Little Rock, Ark. – The nation’s next energy crisis will not be one of shortage but rather one of abundance, according to advanced energy researcher and entrepreneur Dr. Douglas Hutchings.
Hutchings, founder and CEO of Picasolar Inc. based in Fayetteville, delivered remarks Wednesday to a crowd of 60 advanced energy leaders, policymakers and industry stakeholders assembled for the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation’s latest speaker series event held at Copper Grill. Picasolar, which spun out of research at the University of Arkansas in 2012, works with leading solar manufacturers around the world to improve the efficiency and reduce the costs of silicon solar cells.
Hutchings described the waves of innovation in renewable energy technologies as “faster and steeper” than ever before. He noted that solar energy’s growth rate stands at 41 percent, or nearly doubling every two years. The result of such fast-paced and cost-competitive advancements will be an abundance of energy from renewable sources.
Hutchings noted that retail electricity rates are significant budget impacts to households and businesses alike, with rates historically increasing over time. He challenged attendees to envision a future in which the cost of energy production would be zero. As evidence that technologies are advancing toward that reality, Hutchings cited the recently set world record 2.42 cents per kilowatt hour for solar bid under a 20-year power purchase agreement.
The additional benefits of utilizing advanced energy, such as curbing pollution and reducing water usage, notwithstanding, “the trend is undeniable: we are moving toward a zero-marginal cost of electricity to society,” Hutchings said. “So where is the crisis?”
Hutchings recognized that advanced energy technologies pose a challenge for some of today’s “highly regulated electric utilities with their current business models.” However, he said the forward-thinking, utilities of the future already are taking advantage of renewable energy technologies. Those companies will be able to capitalize on the “huge opportunity” in transmission and storage.
Hutchings’ presentation can be found here.
A passionate advocate for advanced energy, entrepreneurship, and STEM education, Dr. Douglas Hutchings has been recognized by Inventors Digest as one of the five “Nation’s Top New Inventors.” Hutchings’ Picasolar invented the Hydrogen Super Emitter, which represents the single largest increase in solar cell efficiency since 1974. The team and technology won the MIT Clean Energy Challenge and has received three rounds of support from the Department of Energy SunShot Incubator.