Energy Efficiency

As the solar industry continues to expand, the future of solar looks very bright.

What is the Future of Solar?

The use of solar energy continues to boom around the world. In some places, solar now has become cheaper to use than coal and is the lowest-cost option for energy. As the solar industry continues to expand, the future of solar looks very bright.

By 2030, solar could become the lowest-cost energy option everywhere in the world, according to Green America. And a study from the MIT Energy Initiative found that “solar electricity generation is one of very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale.”

Part of the reason for the boom is the decreasing cost of solar cells required to convert sunlight into energy.

What is The Future of SolarWhere The Solar Industry Stands

Currently, the solar industry provides about 2% of the world’s energy needs. That sounds like a small amount, but the use of solar increased 300-fold between 2000 and 2019, according to Harvard University.

The reason is simple. The sun provides enormous amounts of energy every day. Harvard reports that in just one second, the sun sends enough energy to Earth to power the entire planet’s energy needs for a full two hours.

The issue has been finding affordable ways to convert that energy into power. Unfortunately, much of the early solar industry technology proved inefficient and expensive. But over the years, the costs have come down and the level of technology has gone up.

Signs of a Bright Solar Future

There are many signs that the future of solar that many have hoped for a long time has finally arrived.

For example, power company XCel Energy already is taking proposals to build massive wind and solar power plants in Colorado. The company provides power throughout the middle of America, from Michigan to Texas and west to Colorado.

Pacific Gas & Electric in California is committed to making renewable energy 55% of its power portfolio by 2031, helping drive the Golden State toward producing 50% of its energy from renewables, including solar, by 2025 or sooner.

Also, about 335,000 people now work in the solar industry, with another 111,000 in the wind industry. That compares to about 211,000 working in coal mining or fossil fuel extraction.

Challenges Facing Solar Industry

In its report, the MIT Energy Initiative listed three major challenges the solar industry must overcome to ensure a bright future for solar.

  • Reducing the cost of installed solar capacity
  • Ensuring availability of technologies that support expansion to a very large scale at low costs
  • Easing integration of solar generation into existing electric systems.

Solving these issues has huge consequences for the planet. The study noted that a shift to solar energy on a large scale will significantly reduce the greenhouse gases that currently contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Also, the availability of solar everywhere on the planet will support bringing light and power to the about one billion people on the planet who currently have no access to electricity.

MIT projects the future of solar will involve the two current main ways to convert solar to energy:  photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar (or solar thermal) power (CSP) systems. PV typically requires direct sunshine, but can be used in power plants as well as rooftop systems for individual households. CSP can capture and store thermal power, allowing it to produce electricity even during periods of low sunshine.

Given the dire need to move away from fossil fuels, the solar industry should continue to expand in the coming years. Most experts believe that eventually, the U.S.- and the world – will become a solar-powered society.


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