In two-thirds of the world, solar and wind now represent the least expensive option for new power-generating capacity, which is one reason that solar is a growing part of the energy mix. At the end of 2018, 500GW of PV capacity had been installed globally, and a recent report from the Global Alliance of Solar Energy Research Institutes anticipates that 10 terawatts (TW) will be installed by 2030 and as much as 70TW by 2050. In the United States alone 2.7 gigawatts of solar was installed in the first three months of this year, making it the most solar ever installed in the first quarter of a year.
As costs come down and supporting technology advances, the trend will only continue. “PV module selling prices have decreased by more than two orders of magnitude in the last 40 years, by the end of 2018 they were below $0.25 per Watt. This led to a dramatic decline in the price of PV-generated electricity – relative to other forms of generation – and in many parts of the world, solar electricity is absolutely cost-competitive”, says Dr. Andreas Bett, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.
Certainly lower prices are encouraging people to adopt solar energy, but government policies are also promoting solar. Because of the goal of keeping global temperature increases at 2 degrees or less, many governments are passing legislature to generate electricity from 100% renewables. One project worthy of note is the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, which is driving policy across the United States. The campaign creates networks of local leaders who are working city-by-city in helping to transition the US to 100% clean renewable energy, from the ground up. Five states (the most recent of which is Maine), plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico and over 120 cities are committed to moving to 100% clean energy, and six cities are already at the 100% mark.
Utility-scale energy storage
A growing trend in utility-scale energy storage is driven by the need for grid resilience as well as the closure of gas- and oil-fired plants. Where utilities previously had an “us or them” mentality, they are now embracing energy storage in combination with solar to help meet peak needs.
Battery storage power capacity
Economies of scale are helping to drive the expansion of utility-scale battery storage, according to Dennis Wamsted, lead author of a recent report by the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). Wamsted noted that another driver is the growing recognition by utility companies of the business case for embracing the shift. “It is likely that developers and utilities will be able to stack these benefits, making storage more economically competitive,” he said.
Saft Battery sees opportunity in this sector. Saft recently acquired 100% of the shares of Go Electric, a developer of distributed energy resilience solutions in the form of power controller technology. This technology, combined with energy storage, enables islanding of customer sites in the event of a power outage and can help stabilize the grid for utilities.
The transportation sector accounts for 39% of total fossil fuel consumption, so transitioning vehicles to alternative fuels or electric vehicles charged by the sun, will have a positive impact on carbon reduction. According to Deloitte’s Resources 2019 Study—Balancing climate, cost and choice, businesses are moving slowly toward purchasing electric vehicles for their fleets, but many are providing EV charging stations for employees and customers.
Electric vehicles have failed to take off in many areas due to lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Government policies are driving growth in this sector, stimulating another opportunity to get on board as a new market is launched. In 2017, the German government offered an incentive program to help establish an electric vehicle charging network of at least 15,000 charging stations throughout the country by 2020. The government set aside 300 million Euros for the project and the first two calls for applications attracted over 3,000 submissions with 15,803 charging points granted funding. A third call for funding followed in 2018 in which the government earmarked 70 million euros, which will finance up to 13,000 charging points.
Solar manufacturing depends on many industries from steel to glass to the materials that make up photovoltaic modules. In the materials market, for example, four players dominate: BASF SE, Wacker Chemie AG, Shin-Etu Chemical Co. Ltd. and Applied Materials. The market is projected to approach $20 billion by 2024, or a CAGR of 11.4% from 2016 to 2024.
Perovskite is a relative newcomer to the PV materials market. Oxford PV recently announced a consortium to demonstrate the manufacturability of perovskite, receiving 2.8 million euros from the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.
Saule Technologies is another solar manufacturer about to go to market with its flexible, lightweight, semi-transparent, single-junction solar modules designed for building integrated PV applications. A prototype manufacturing line will be launched in the fourth quarter of this year, which will be capable of printing solar modules with an area of up to one square meter.
And manufacturers of the equipment that makes solar are also seeing opportunity in this sector. Innolas is a laser system supplier to the PV industry, and it recently introduced the Lumion series that can be operated full automated or integrated as a PERC system in any print line or in a laser direct cleaving (LDC) configuration. It can reach a throughput of 7,500 wafers per hour, which his important in the price-driven solar cell market.
Solar as an attractive new investment
According to the recent BloombergNEF New Energy Outlook 2019, declining costs will result in a grid that is half powered by renewables by 2050. The report finds that with electricity demand set to increase 62% through 2050, $4.2 trillion in new investment will be attracted to the solar market, $840 to batteries and $11.4 trillion to grid expansion. The positive for the climate is the resulting reduction in carbon emissions, and the positive for the economy is the great opportunity across the many sectors that contribute to these markets.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today