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Solar May Beat Fossil Fuels as Cheapest Energy Source, IEEE Says

Electricity from sunlight may become the most economical source of power within the next 10 years, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

As solar photovoltaic systems become more common and the technology becomes more efficient, they will reach cost-parity with fossil fuels, the New York-based trade group said today in a statement.

Solar power is approaching the point of grid parity, where the cost of generating power from solar is similar to the cost of traditional sources, James Prendergast, IEEE’s executive director, said in an interview yesterday. By “about 2015, we’ll be at a significant inflection,” and “if you talk about southern California, you’re probably already there.”

Worldwide generating capacity for solar photovoltaic systems has been increasing by about 40 percent a year since 2000. At those rates, solar is expected to provide 11 percent of total global power by 2050, according to the International Energy Association.

“These projections are highly speculative,” Prendergast said, and solar may provide even more of the world’s power if adoption accelerates as prices for solar panels fall. “We are about as close to consensus as you can get that solar will be a game changer for the generation of energy in the future.”

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