I have been playing with Google’s Ngram Viewer. This tool looks at millions of books and determines the frequency of words and phrases over time. I was shocked by one thing that I stumbled upon. We’re not talking about solar the way we did in the last oil crisis, in books anyway.
Take a look at the Ngram comparison between solar electricity and gas prices. The relationship between the two is staggering in the years following the 1973-74 mid-east oil crisis. However, the more recent gas price increases have not resulted in the same spike in writing about solar electricity.
On the other hand, solar electricity has become the topic of writing steadily since the “end” of the 70’s oil crisis. But why hasn’t solar electricity shown the same spike in interest recently? Perhaps the talk has moved to the Internet. Maybe we don’t need to write about it because it is no longer a pie-in-the-sky concept. It’s mainstream. It’s obvious.
There is a lesson to be learned from the past. Despite the flood of references to solar energy products in the late 1970’s, widespread adoption fizzled out. Prices for solar energy products were sky high, and gas prices were just not high enough relatively speaking. When cheap gas returned, the chatter dropped off, and the solar energy industry entered a stagnant period. Price of gas are on the rise again, and there is no end in sight. This is not a crisis. This is the new reality. Solar energy products are the cheapest they have ever been, particularly solar electricity (photovoltaics).
Right now we don’t need to write about solar energy. We need to do it to avoid the next crisis in the international oil market.