Finding the real numbers on the current capacity of installed solar generation is not such an easy task. The information available is conflicting in several places.
An alternate way to achieve an answer that might be reliable is to look at how much Wind capacity is currently installed and use that for comparison. The numbers say that wind capacity in the US is currently around 44 GW which makes approx 2.5 percent of the Total electricity supply. Using those numbers we can see that 1% of total US electricity capacity is somewhere around 18 GW.
44 / 2.5 = 17.6 GW
So if the current installed Solar capacity in the US is 4.5 GW and this year they are looking at doubling the amount of installations from 1.6 GW to 3 GW based on the record of 750 MW installed last quarter we can see that at 3 MW per year it will take 600 years to convert all the electrical infrastructure to Solar.
18 x 100 = 1800 GW (total US Electricity Capacity)
1800 – 4.5 = 1795.5 (not solar)
1795.5 / 3 GW/year = 598.5 years
The good thing is that number is not as dramatic as the number from the previous post as we have effectively made the jump from 13000 years to 600 years. But that number is still a long time when we look at how much time we have left on fossil fuels. To make things simpler the US has a stated goal of achieving between 20 and 30% of electricity supply from Solar. To get there at the current rate it will take between 120 – 200 years.
600 / 5 = 119.5 (20%)
600 / 3 = 199.5 (30%)
So clearly even at the record breaking pace of the last quarter the US is gonna find itself in a bad place very quickly. If the current pace is maintained they will only manage to have 3% of the total capacity converted by the end of this decade including all existing installed capacity. To make the goal of 30% before the oil becomes completely tapped out by all the other consuming nations at the end of this doubling period the US will need to immediately increase it’s installation rate by a factor of 10 times.
And that is just to get to 30% of existing capacity. What we are not factoring in at this point is the additional demand on the grid that electric cars will create. By itself it is not a major problem as there are currently very few electric cars driving around. However with a stated goal of 1 million electric cars on the roads by the end of the decade that will start to impact the over demand for electricity.
What this means is that there is very little liklihood of Solar being able to meet the targeted capacity for replacing the loss of fossil fuels as they have a significant short fall of supply versus demand.