Science50 years ago, the future of solar energy looked...

50 years ago, the future of solar energy looked bright

Farming the sun’s energyScience News, April 8, 1972

cover of the April 8, 1972 issue of Science News

More and more scientists and engineers are beginning to believe that solar conversion will account for a significant portion of the world’s future power needs.… What has changed the atmosphere lately is … the possibility of putting together large-scale units, solar-energy “farms” that would compete with power stations in the megawatt range and higher.


Solar energy production in the United States ramped up as solar panels became cheaper to manufacture and more efficient at generating electricity (SN: 3/1/08, p. 133). Since the first U.S. solar power plant opened in 1982, thousands more have been built, bringing the country’s solar capacity today to more than 100 gigawatts. In 2021, solar energy made up nearly 3 percent of the electricity produced in the United States. And the future is looking bright: Solar energy and storage is projected to account for more than 60 percent of the U.S. power grid’s new generating capacity from 2022 through 2023, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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