People are born free and are omnipresent in shackles. — “Social Contract Theory” Rousseau
When we are born, we will always face various constraints, and we always laugh at those ideas that require both…and…and…, by extension, a population and a society will always face various environmental constraints. Two thousand years ago, China created a unified system because of the need for centralized management of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. Under the farming system, when the population increases to a certain amount, the marginal output drops, and most people barely have enough food and clothing. A slight natural and man-made disaster will result in a dynasty change. With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, with fertilizers and machinery, the population has reached a level, from 1.6 billion in 1900 to about 7.5 billion now. From the perspective of the human population, the biggest and most important constraint is energy.
In 1963, Soviet scientist Nikolai Kardashev (Nikolai Kardashev) put forward the theory of the hierarchy of cosmic civilization, dividing cosmic civilization into three levels. As the level increases, the technology of civilization and the ability to control nature become stronger.
Among them, the first-class civilization can use the energy of the planet it is on, including the energy that the planet receives from outer space, such as the solar energy of the stars; the second-class civilization can develop and use the energy of the stars where it is, for example, we can use the solar system The energy of the third-level civilization can control the energy of the galaxy in which it is located. When we reach the third-level civilization, we can freely use the energy of the galaxy.
So where are we now? Level 0.7 civilization, don’t underestimate the 0.3 difference from level 1. According to the calculation method of civilization, a civilization level increase of 0.1 means a 10 times increase in energy. In other words, we are 1,000 times away from level 1 civilization. Imagine our power generation growth 1000 times, what kind of society it will be.
Energy is the core of civilization and the biggest constraint.
The academic circles say that we have experienced three industrial revolutions and are now experiencing the fourth industrial revolution. In fact, in terms of energy, we are still eating the roots of the first two industrial revolutions. Therefore, we do not have too deep feelings about the so-called third industrial revolution represented by electronic computers and biotechnology. In the industrial revolution, there was no progress in energy technology. We still drove fuel cars and used electricity from thermal power plants. Computer technology is nothing more than a linear improvement under the existing rules. It is a stacking of various factors of production, and there is no exponential progress. This is the main reason why the world’s economic growth has slowed since 2000, because the potential of existing technologies has been basically exhausted.
However, the advancement of photovoltaic technology is about to truly kick off the next industrial revolution.
When we analyze the problem, there is a “first principle”. This principle was first proposed by Aristotle. Recently, it has been widely quoted by everyone because of Tesla’s Musk. The original text is “In every system In the exploration of, the existence of first principles is the most basic proposition or hypothesis, which cannot be omitted or deleted, nor can it be violated. “It sounds a bit confusing, but it actually means starting from the source of the matter and looking for the simplest solution. Program. For example, you are worrying about your own work. If you change your mind, why are you working? Make money to support the family. Since the purpose is to make money, then you can have many options. It can be just to make money, which is worthless, or it can be all money anyway. Why hang on this tree. This is the first principle.
If according to this first principle, the level of civilization is measured in terms of energy anyway, we will find a solution to rapidly improve the application of energy. So which of the existing solutions has the greatest potential? Photovoltaic.
Some people will say that to increase energy usage, we can also pile up thermal power. But the problem is the cost constraint. Thermal power has costs, and coal, oil, and natural gas are non-renewable resources. The room for cost reduction is locked, but photovoltaics are not.
This is the latest data on the cost of electricity from different energy sources by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association. From the above figure, we can find that since 2009, the cost of photovoltaic power generation has dropped rapidly, from 35 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity in 2019, while the cost of traditional nuclear power and coal power Has not changed much. Currently, photovoltaics are the cheapest way to generate electricity.
Photovoltaics is essentially a semiconductor industry. It follows its own Moore’s Law, that is, for every doubling of power generation capacity, the price of new installed power will decrease by 16%. From 2009 to 2019, the photovoltaic industry perfectly followed this law, even The target was also exceeded.
