A few years ago, Solar was considered experimental and was a niche industry in the huge sector of energy generation. However, all it took for the world to accept solar was a close inspection of green energy benefits that it offered. Today, Solar PV panels have a huge demand, global capacity additions nearly reached 77 GW, which is 34% year-on-year growth rate, and 2017 offers even a higher hope. In 2016, power generation form renewable sources (1,985 GW) surpassed coal based energy generation (1,951 GW). In 1977, solar panels cost $77 per watt p, and current cost $0.33-$0.36 cents/per Watt p identifies more than 99% fall in prices.
These patterns lead solar panels prices to be $0.25-$0.26 cents/per Watt p at the end of 2017, displaying a 20% annual drop in costs. Battery storage systems are ready for list off, with promise of storing more power from the sun and save it for longer period. Even countries are investing more in renewable energy ($286 billion in 2016) than conventional fossil fuel ($130 billion in 2016). All of this points towards global acceptance towards solar energy and highlights the efforts to make it a mainstream energy source.
Although, solar technology seems perfect for mass adoption right now, the question ‘where to from here’ still surfaces. Let us highlight current improvements and developments of solar technology and try to anticipate the future of the technology.
Better Energy Conversion
New technology like PERC, N-type, and Bi-facial cells are already being adopted in solar panel development to increase its solar energy generation efficiency. However, researchers are always looking for a better way to convert more sunlight through solar cells. Solar cells have a limited capacity to harness energy from sunrays. And much of the energy is lost as heat and dissipates in the environment. Research on developing materials (and adding them to the solar panels) that can harvest energy from unused spectrum of solar rays is the centrepiece of this new technology. This technology promises energy conversion capacity enhancement from 30 per cent to 70 per cent.
Energy with Aesthetics
With residential solar plant usage on the rise in the world (116% growth globally, US had 21% growth, and India showed 113% growth in 2016), improvements on rooftop plants have progressed far beyond imagination.
Recently, a company has developed a system to imprint images on the panels, without compromising their efficiency level. So, a future not far behind where all rooftop installation will present the option to the consumer, adding to their home décor ideas and choices. The technology is developed with active contributions from MIT talent pool, and is set to win our future world with style.
Doesn’t sound fictional anymore, we have already learnt how to use magnetic fields (Inductive charging) to transfer energy without a wire. Wireless mobile charging is already pretty popular right now. And researchers are trying to use this technology to spearhead project, that are supposed to offer energy transfer solution on a massive scale. A space agency is already working on Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) project, which is meant to send solar panels near Earth orbit. The panels are supposed to harvest energy from the sun and send it through wireless energy transfer to our energy grids/base station via microwaves.
Obviously, the technology needs more work; however, the logic behind the process seems promising. And in future this technology could be a game changer saving huge amounts of money, space, and resources that we now spend on developing energy plants.
The future of solar shows a plethora of possibilities. The simplicity of the technology offers options that can be pushed into an array of development ideas. With rising global acceptance and technological improvement, we believe solar will lead us to a brighter future.