Moores law and the Swanson effect

Some of you may have heard of “Moore’s Law” named after Gordon Moore who in 1965 predicted in a paper that the number of components on an integrated circuit would double every 2 years for at least 10 years (based at the time on past performance). This rule up until now has proved accurate (of course there is a physical limit at some point as to what you can squeeze onto a chip) and we have seen the results of this in our pocket and all around us.

There is also a rule for solar photovoltaics called the “The Swanson effect”. Named after the founder of US solar power company SunPower this predicts that for every doubling of production the price of PV falls 20%. Again this has proven remarkably accurate. The cost of PV modules has fallen from around $74/Watt in 1977 to a forecast price of 0.74/Watt this year.  Will this continue?  Yes and no.  Over the next 30 years the cost of PV will not fall by a 100 fold.  The rate of fall is slowing.  But it will continue to fall, the cost reductions are largely not technological but based on costs falling due to production increases.  Technological improvements will also feed through, so solar really is going to be cheap.  This as we outline in our book has its dangers, but also as we wrote solar power is not the total answer, after all in temperate countries there is little sun in winter and none at night anywhere of course.  Nevertheless reader I predict you will have them on your roof at some point, as will everyone else.

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Neil

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