the Cusp of a New History
Richard G. Parks
July 14, 2009
All Rights Reserved
are times when something fundamental changes
in human affairs. We live in such a time.
Many of the old familiar patterns are gone,
swept away by the tumult of recent economic
and political events.
when this, the worst downturn since the
Great Depression, finally ends and prosperity
returns, the world we inhabit will not be
the one we so recently left behind. The
great arc of two timelines, the world as
it was and the world as it will be have
intersected, colliding in the present. We
stand at the cusp of a new history, not
quite sure of where we've been and not at
all certain of where we're going.
choose to be pessimistic about the changes
taking place and some elect to be optimistic.
Being an inventor, I tend to hold a positive
view of change. But whether you are a pessimist
or an optimist (or just don't care either
way) one thing is certain - this new world
will be different.
In a very real sense we have just entered
the 21st Century, almost a decade after
the calender event itself. Those who lived
during the first years of the 20th Century
could not have imagined the enormous forces
of change that had been unleashed. It took
two world wars and a worldwide depression
in between before the true outlines of the
last century became apparent. And longer
still before the world we regard as "normal"
became a reality.
the great changes now taking place, the
production of energy verges on a great upheaval.
With the inevitable decline of old energy
production methods brought about by geologic,
economic, political and environmental factors,
a new and exciting era of enormous, untapped
renewable energy resources and opportunities
many ways, this transition period in energy
production methods is reminiscent of exploration
of new and uncharted territory in the American
West during the early 19th Century. The
pessimists among us will no doubt be quick
to point out that the new era will also
see many of the same kinds of follies as
happened in that earlier frontier expansion.
this new age will also be characterized
by unanticipated discoveries and inexhaustible
supplies of energy that will usher in a
period of growth and wealth creation greater
than any in previous human history.
unpredictable the near future may be, it's
already possible to see, albeit dimly, the
shape of some things to come. An online
discussion of the financial outlook for
one of the renewables (solar) recently caught
Editor-in-Chief of Solid-State Technology
says that according
to Stephen O'Rourke, Managing
Director, Deutsche Bank Securities, speaking
at a SEMI New England "Wafers to Wall
Street" Breakfast Forum (Sept. 19,
2007 near Boston), "The cost to produce
electricity with solar PV technology should
reach grid parity with traditional utility
electricity generation in five to eight
ORourke views this time frame as a conservative
scenario. "Once this [parity] occurs,
the industry will likely take off on its
own merits without the need for incentives.
The key factor is that the US solar PV electricity
generation cost curve for known solar PV
cell technologies is expected to drop from
roughly 25¢-30¢/kWh today to about
10¢/kWh by 2020. As the price drop
continues, the price for solar generated
electricity will transition through what
is commonly referred to as grid price parity
or “convergence”. (approximately
average retail prices of conventionally
generated electricity in the United States
will rise from 8.6¢/kWh (where it was
in 2006) to potentially more than 20¢/kWh
by 2020, depending on cost projections for
conventionally generated electricity increases
ranging from 4%-7%."
Industry Finance and Stock Performance
Wall Street analyst: Take
long view on solar PV
Date: September, 2007
(by Phil LoPiccolo, Editor-in-Chief, Solid-State
things about this article stood out in stark
relief for me. The first is the date. This
forecast was issued in September 2007, just
as the current recession began and we were
all blissfully unaware of the cliff ahead.
At that time the solar "boom"
was underway and the market was peaking.
Prediction of a collapse, though counter
intuitive then, could not have been more
timely. The "Shake-Out Trough"
in the graphic strongly coincides with the
other surprise was the overall shape of
the finance and stock performance curve
in the graphic. I saw this very same curve
ten years ago just after the dotcom market
collapsed! It chronicled the ultimate rise
of the Internet industry.
curve appeared in an online analysis of
Internet activity. Though widely panned
and discounted at the time, as it turned
out, the curve was very close to the actual
performance of the Internet market in the
years following its publication. I see many
of the very same forces at work in the renewable
energy industry today.
This type of curve diagrams the birth of
a new industry. On the left side of the
graphic is the classic unsustainable "bubble"
portion of the curve. This is followed by
the inevitable collapse trough and then
the long, slow climb-out, after which activity
finally exceeds the levels of the bubble
years. The key to all this is the understanding
that later sustainable activity is fundamentally
different from the activity during the bubble
Innovative new products and services play
a big role in the development of a sustainable
market in any new industry. At the time
I first saw this curve, Google was just
two years old and almost nobody foresaw
the major force it would become in the future
online market. At that time, Microsoft ruled
with an iron hand and no Internet startup
could possibly challenge this hegemony.
Fast forward to 2009 when Google confronts
Microsoft at every turn, with the latter
struggling to keep up.
same thing is going to happen in the renewable
energy market. The bubble is already behind
us and we are experiencing the collapse
trough now. As new, innovative products
come online in the period ahead and the
renewable energy market develops, companies
we've never heard of will overtake and then
eventually surpass today's market leaders.
Many changes are in store as the great arc
of history continues its sweep into the
new century, carrying us along with it.