined from the ground. Because it is a technology, its efficiency continues to increase over time. This will encourage prices to continue falling in the future. Add in the fact that battery storage capacity is also increasing to provide power when the sun isn’t up outside and the potential for this technology in the future is massive.

In the solar energy vs coal debate, it is solar that will eventually win. Developing countries still need and use coal regularly, but the developed world is moving away from fossil fuels. In time, this means our planet will be cleaner and healthier, but just as productive.