Insights on the Future of Solar Technology
by Martin Desmond
The importance of renewable sources of energy has taken centre stage in recent times. Of course, one of the primary motivating factors involves the ongoing threats posed by climate change and our impact on the environment. It is nonetheless prudent to mention that consumers are also keen to leverage the benefits associated with specific sources of green energy. Solar power is a particularly relevant point in this case.
Were you aware that global solar energy production has now exceeded 6,000 TWh (terawatt hours) on an annual basis? As this technology becomes more available (and cheaper), it is a foregone conclusion that its presence will exert a massive impact upon the world around us. Let’s now take a quick look at the advantages of photovoltaics for the consumer before highlighting the future of solar technology.
Introduction to the Future of Solar Technology: Addressing the Pain Points
There are several practical reasons why solar energy is set to enjoy a bright future. From a purely pragmatic point of view, studies have shown that this form of power is now cheaper than other sources such as fossil fuels. As global fuel prices continue to rise, it only stands to reason that consumers will be even more receptive to the cost-effective nature of photovoltaics.
Another major concern that should not be overlooked involves the continued dependence upon traditional forms of energy such as fossil fuels. Not only has this led to increasing geopolitical tensions, but some suppliers have increased prices following demand. This places an additional strain upon existing budgets and in certain cases, it could even lead to serious international conflicts. These are some of the main reasons why solar power has become a much more rational alternative in recent times.
Now that we have learned to appreciate some pertinent pain points regarding fossil fuels, what do the experts have to say about the near future of solar technology? The information outlined immediately below could very well come as a slight surprise.
The Use of Government Incentives
Governments are keen to adopt greener energy production practices. This is due in no small part to the ambitious targets which have already been established. For example, the United Kingdom has already set a goal to completely rely upon renewable sources of energy by the year 2035. Other nations have committed to similar plans.
The only potential issue is that some consumers may not be able to afford such a paradigm shift. This is why incentives such as the UK Green Homes Grant are predicted to become even more numerous soon. Similar schemes for businesses should likewise make their presence known. This is obviously great news for those who happen to be governed by tight budgets.
Advancements in the Manufacturing Process
One of the reasons why solar energy was prohibitively expensive in the past arose from how panels and similar systems were created. During the 1980s and even the 1990s, the industry was hardly as advanced as in these modern times. Thus, production methods have become much more streamlined. This has also led to a host of innovative solutions.
One example can be seen in the presence of solar shingles. These units can be mounted upon a roof much like a traditional shingle and yet, they will provide a viable source of power. Another benefit of these shingles is that they require much less space when compared to traditional panels. So, they represent ideal solutions for smaller commercial and domestic properties.
It should also be mentioned that the solar panels themselves weigh much less when compared to previous models. This helps to take the guesswork out of the installation process. Shipping costs have likewise fallen, and lighter panels signify that they can be mounted in a variety of locations.
On a final note, these technological advancements have allowed manufacturers to provide much more comprehensive warranties. This is very important for the average consumer, as such guarantees offer peace of mind in the knowledge that solar energy represents an excellent return on investment (ROI).
Unique Solar Power Applications
The future of solar technology will impact far more than the average home. Scientists are continuing to find new and unique applications by thinking outside of the proverbial box. For example, many streetlights are now powered by PV cells. These cells will charge throughout the day and provide a source of energy during the overnight hours.
Solar stills can be used to heat water within a commercial building. Property owners will therefore not have to rely upon traditional methods such as fossil fuels and liquid natural gas (LNG).
Communities found close to major motorways can benefit from noise barriers fitted with solar panels. Not only will this help to create a more tranquil urban environment, but they can generate electricity that will then be placed back into the grid.
An Increased Demand for Energy Storage Solutions
While the technology behind solar panels and photovoltaic cells is impressive, the storage solutions are also advancing at a breakneck pace. Of course, this is necessary from a purely practical point of view. The 2021 Texas Power Crisis clearly illustrated that more viable techniques needed to be employed after millions of homeowners were left without energy after a major winter storm. Engineers are therefore designing a host of novel and yet affordable storage solutions (such as in the form of efficient solar batteries). The prices of these batteries are also expected to plummet in the years to come.
An Increased Level of Industry Competition
Any industry which begins to enter a “boom” phase will always experience a growing amount of competition as more companies enter the marketplace. As this article highlights, the same holds about solar power. While this will force start-up firms to think slightly outside of the box, it is also excellent news for consumers.
Heightened levels of competition have always been associated with more amenable rates. These benefits are expected to trickle down to home and business owners. They will also be able to choose from a host of different energy providers as opposed to being forced to remain contracted to a single firm.
Increased Consumer Awareness of Solar Technology
The concept of consumer awareness was touched upon earlier in this article and it deserves a closer look. A recent study found that the majority of citizens across the United Kingdom look favourably upon solar power. Many are also keen to have panels installed at their homes or places of business. This awareness has primarily arisen from a more thorough understanding and appreciation for what this type of renewable energy has to offer.
However, some individuals might still not be convinced. This is why major solar power firms will be allocating their profits towards effective and educational marketing techniques. When these are combined with the benefits outlined above, it becomes clear that photovoltaics will soon become a household word.
What Hurdles Will Solar Technology Face?
It is just as important to take a quick look at a handful of stumbling blocks that solar technology will be forced to address soon. One of the most pertinent involves the growing demand for installation and maintenance services. However, the logistics behind these efforts can be challenging. Companies will therefore have to streamline their operations to provide viable solutions to a burgeoning number of customers.
Another possible issue involves labour shortages. The future of solar technology requires the use of dedicated and highly competent professionals, as the technology itself is quite advanced. Companies must hire and train employees so that they can address potentially complicated technical situations. This requires time as well as money. Firms will need to balance these requirements following their growth rates if they wish to remain one step ahead of the curve.
A final hurdle involves the efficiency of the typical solar panel. At the present, most panels can convert between 17 and 19 per cent of solar rays into electricity. In other words, as much as 83 per cent is going to waste. Researchers are therefore looking for ways in which they can increase the electrical output of each cell. Most professionals believe that efficiency rates as high as 30 per cent are not unreasonable to expect. When we take into account the fact that solar panels were only 12 per cent efficient in 2010, such predictions seem to be well within our reach.
The Future of Solar Technology: A Decidedly Bright Future
We have already witnessed an incredible number of changes throughout the solar power sector over the past 30 years. Indeed, some of the current advancements would have been considered the stuff of fiction in the not-so-distant past. From lighter and more efficient panels to a plethora of practical and affordable applications, this industry is set to transform the world around us.
This is excellent news for the average consumer as well as the global environment. As we continue to witness a shift away from outdated fossil fuels, sustainable solutions are set to become commonplace. Solar power should therefore continue to evolve at what can only be called a breakneck pace. It will therefore be interesting to see what additional changes come to light as the years progress.
Author Bio: This article was written by Martin Desmond of Solar Panels Ireland company Wizer Energy. Martin and his team provide comprehensive Domestic and Commercial PV Systems installation services nationwide.