Harvesting the power of the Sun

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Since the development of the modern photovoltaic cell in Bell Labs, the use of solar cells to power a vast multitude of our technological creations-ranging from the International Space Station to a simple calculator-has seen a massive surge from the last decade. Today, driven by a plethora of factors, solar energy is set to dethrone coal-powered energy; completely to the grassroot level.

The global market scene

Within the last ten years, due to general awareness spread about sustainability and greenhouse emissions, several governments have implemented policies and special allowances to promote the use of renewable energy sources on a large scale. As a subsequence, in 2016 it was noted that the highest growth rate for solar power came from developing countries like China and India – with China installing almost around 40% of the world’s new solar. Currently, the highest growth of solar comes from high-population countries like the US and China, and the UK currently have the 6th largest installed capacity of any country. Germany has the largest installed solar base per person, with around 500 watts per person, followed by Japan at 337 watts. Companies like ReneSola, Sornid Hi-Tech and Jinko Solar (all three from China), Green Energy Technology (from Taiwan) and Nexolon (from South Korea) are the major stakeholders playing the role of manufacturing in this field and are continually working to push their limits for more efficiency and quality.

Where does India stand?

Described by the World Bank as having “the best conditions in the world to capture and use solar energy”, India recently has carved an ambitious new agenda to generate renewable power of up to 175GW by 2022-out of which around 100GW is to be generated by solar-India has made a great start, thanks to significant investments and a supportive stance from governments, both central and state; so much so that new solar and wind now stands 20% cheaper than the average wholesale price for existing coal-fired power. Almost 50 solar parks have been planned for the next two years, the latest example being the massive 2GW Pavagada Solar Park in the state of Karnataka, which inaugurated its 600MW first phase at the beginning of March. Furthermore, international financial bodies are also lending a supportive hand to realize the country’s new agenda; as can be seen in 2017 when the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced a partnership with India’s YES Bank to help finance solar and wind projects in the country.

The future

Despite registering phenomenal growth, solar power still only accounts for about 5% of our energy capacity across the world. The positive news is that the number continues to grow every day and this growth shall be further accelerated, as prices of photovoltaic technology continue to further drop, and climate policies continue to update. There are certain challenges, but very soon solar (and other renewable sources) shall get cheaper and replace coal completely, bringing humanity closer to achieve uncompromised sustainability.

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