What’s the future of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy? With energy demand continually increasing, along with the need for new and clean energy sources, solar energy will definitely be an important part of the future energy mix.
But how exactly will PV fit into tomorrow’s energy picture? At REC we believe that PV solar will rapidly become a vital source of energy, particularly for meeting peak demand and energy security needs. The PV industry keeps bringing down the production costs; the price of a solar system has been more than halved between 2006 and 2010. However, regulatory support and incentive schemes will still play a vital role in a stable deployment of solar energy in years to come.
12 percent of EU energy demand by 2020
Current developments in Europe underline both the strength and growth potential of PV solar energy. The European Union (EU) has already set a goal of meeting 20 percent of energy demand through the use of renewable sources by 2020. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), of which REC is a member, has conducted a study, “SET for 2020”, which shows that assuming basic improvements to regulatory conditions, PV solar power could satisfy as much as 12 percent of EU electricity demand by 2020.
Read more: Photovoltaic Power is Poised to Join European Energy Mainstream by 2020.
To put this in perspective, although solar energy makes up just 1 percent of total installed electricity generation capacity in the EU, it accounted for 10 percent of the newly installed capacity for 2008. At such growth rates, which are lower than the astronomic growth that the industry experienced over the past decade, the 12 percent goal is a realistic one.
An ideal energy source for our changing needs
There are several reasons why PV solar power is such an attractive energy source. To begin with, it is extremely clean. Solar panels, which are typically guaranteed to perform for as long as 25 years, produce electricity without pollution or emissions that can contribute to global warming. The process of creating the solar panels themselves is also extremely clean. Here, REC leads the solar industry. We produce solar panels with the lowest carbon footprint, utilizing the lowest amount of energy to do so. The panels contain silicon that we refine ourselves, within a closed loop process that contains and recycles 100 percent of the chemicals used in the process.
The wide availability of PV solar energy helps to make it a prime choice within the global mix of energy sources. Solar panels require nothing more than sunlight for the electricity generation process. This means that PV solar technology can provide energy security for virtually every nation in the world, helping to reduce the tension and uncertainty that carbon-based energy sources often create.
The fact that PV solar energy can be generated virtually anywhere, even right in the heart of densely populated urban centers, can help reduce the load on long-distance electricity transmission networks. Here PV solar is a significant improvement from both carbon and hydro power generation sources, which are often located far from where they are consumed.
Furthermore, PV solar produces electricity at the same time as peak energy demand occurs in most markets: during the daytime. This makes it well-suited to replace carbon-based sources of peak energy demand, such as gas-fired turbines, which have a larger impact on emissions.
Room to grow
Equally important is the solar industry’s capacity to deliver enough PV solar products to make a difference in the energy mix in the short to medium term. To put this in perspective, last year the global PV solar energy industry made enough solar modules to satisfy the entire electricity demand of California, which is one of the world’s largest energy markets.
With ample production capacity and an ideal clean energy product, the PV solar industry is more than capable of meeting even the most aggressive growth scenarios, both within Europe and globally. The future is incredibly bright for PV solar.