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Christopher “Solar Energy Today” Adebayo
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In the year 2000, the entire world had roughly four gigawatts of solar power capacity installed, and it didn't seem to be going anywhere fast. In 2002, the International Energy Agency forecast suggested that, by 2020, global solar capacity would still be hovering at around 10GW and still barely register on the global energy markets.
ARS TECHNICA — How things change. Over the 15 years that followed, solar energy capacity expanded by 5,700 percent, reaching 227GW. The International Energy Agency revised its solar estimates upwards three times over that span, but its most recent estimate—over 400GW of installed capacity by 2020—is already falling behind the curve of solar's growth.

In 2015, the most recent year that numbers are available, 57 gigawatts' worth of solar panels were shipped. That's enough to add 400GW of new capacity in seven years, under the completely unrealistic assumption that our manufacturing capacity won't expand in the mean time.

If most projections have been wrong, is there anything we can say about the future? An international team of energy experts makes an attempt to figure out where solar might be going out to the 2030s, when they expect we'll have terawatts' worth of photovoltaics on our grids.

Their analysis includes many of the highlights above, along with a few more. For example, it notes that power purchase agreement prices for solar power have dropped by about 75 percent over the last seven years alone, leaving them at about $50 per megawatt-hour in the US. Globally, many sites are seeing prices approach $30/MW-hour.

For those reasons alone, the authors expect that the US will continue to install from 10 to 15GW of new solar annually through 2020—about double the rate that Germany peaked at earlier this decade. Globally, solar manufacturing capacity will head up to 100GW annually.

Future tech

But to a certain extent, solar is now the victim of its own success. As it rapidly became commoditized, the investment money needed to continue to expand manufacturing capacity has begun to tail off. Investment for research into new technology is also constrained.

But, they say investment now could really pay off. It's plausible, they argue, to get the levelized cost of solar power down to a quarter of what it is now, to the $30/MW-hour range. For context, that would be a third the cost of coal and half the price of natural gas.

Doing so, however, would require a large set of optimizations: more efficient panels, lower manufacturing costs, cheaper components, and so on. Some of these are already in the works. First Solar, the authors say, has plans to produce panels for even less than would be needed to reach that goal. And, after years of stagnation, silicon's efficiencies have crept up. The two major thin-film techs, CIGS and Cad-Tel, have also seen efficiencies rise. And there's always the chance that emerging tech like perovskite cells will take off.

It's also possible to shift the financials dramatically by increasing the durability of panels. Tech has been demonstrated that lowers the drop in efficiency to about 0.2 percent a year, which would leave panels usable for up to 50 years. That would give solar installations lifetimes that exceed those of many fossil fuel plants and would allow a return on investment over a much longer period.

Grid management

Going well below the costs of fossil fuels may be essential to the continued expansion of solar. The authors note that a variety of studies have suggested that it becomes challenging to stabilize the electric grid once variable sources exceed 30 to 40 percent of the total electricity supply. Adding batteries could essentially change solar from a variable energy source to a dispatchable one.

Right now, however, with solar more expensive than most other energy sources, tacking on batteries is simply not economically feasible. But the authors suggest that, by 2030, projections of battery tech and costs, combined with their projections for solar power, would leave solar + batteries competitive with current coal prices.

In addition, batteries can serve a variety of functions in stabilizing the grid. Specifically, they can be managed to respond to sudden changes in supply or demand. Currently, that function is provided by the inertia of the large spinning hunks of metal found in traditional generators, but those will become less common on an increasingly renewable grid.

The authors note that better grid management could also mitigate some of the challenges posed by intermittent energy sources. This includes demand-response, in which customers receive benefits for delaying high-energy-use activities until the supply of renewable energy is abundant. This could involve anything from being able to set your washing machine to start its run once electricity prices drop below a set point, to over-cooling or heating buildings overnight, allowing them to use less power the next day.

It's also possible to have grid-aware management of the batteries of electric vehicles, which should be present in much larger numbers if the battery improvements mentioned above come to be. By slightly adjusting the rate of charging of millions of vehicles, a grid could easily tolerate temporary bumps in supply or demand.

If all of this comes to pass, the authors suggest, it's possible that the world will have somewhere over 5 terawatts of solar capacity by 2030. And, if we get there, we'd have the manufacturing capacity to install another terawatt annually throughout the 2030s. Even if the panels only produce 30 percent of their optimal capacity, that would still take a big chunk of global power demand, which currently requires about 15TW of generating capacity.

Thank you to our friends at Ars Technica for providing the original article below:


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How Solar Energy Can Make You Save $$$ Every Year
But there's more to solar energy than simply saving money. Here are all the outstanding benefits of switching to solar power.

Save on Your Energy Bills

The most obvious and noticeable outcome of installing solar panels on your home is the immediate savings you’ll notice on energy bills.

And the best part is you don’t have to worry too much about how big your solar panel installation is - however many panels you decide to have installed, you’ll be saving money. Of course, the bigger the installation, the more money you’ll save, going up to having ZERO expenses on monthly electricity.

