MIT: Solar will tap out without better technology

Solar energy has expanded rapidly in the past several years, but it will reach its limit without technological advances and policy changes, according to a new report.

Photovoltaic solar power, which accounts for 90 percent of U.S. solar, has skyrocketed in the past six years to 18,000 megawatts of electricity capacity, up from 1,000 megawatts. Price reductions ranging between 50-70 percent have much to do with it, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative "The Future of Solar Energy" report.

"Solar electricity generation is one of very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale," the report noted, adding a caveat that "further advances are needed to enable a dramatic increase in the solar contribution at socially acceptable costs."

The report said recent industry progress will reach a natural tipping point without technological breakthroughs or changing how utilities value solar — such as by crediting it [or penalizing other forms of power] for producing zero carbon emissions.