Archive for the ‘Solar’ Category
Solar technology is at the heart of the renewable energy debate and has been a key source of new electricity generation for the last few years, especially in Europe. Private households and businesses are looking at ways to take more control over energy production for both environmental and cost saving reasons.
The most recent rise in demand for solar modules has been mainly driven by two markets, the UK and Japan, accounting for more than one-third of the overall solar photovoltaics demand. However, the findings also show that this trend in the solar market could be shortlived, as Germany is expected to lead the rankings again by the end of 2014. German household electricity costs are the highest across Europe and almost all countries facing steep rises in energy bills, alternative ways to generate energy are becoming ever more popular.
However, the population is taking some convincing. Two of the most prominent obstacles in the energy market are a high level of uncertainty among potential customers and the persistent belief that photovoltaic energy is expensive.
On the contrary, over the last few years solar panels have become much more efficient, providing an improved price-to-value ratio, which has almost closed the gap with grid prices. Previously, breaking even financially took years and only made minimal, if any, difference to energy bill costs.
The sourcing and production of solar photovoltaic modules and systems has also evolved, allowing for a steady price decrease over the years. Bi-facial cells, for example, capture the light reflected from the back sheet onto the cell back side. These high performance cells not only increase solar energy yield, allowing for more energy to be generated from small rooves – but also to enhance the financial return for the user.
The second obstacle, uncertainty, is mainly caused by the differing political environments across Europe. Governments have rolled back support for renewable energies in general and the photovoltaic industry in particular.
While the British government too has reduced its feed-in tariff subsidy, this does not mean confidence in the solar industry is waning, rather a sign that the industry is now robust enough to need less and less government support to survive. The stability of the UK market allow the industry to grow steadily, instilling much needed confidence in investors.
The growth of the market has been extraordinary. Solar power has been the biggest source of new electricity generation for two consecutive years and further growth is on the horizon. This shows that the market is in good shape already. With growing markets, we can expect further consolidation resulting in more competitive prices and ultimately, cheaper solar panels. The cost of modules and installation will continue to decrease.
Competition will continue to be an important factor fuelling innovation and development in the sector. While we will see further consolidation in the market, cost competitiveness will become a key element in the solar market of the future. Firstly, companies will have to offer competitive prices for their products and services to stay ahead of the competition. Secondly, by producing higher efficiency products in larger batches, prices will continue to decrease eventually reaching parity with retail electricity prices.
Even though there is still a need for subsidies in some of the markets, the photovoltaic industry is now becoming independent from financial support and its impressive pace of growth shows that it is robust enough to survive in the future. Further consolidation, price competition and innovation will lead to higher-efficiency products that are more affordable than ever for businesses and home-owners. Thus overcoming one of the most challenging obstacles at the moment, the persistent belief that solar modules are expensive, and allowing the market to continue to thrive.
The combination of solar modules with an ‘electronic brain’ is going to create the truly ‘smart’ home, offering more exciting opportunities. But, before that, solar energy storage solutions must, and will become an essential part of the photovoltaic industry of the future. The fact that in Germany more than 4,000 applications for such storage solutions have already been approved, shows that solar is not only close to grid parity but close to becoming independent from the grid. The future is already here.