Thursday, January 17, 2019

Technology and Economies of Scale Have Driven Prices Down and Scale Up The Use of Solar Energy Around The World

The world has seen rapid growth in the development of renewable energy in recent years, particularly wind and solar. Technologies to harness energy from the wind and the sun have existed for centuries. But as nations become more concerned about the threat of climate change, they are turning increasingly to clean energy solutions. These renewable resources are rapidly becoming the energy of the 21st century. In 2015, nearly half of all new power-generation capacity installed worldwide came from wind and solar energy.

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Solar Power System

Every country needs energy to fuel economic growth, and African countries are no exception. But while more than 13 percent of the world’s population lives in sub-Saharan Africa, the region has less than 3 percent of the world’s total power-generation capacity. When talking about the amount of power available in a country, we refer to the “installed generating capacity,” which is the sum total of all power that could be produced by all of the country’s power plants and power-generation facilities.

Among sub-Saharan countries, only South Africa has enough installed generating capacity to provide its citizens a level of energy consumption comparable to the global average. But even here, there are millions of people living without regular access to electricity. So how can we provide all Africans with electricity and ensure we have the energy we need to grow our economies without increasing harmful greenhouse gas emissions? The answer may be right here.

Mobile solar technologies are paving the way to significantly scale up the use of solar energy around the world, especially in countries with high population density and where land is a constraint. Market report estimates the global potential of mobile solar, even under conservative assumptions, to be 400 gigawatts (GW). That is roughly the total capacity of all solar photovoltaic installations worldwide at the end of 2017 , mobile solar technologies, aims to help policymakers, private developers and practitioners understand the market potential, costs and policy implications of mobile solar, as well as the challenges to overcome to get this emerging technology off the ground.

The installation of solar photovoltaic panels floating on the surface of lakes, hydropower reservoirs, agriculture reservoirs, industrial ponds, and near-coastal areas – is one of the fastest-growing power generation technologies today. It opens new horizons to scale up of solar power globally, particularly in countries with land constraints.

The capacity for floating solar is growing exponentially. At the end of 2014, total global installed capacity stood at 10 megawatts (MW). As of September 2018, that figure had grown more than 100-fold, to 1.1 GW. The new report series estimates the global potential of floating solar, even under conservative assumptions, to be 400 gigawatts or roughly the total capacity of solar photovoltaic installed worldwide at the end of 2017.

The greatest advantage of floating solar is that it avoids land acquisition and site preparation issues associated with traditional solar installations. In some cases, floating solar allows for power generation to be sited much closer to areas where demand for electricity is high. This makes the technology an attractive option for countries with high population density and competing uses for available land.

Floating solar also complements existing hydropower infrastructure. At some large hydropower plants, only 3-4 percent of the reservoir would need to be covered with floating solar panels to double the electricity generation capacity of the dam. In addition, combining hydropower and solar power outputs can help smooth the variable nature of solar power. The technology can also help manage periods of low water availability by using solar capacity first and drawing on hydropower at night or during peak demand. In agricultural reservoirs, the solar panels can reduce evaporation, improve water quality, and serve as an energy source for pumping and irrigation.

While up-front costs are slightly higher, the costs over time of floating solar are at par with traditional solar PV, because of floating solar’s higher energy yield due to the cooling effect of water. The technology is particularly promising for fast-growing Asian economies. Interest is growing rapidly in the region, and large plants are being installed or planned in China, India and Southeast Asia.

Mobile solar offers significant opportunities for the global expansion of solar energy capacity. Years ago, solar cells and wind turbines were very expensive. But as countries like the United States, Germany, Japan and China invested heavily in wind and solar capacity over the past two decades, improvements in technology and economies of scale have driven prices down dramatically. In just the past six years, the cost of solar photovoltaic panels has dropped 80 percent, and the cost of wind turbines has fallen by a third. That means more power for more people at a much lower cost.

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