The Future of Solar Energy

Solar energy farm

Solar energy in the United States is on a growth trajectory that shows no sign of slowing down. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association1, the solar energy market set a record in 2014 by growing 34 percent over 2013. Nearly 7,000 megawatts (MV) of solar electric capacity were installed in 2014, and in the photovoltaic (PV) sector, more than 6,200 MV of capacity was installed — of that, the residential segment grew 51 percent and the utility segment grew 38 percent.


The reason for that growth is simple: the sun sends down more energy than humans could ever need. According to the Department of Energy2, 73,000 terawatts of solar energy hits the Earth at one time — more than 10,000 times Earth’s total energy use. And yet in the U.S., solar energy is at less than 1 percent of the total electricity produced. Globally, solar power is just now meeting about 1 percent of the total electricity demand.


As the world begins to appreciate solar power as the clean, renewable energy resource that it is, the cost of the production and installation of solar panels has fallen dramatically to make solar affordable. Estimates3 are that the cost of solar PV cells could drop as much as 25 percent in three years. Whatever the number, the price drop for solar energy is just the beginning.


Technology breakthroughs are also accelerating. In Africa, Ripasso4 is developing a product that could bring solar energy power conversion to 34 percent. Solar plants are popping up with higher and higher capacity — the world’s three largest, Solar Star, Desert Solar and Topaz Solar, are all in California and recently opened.


As solar power becomes cheaper and more energy-efficient, solar companies are also refocusing on better solar battery solutions for energy storage. Like solar panels, lithium-ion batteries are becoming more affordable, and solar companies are developing ways to smartly integrate storage at businesses and residences with energy management software and smarter power electronics. The goal is to enable consumers to reach an energy storage point where they no longer need the grid for power.


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1U.S. Solar Market Insight,
26 Things You Didn't Know About Solar Energy,
3Solar PV Costs to Fall,
4This May Be the Future of Solar Power,

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