If you love numbers

The average for energy savings in a 20-year time span for Americans is roughly $20,000. In more populous areas (like New York), the savings can go up to $30,000. In Hawaii (where the sun is ever so present), the savings got close to $65,000.

Add Value to Your Property

Homes with solar panels will automatically increase on market value and sell faster as well. A research showed that homes with solar panels sell 20% faster and for 17% more money (Source: NREL)

Do you know about solar incentives?

Many states in the country have incentives to photovoltaic (PV) adoption. It varies from one state to another, but in almost every case, you won’t have to pay the entire installation by yourself - in some cases, you can even get paid for producing solar energy. Read more about these incentives here!

Reliability and Security

No one can charge you for sunlight. For that reason, sun power will always be a secure method for generating energy, and it’s just as reliable too - you can always project how much energy will be generated, as the sun never stops rising, no matter where you are.

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There has been a big surge in the number of households installing solar panels, with March installations reaching their highest level in almost five years.
Key points:
Solar panels were installed on about 15,000 homes and businesses in March 2017
Installations have hit their highest level in almost five years
Experts say rising electricity bills and recent blackouts in SA are turning people to solar

Warwick Johnston from energy consultancy firm Sunwiz crunched the numbers and said 91 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems were installed during the month.

"March has been a very impressive month for 2017," he said.

"We already saw a surge starting to build up in 2016, and we were wondering if that was going to continue into 2017 and it really has just continued to skyrocket."

Queensland led the way, installing 25 megawatts of capacity, which is enough to power about 5,500 homes and businesses.

Installations were also up in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

Mr Johnston said the recent blackouts in South Australia were a factor in the rising demand.

"People are certainly aware of the benefits of solar power and storage to offset or protect against grid blackouts, and that has been a driving factor in the uptake of solar," he said.

"We're seeing the uptake occur in states which weren't affected by those blackouts as well, so it really is people being aware that solar panels are a great way to beat rising electricity bills."

Installation figures in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT were flat.

Warwick and Lola Neilley recently installed a four-kilowatt system on the roof of their home in Melbourne's northern suburbs.

"We are paying basically $2 dollars per month in electricity," Lola Neilley said.

"It's an incredible saving, and [there is] the peace of mind that we are not at the mercy of the commercial interest of the privatised distribution of electricity."

Mrs Neilley said a lot of people in her neighbourhood had installed solar panels.

"The council have what they called the 'nonna effect' where one grandmother installs the solar panels and tells the others," she said.

Sarah McNamara from the Australian Energy Council said it was not surprising consumers wanted more control over their power bills.

But she said it added a layer of complexity to the energy market.

"It gives retailers opportunities to provide attractive options for their solar PV customers in terms of the feed-in tariffs they're offering and perhaps other services as part of a retail package," she said.

"For the national energy market (NEM) it means there is more intermittent generation in the market.

"It's a good thing that there's more generation but a challenge for the NEM, because when the sun isn't shining in the area you live in then you are not able to generate electricity for your own home or to put back into the electricity market."

She said batteries were potentially an important part of the solution going forward.

To continue, go here


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GREENTECH MEDIA — GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced these historic figures today with the publication of the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2016 Year in Review report.

On average, U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) system pricing fell by nearly 20 percent in 2016. This is the largest average year-over-year price decline since GTM Research began modeling pricing in this report series.

“It would be hard to overstate how impressive 2016 was for the solar industry,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Prices dropped to all-time lows, installations expanded in states across the country, and job numbers soared. The bottom line is that more people are benefiting from solar now than at any point in the past, and while the market is changing, the broader trend over the next five years is going in one direction -- and that’s up.”

The report forecasts that an impressive 13.2 gigawatts of solar PV will be installed in the U.S. in 2017 -- a 10 percent drop from 2016, but still up 75 percent over 2015. The dip will occur solely in the utility-scale market, following the unprecedented number of utility-scale projects that came on-line in the latter half of 2016, most originally scheduled for completion before the expected expiration of the federal Investment Tax Credit, which has since been extended. By 2019, the utility-scale segment is expected to rebound, with year-over-year growth across the board.

“Though utility PV will reset from an origination perspective starting in 2017-2018, distributed solar is largely expected to continue to grow over the next few years due to rapid system-cost declines and a growing number of states reaching grid parity," said Cory Honeyman, associate director of GTM Research. "That said, ongoing net metering and rate design battles -- in conjunction with a declining incentive environment for non-residential PV -- will continue to present risks to distributed solar growth."
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The rapid growth of solar energy in the United States is the result of forward-looking policies that are helping the nation reduce its contribution to global warming and expand its use of local renewable energy sources.

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The Pew Research Center found last month that 89% of U.S. adults want to expand solar power, the highest of any electricity source surveyed.

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On Nov. 4, Walmart announced an aggressive plan to increase its investments in renewable energy, pledging to power half its operations from wind, solar, and other renewables by 2025 and to cut the carbon footprint of its operations by 18 percent over the same period.

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