Solar power continues to gain momentum around the world, spurred by falling prices, new technology, and the growing energy needs of communities worldwide. Let’s dive in and look at why solar is growing so quickly and which specific markets are on the rise.
The falling costs of solar power
In 2015, US solar costs fell by 5% year over year for residential systems and 12% for large-scale solar installs, while 2016 saw solar costs drop below fossil fuel costs in several countries around the globe. That trend is continuing, making solar power an attractive option for all income levels.
It’s not just panel costs that are bringing overall expenses down, either. The costs of lithium-ion batteries, a standard choice for solar energy storage, are expected to fall at a rate of 20% to 30% per year, according to 2015 projections from Deutsche Bank.
Further, new technologies are emerging that make panels much more efficient, attractive, and practical for use on residential buildings. Gone are the days of conspicuous or bulky installations; for roofs, there are panels now that are almost indistinguishable from regular shingles.
Top solar markets
The result of all this solar development is a major bump in PV adoption around the world, with several markets set to become top players in the next few years.
India has set some lofty goals for solar adoption in the coming years, making it one of the top markets to watch. The country has set a formidable target of 100 GW by 2020. The country is set to add a full 9 GW in 2017 alone.
Inderpreet Wadhwa, CEO and founder of solar company Azure Power, said in an interview in the Huffington Post that she believes that solar power could be the cheapest form of energy in India within a few years. This is very significant, because India is one of the most populated countries on earth, with a constantly growing need for energy. Having that energy come from renewable sources like solar would be a major win for both the industry and the environment.
Though China has long topped renewable lists, it deserves a spot on this list of markets to watch, thanks to its continued efforts. The country plans to spend at least $360 billion on renewable energy over the next few years, and solar is a big part of those plans. It intends to add 15 to 20 GW per year through 2020, nearly tripling its total capacity and putting it squarely at the top of solar-producing nations. In terms of total energy output, China has a long-term goal of having roughly 60% of it be from renewable sources by 2050.
In the US, panels run about $3 per watt installed, which, according to EnergySage, is about 9% less than a year ago. And while the current presidential administration could impede solar growth on a federal scale, there are still several states making things happen on the solar-energy front. California is currently aiming to have 50% of its electricity supplied renewably by 2030, with solar making up a large part of that amount. Toward the end of 2016, the state already had an estimated 13 GW of solar PV capacity.
Other states are also beefing up their solar goals for the coming years. New York City has already hit high marks, thanks in large part to Mayor de Blasio’s efforts. But the city shows little sign of slowing, aiming now for 1 GW of solar capacity by 2030.
There are a few other markets that deserve a nod, even if they aren’t topping any charts just yet. One is Chile, which boasts the largest solar energy plant in South America: El Romero. The plant was recently connected to the country’s national power grid and is slowly ramping up production. Once complete, the 246MW plant will be capable of generating 496GWh of clean power per year, or enough to provide power to 240,000 homes in the country.
Another up-and-comer is Egypt, which has one of the most attractive renewable energy markets in the world. The country plans to generate 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2022. Speaking strictly to solar, Egypt plans to up its capacity by 3.5GW by 2027, meaning this country is definitely one to watch.
With prices being at an all-time low and innovation at an all-time high, 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for solar worldwide. And it’s only going to get better from there. We may soon be at the critical mass needed for solar to become the global energy source of choice.
Written by Brooke Nally, Content Coordinator with Solar Power Authority