Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany found that more than 50 per cent of Europe’s 41 million freestanding homes could have been self-sufficient in 2020 using just solar and batteries, with this figure expected to rise to 75 per cent by 2050.
Advances with solar technology mean that it will also make it economically viable for a portion of these freestanding single-family homes to abandon the electrical grid altogether in the coming decades.
Rather than abandoning the grid altogether, however, the researchers said it would make more sense at a macroeconomic scale for households to remain connected and feed excess energy back to other users during times of overproduction.
“Our results show that even in 2050 going off-grid won’t be the most economic choice, but it could make sense to invest in these kinds of self-sufficient buildings if you are willing to pay more for self-sufficiency,” said lead researcher Max Kleinebrahm, an energy economics researcher at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
“It would be less efficient to have a large number of households abandoning the grid rather than supporting it.”
The research was detailed in a study, titled ‘Two million European single-family homes could abandon the grid by 2050’, published in the scientific journal Joule.
The price of solar panels has fallen significantly in recent years, with the cost of solar power dropping by nearly 90 per cent over the last decade, according to calculations made in September by Berlin-based Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC).
Lead researcher Felix Creutzig said the falling costs could mean that the world’s entire energy consumption in 2050 could be “completely and cost-effectively covered by solar technology and other renewables”.
A separate study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter and University College London, published last month, found that solar energy has reached an “irreversible tipping point” that will see it become the world’s main source of power within three decades.
“The recent progress of renewables means that fossil fuel-dominated projections are no longer realistic,” said Femke Nijsse from the University of Exeter.
“Using three models that track positive feedbacks, we project that solar PV will dominate the global energy mix by the middle of this century.”