Charles Gay: A Brief History of Photovoltaics: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

A plenary talk from SPIE Optics + Photonics 2017.

24 August 2017

The future of the U.S. photovoltaics industry is brighter than ever, assertes Charles Gay of the U.S. Department of Energy in this plenary talk. However, he urges flexible and more profitable distribution, which he dubbed the "Uberization of PV."

"The momentum is unstoppable," Gay says. "It's only going to get better."

Gay's presentation covers the range of opportunities associated with changes in energy supply in developed and developing economies. He reviews the history of solar and discusses the key role of professionals in communicating a vision for the future.

"Our efforts to inform and educate a wide range of stakeholders will be essential to seeing the potential for wide adoption of PV become a reality," Gay says.

Gay points out that in Hawaii, the U.S. state with the largest deployment of PV per capita, customers send back information via fiber-optic cables that lets the grid make use of the power when it will have the most benefit. Commercial buildings also work with providers to offer more flexibility in the load, using high-speed communications.

"If we Uberize the grid, we can make smarter use of existing assets," he added. "That is where the greatest growth potential exists."

Charles Gay is the Solar Energy Technologies Office Director for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Dr. Gay is an internationally recognized pioneer in photovoltaics. He earned a PhD from the University of California, Riverside and was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2013.

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