Why is the photovoltaic industry a semiconductor industry? Because photovoltaics are the same as the semiconductor industry, the basis is silicon, but the requirements for silicon wafers are different. The purity of silicon in the photovoltaic industry only needs 6 9s, which is 99.9999%, while electronic grade silicon wafers need 11 9s. That is 99.999999999%. Different requirements require different equipment, but the principles are basically the same. With the strong iterative capabilities of Chinese manufacturing, the cost decline curve of the photovoltaic industry is very steep, far exceeding world expectations. It was predicted in 2009 that it would take at least 20N0 years to achieve parity on the grid, possibly 30 years, but only 10 years later, China succeeded in bringing the cost per kilowatt-hour of photovoltaic power to the same level as that of coal-fired electricity and achieving parity on the grid.
How much potential does the photovoltaic industry have?
NREL is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the United States. This is their photovoltaic power generation technology roadmap. History has proven that photovoltaic power generation perfectly follows the path on this map, step by step along the film-crystalline silicon-polycrystalline-single Crystal climbed upwards and successfully realized photovoltaic parity on-line power generation. Monocrystalline power generation can now achieve a maximum conversion rate of 26.1%. What is the highest conversion rate in the laboratory? 47.1%. What does 1% mean in terms of photovoltaic power generation costs? For every 1% increase in the photovoltaic conversion rate, the overall operating cost will drop by 7%-10%, which means that the cost of photovoltaic power generation will drop exponentially in the future. For the first time in human history, energy costs may be close to zero!
There is a saying that rumors are far ahead predictions, and science fiction is scientific predictions. American physicist Freeman Dyson, who used to be Einstein’s deputy, put forward the idea of ”Dyson Ball” in the 1960s, which is to design a ball to wrap the sun and fully utilize the sun’s energy. This seems to show us the ultimate development direction of energy in the future, that is solar energy.
The foreseeable future of photovoltaic technology puts traditional energy companies at the crossroads of a new era. A recent article “Oil companies part ways: Europe goes to the left, the United States goes to the right, China is difficult to choose”, which deeply reflects the anxiety of existing traditional energy companies.
The three established European oil companies, Shell, BP, and Total, have collectively contracted in the oil and gas industry and transformed from an International Oil Company (IOC) to an International Energy Company (IEC), fully embracing new energy, citing “investor pressure” , Investors want clean energy. For this reason, I don’t believe it anyway. The purpose of investment is to make money. Only then can we talk about environmental protection and can’t eat enough. What about weight loss? Haven’t you seen that the cost of photovoltaics has fallen to the point that it can overthrow the traditional petrochemical power generation, and then you can completely switch to new energy? On the surface, you can talk about ideals, but you must have business on the inside. This is the style of old Europe.
Relatively speaking, the American oil companies Exxon Mobil and Chevron are straightforward enough. They have invested so much in oil and gas. Recently they have also spent a lot of money on shale gas. How can they withdraw now? It will be a day after a day, anyway, it will take a long time for photovoltaic to replace traditional energy.
The three barrels of Chinese oil in the middle, namely PetroChina, Sinopec, and CNOOC, are particularly embarrassing. Undertaking the task of maintaining national energy and industrial security, economic considerations are not the first priority. Before new energy can completely replace traditional energy, the three barrels of oil still have to cover the bottom.
In March 2015, Wang Chuan, a Chinese commentator in Silicon Valley, wrote an article “The Second Law of Wang Chuan Investment: Why You Should Sell All Energy Investment”. Now it seems that the logic of photovoltaics is complete. Correct. This is the dusk of traditional energy and the dawn of photovoltaics. But we know that the sun is the worst at dusk, that is the last day’s hold on the earth, but what we get affectionately is despair. The night is darker than the darkness before dawn. This time is also the coldest time of the day, but the light will eventually come.
The bell has sounded, and the feast of traditional fossil energy has officially ended.