MegaTrends: The True Power of Solar Power Technology
MegaTrends shed light on how different industries are collaborating together to shape a new future society. Read MegaTrends to gain a glimpse as to what products or services will become standards in the near future.
A significant global megatrend is solar power technology. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar energy is the “cleanest most abundant renewable energy source available.” There are currently three popular methods for harnessing solar power for energy: (1) photovoltaics (PV), (2) concentrating solar power (CSP), and heating and cooling systems.
Thomson Reuters analysts reported that since 2004, Germany made a commitment to solar power. Currently, one-third of the world’s solar capacity is located in Germany because there are financial incentives promoting solar use.
According to the International Energy Agency, the global energy demand has nearly doubled. Demand is expected to reach almost 20billion tons by 2040. With regard to photovoltaic (PV) solar power specifically, the total installed capacity in 2019 could reach 450 GW worldwide.
According to Solar Power Europe, PV sales were typically measured by rooftop, residential installations. However, with increasing cost effectiveness and favorable tax policies, utility-scale installations have become most favored worldwide. When tax incentives that favor solar power are eliminated, the number of installations decreases. This has been shown in Europe and remains to be seen in the United States in 2017 when tax incentives are expected to expire. Solar power’s ability to become the first and dominant source of electricity in the world is dependent on its cost and reliability.
An issue paper presented at the South African International Renewable Energy Conference reported that the majority of solar powered technologies are grid-connected. However, new technologies allow for off-grid sustainability and the ability to sell power back to the electrical grid.
Technologies such as SolarBox Generators, Smart Microgrids and Micro-solar utilities seek to make solar power easier, cheaper and more efficient.
1. SolarBox Generators
SolarBox generators are, in essence, micro solar power plants. In nations where power is unreliable, SolarBox generators have solved a problem for many people in the developing world. As an alternative to diesel power generators, SolarBox technology provides consistent clean energy to homes and businesses without emitted noise or pollution. This innovation is destined to become a trend among billions of people who currently live disconnected from the electrical grid.
2. Smart Microgrids
Traditionally, power has been a one-way system delivering energy from a centralized plant directly to residents and businesses. The technology was controlled and inflexible. However, the revolution of cloud technology has paved the way for a different system in the energy sector. Energy flow can be two-ways with individual units also feeding power back into the electrical grid. The grid can now also be digitatlized, flexible, and dynamic. Smart microgrids provide short term backup power to the grid for regulation and smoothing as well as responding to frequency issues. This technology provides enhanced energy security. According to Active Power, global microgrid demand is increasing and expected to increase from $675 million to $15.6 billion from 2014 to 2024.
3. Microsolar Utilities
A micro-solar utility is a system of photovoltaics or another renewable energy source that is linked throughout a small community or village through a wiring network. This wired network is off of a general grid but connects to its own centralized micro-facility with a charge controller, inverter, storage, auxiliary power and metering for financial management. There is also a manager of this central facility. This trend works best in rural areas where consistent access to power is rare. Local communities can create their own mini power plant using a renewable energy source.
This system is closely linked with the micro-credit financial product. Microfinance solutions allow customers to take out a small loan to cover the costs of a solar energy system in places as reported by the SAIREC. These off-grid systems allow more persons to afford PV solar systems.
4. Concentrated Photovoltaics (CPV)
CPV is an emerging trend which is quite cost effective. There are two main options, high concentration or low-to-medium concentration, which requires Direct Normal Irradiation (DNI) typical of the “sun belt” area of the planet. Though market share is currently small, it is growing as more companies are adopting this technology.
These MegaTrends are changing the way energy is produced, managed and controlled as power becomes less centralized and more independent.