Solar energy has come a long way over the years, and is now the fastest growing source of new energy projects. It’s costs have come down significantly, and the efficiency of the panels has also increased.
This makes them an affordable option for large renewable energy installations in wide open spaces, and also a good option for installing on individual rooftops. Here are some other facts about this interesting and fascinating technology.
Solar is the Cheapest and Most Abundant Energy Resource in the World
The cost of installing a watt of solar energy, a measure of cost efficiency in energy markets, is the lowest of all energy sources, coming in at round $1.65 per watt (wind is $1.66 per watt, with fossil fuel and nuclear coming in at much higher costs).
In terms of abundance, sunlight contains an enormous amount of potential energy. As sunlight is available in all areas of the Earth, and even on the surface of water, it is much more accessible than fossil fuels, which usually travel large distances between where it is extracted, refined, and consumed.
A Solar-Powered Plane Flew Around the World to Showcase the Potential for Solar Energy
Solar Impulse II, captained by Andre Borschburg and Bertrand Picard took off from Abu Dhabi and flew over 40,000 km without using a drop of fuel. The plane was able to sustain flight at night as a result of on-board batteries and solar panels that covered the entire fuselage and wings.
The longest leg of the journey lasted 117 hours and 52 minutes from Nagoya, Japan to the islands of Hawaii, making it the longest sustained period of air travel of any aircraft. These 5 days and 5 nights were even more impressive, as the pilot could not stop to stretch his legs, and the cockpit was not insulated. It was both a proof of concept and a feat of human perseverance.
Even if Your Roof Isn’t the Best for Solar, You Can Still Invest and Benefit from the Technology
There are many different community-owner solar projects, which are organized by members of the community to finance and invest in solar technology. Usually, they rent space on a rooftop of building in the community, and return a portion of the revenue received from the sale of solar energy to the community members who invested.
Most solar investments return 5% per year, meaning that a $10,000 investment returns $500 per year. These investments are structured for 15 years, and will return the initial $10,000 investment over time, and the total return over those 15 years will be $15,000. These investments are guaranteed, making them an attractive option for those looking for minimal risk away from the stock market.
Solar Power is Finding it’s way onto Floating Solar Projects
China is a leader in floating solar installations, and opened one of the largest back in 2016, in a basin that used to be involved in mining for coal. The land would be un-useable otherwise, so this really helps to support the energy needs of the growing middle class.
Another added benefit is the cooling effect of the water helps to keep the panels operating more efficiently, and water can be captured from the surface of the panels due to evaporation to be used for irrigation of nearby farmland. The potential for floating solar panels is only expected to increase, as more land is used to house a growing world population, and the additional benefits of the floating panels.
Solar Panels are Becoming Clear, and Could be in Your Next Office Windows
Tall office skyscrapers have lots of windows, and modern structures have the greatest number of windows. New technology takes the basics of solar, and directs sunlight to small solar panels that are small enough to be embedded within the window frame.
The current technology is only able to produce enough energy to power a single smartphone from a typical window, but the technology is getting better, and it could very well lead to powering every computer in the office.
Big Oil Companies and Countries are Investing in Solar Energy
Saudi Arabia made a big splash when it announced that it was looking to invest $109 billion in developing and installing enough solar energy to reach 100% renewable energy for the country with the greater amount of oil reserves.
As mentioned before, China is already the world leader in the amount of solar energy installed, and will look to continue to install even more solar power as they reduce the amount they planned to build coal-fired power plants. China has about 2.3 million people employed in the renewable energy field, and looks to supply 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2030.
Total Energy bought a battery maker for more than 1 billion Euros, in order to further develop the potential to store energy from solar panels. Many industry experts believe that Total is serious about making solar a bigger part of their energy portfolio, and they were one of the founding members of the SolarPower Europe lobbying group to advocate for more solar energy-friendly policies.
Going forward, there is an even greater pressure on these oil companies to admit that there is a market for renewable energy, and that fossil fuels will not last forever. Shareholders hold significant power in shifting the perceptions of these companies, and the market looks to be shifting.
Solar Energy Generation was a Major Part of the 2016 Brazil Olympics
For the Olympics, a Solar Tower was installed, which at over 100 meters tall, was able to generate enough electricity to support the entire athlete’s village. On top of that, it was also able to produce enough energy to also power the Olympic venues. Total, the same oil company that purchased a battery maker, was responsible for funding this initiative.
This high profile case of solar energy helped to educate Brazilians about the potential for solar energy for their homes, but also for the regional government to look into putting solar on more of their buildings.
With the advent of the installation in 2016, the industry shows signs of increasing the amount of installations from about 1,700 today to over 1.2 million by 2024. On top of that, if every rooftop installed solar in Brazil, the electricity supplied to the grid would be twice that of current demand, helping to lift a significant portion of the population out of poverty.
Solar energy is one of the up-and-coming technologies, and it is sure to only get better with age. There is all kinds of investment from large countries and industries, and the cost for the general public to invest in a system of their own is becoming more affordable. I would definitely look into tools like Google’s Project Sunroof to see what kind of savings you could expect from installing solar panels on your roof.