The Future of Solar Energy
Fossil fuels are out and solar energy is in! As solar technology improves and fossil fuels become more scarce, the U.S. – and the world in general – invest more in solar energy to fill the gap. Among renewable energy sources, solar energy is becoming the linchpin: As of 2019, the amount of power collected from solar energy is 300 times higher than it was in 2000.
How Does Solar Energy Impact the Economy?
Solar energy is a large and growing industry. With the decline in fossil fuels – partly from the expense of producing them and partly from legislation – renewable energy has the opportunity to completely take over the energy industry. It also has the opportunity to become one of the fastest-growing industries in all of the US.
What Will Solar Energy’s Future Growth Be in the US?
Solar power is expected to be the fastest-growing form of renewable energy by 2050. This would put it above hydropower, wind power, and geothermal. In fact, not only is it set to be the fastest-growing form of renewable energy, solar is expected to be one of the fastest-growing industries within the US. Over the next five years, solar installations are set to double, with solar installer jobs becoming the fastest-growing job in the US through 2028, despite the COVID pandemic impacting solar employment. This is partly because many states, along with the US federal government, are shifting towards renewable energy. One example is Nevada, which is beginning its Greenlink Nevada project. Investing nearly $2.5 billion, this initiative would create thousands of jobs.
What Renewing of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) Means for Growth
In late 2020, former President Trump signed a COVID relief bill which included an extension of the solar investment tax credit (ITC). This tax credit was set to expire at the end of 2020 but was extended for an additional two years. This tax credit is worth 26 percent of your solar power system. In 2022, it will reduce to 22 percent, they will expire.
The ITC is an excellent resource for those looking to install solar in their home, as it will help ensure a stronger ROI for their solar modules. Additionally, the ITC will help expand the solar power storage industry. If a battery is charged with 100 percent solar-generated power, it will fall under the ITC and receive a tax credit. This is particularly useful for those who are interested in purchasing a battery backup, such as the Tesla Powerwall, to go with their solar installation.
Potential Challenges to Solar Energy
Not everything is sunshine and rainbows, however. One of the big challenges to the growth of solar power is the US energy grid. The American grid is aging and is sometimes in poor condition. There have been pushes to modernize the grid so that it can handle more renewable energy. While many plans have been proposed, there are still fights over who will pay for the American electrical system to be modernized.
New Technologies on the Horizon For Solar
The push for more solar energy is incentivizing the development of new solar technologies. An area of particular focus is the efficiency of solar panels. A solar panel’s efficiency is how much of the solar energy it receives can be transformed into usable solar power. The more efficient a solar panel is, the fewer panels are needed to power a home or business.
One way to increase efficiency is to find new materials to build solar panels out of. Perovskite is a particularly enticing prospect, with an efficiency rate of 35 percent – nearly 20 percent more than the typical efficiency rate of silicon panels. However, perovskite is less durable than silicon, which makes it difficult to use for reliable solar panels. There are many potential solutions to the durability problem to explore.
The Prospects for Solar Energy Storage
Several groups have been focusing on the problem of efficient solar energy storage. One group is a research team at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden. This team developed a solar energy storage system based on certain liquid chemicals, which allows solar energy to be stored in the liquid molecules. This helps keep the energy from dissipating.
Additionally, another Swedish breakthrough has resulted in zero-emission solar batteries, built almost entirely out of recycled aluminum. The solar energy melts aluminum inside the battery, which stays very hot for long periods of time, providing electricity during periods where you aren’t receiving direct sunlight.
The Growth of Solar and the Decline of Fossil Fuels
One of the consequences of the growth of solar energy systems is the decline of energy produced from fossil fuels. These forms of energy are becoming more scarce and more expensive while wind and solar are becoming the cheapest and one of the most widespread forms of energy production.
Additionally, the US is currently the world leader in banning fossil fuels at the local level. While these bans don’t force Americans to purchase renewable energies, they often stop new fossil fuel hookups and plants from being constructed while incentivizing the creation of new renewable energy facilities.
How Much of the World Will be Powered by Solar Energy in 10 Years?
While nobody can answer this question exactly, we can make educated guesses. The DNV energy transition forecast expects at least one-third of all power to come from solar energy by 2050. Much of this is focused on areas that don’t have much electricity production right now. It will certainly be less than that in the next 10 years, but that doesn’t mean that solar isn’t growing. In the US, solar energy production can reach 20 percent of all electricity production by 2030. With solar showing no signs of slowing down, we can expect good things in the future of solar energy.