Global warming is pushing major changes within the energy sector, including greater investment being funneled into clean energy sources. Recent technological developments have meant that out of these energy sources, solar electricity generated via photovoltaic (PV) cell technology is taking center stage. Solar PV panels are now expected to make up the largest percentage of the renewable energy generated in the coming years.
What clean energy sources are viable today?
Clean energy comes from natural sources, is replenished at a faster rate than it is consumed, and does not contaminate the atmosphere or planet. These energy sources are also known as renewables, with the most viable today being wind, solar, nuclear, hydroelectric, and biofuels.
Clean energy sources are at the forefront of global debates in 2023 due to increasing concern surrounding climate change. Across the globe, international organizations and the majority of countries' governments are pledging to increase their reliance on renewables to reach net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.
With cost and efficiency varying between each clean energy source, one is emerging as the clear winner: the solar photovoltaic system, or solar PV.
Why does solar PV energy stand out in the clean energy field?
To understand why solar PV technology is coming out on top, it’s important to first understand its rivals:
Nuclear power is one of the most controversial clean energies. Although it’s a zero-emission energy source with a small land footprint, the waste it produces is highly toxic and not currently recycled. Additionally, nuclear power plants have been known to cause major catastrophes with long-term consequences, such as the infamous Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters.
Wind farms and hydroelectric plants have the same resource issue; hydroelectricity production requires water and wind turbines require wind. This limits the installation locations and could lead to lower energy outputs when there is a shortage. Additionally, wind turbines are noisy and can be dangerous to wildlife while hydroelectric dams can damage the environment and limit water for farming both upstream and downstream.
Energy from biofuels is achieved by processing organic waste, which is an expensive process. Furthermore, biofuels need lots of “fuel” in the shape of trees and other organic substances. This could mean more land being devoted to agriculture, increased deforestation (which would be counterproductive), and more food being directed to energy production instead of human consumption, meaning increased food prices.
Solar is the cheapest of the clean energy sources and solar panels can be installed anywhere with direct sunlight. Solar energy emerges as the most resource-independent among these energy sources. Besides, they have no toxic waste and, unlike wind and hydroelectricity, PV panels create solar electricity silently and without endangering wildlife or farming.
Why is Solar PV energy in the spotlight today?
To tackle climate change, world leaders have committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, for clean energy production to be a viable option for policy, it must work in conjunction with global economic developments.
Photovoltaic solar panels are a cheap, efficient, and sustainable technology that harnesses the power of a free and renewable resource to create solar electricity via photovoltaic cells. Today, solar electricity production is seen as one of the most viable clean energy solutions. There are four main reasons why:
1. Solar PV price is cheaper than other clean energy sources
Cost is a major factor when creating global policies and in 2021 solar PV technology surpassed gas and coal to become the cheapest electricity source in history.The analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2020 showed that solar was 20-50% cheaper than previously thought, making it a viable long-term solution. The analysis increased predictions for solar photovoltaic system use in the future — 43% more solar output than 2018 predictions.
Cost is a major factor when creating global policies and in early 2021 solar PV technology surpassed gas and coal to become the cheapest electricity source in history. According to IRENA’s newest report, for the last 13 to 15 years, renewable power generation costs from solar have been falling and became more cost-competitive with fossil fuels. The global weighted average cost of electricity from solar PV fell by 89% to USD 0.049/kWh, almost one-third less than the cheapest fossil fuel globally.
2. Solar PV technology is adaptable
Concerns have been raised over the space needed for solar photovoltaic systems, with fears of huge ugly solar farms occupying land otherwise needed for traditional farming. However, photovoltaic panel solar farms are adaptable, with highly successful case studies carried out on combining these farms with other projects to minimize land footprint, such as growing crops under panels in agrivoltaic farming or grazing sheep under them. In addition, as a modular technology, solar panels can be installed in a variety of spaces, such as on the rooftops of houses, boats, and vehicles.
In the realm of renewable energy solutions, AE Solar emerges as a pioneering force with their latest innovation, the TERRA photovoltaic module. Designed to revolutionize the landscape of agrivoltaics applications, this groundbreaking panel harnesses cutting-edge technology to amplify energy efficiency and longevity across a spectrum of uses.AE Solar's TERRA module introduces a host of inventive features that not only ensure reliability but also elevate efficiency standards for solar-powered ventures.
At the core of this advancement lies the potential to reshape agro-voltaic projects. By substantially augmenting energy generation within limited expanses, the TERRA module offers the opportunity to optimize land utilization. Moreover, the TERRA module introduces a multifaceted approach to space efficiency by seamlessly integrating into crop plots, effectively functioning as dynamic energy-generating fences. This dual-purpose functionality underscores the module's versatility, providing an ingenious means to maximize land utility while bolstering energy output.
3. Solar PV has increased efficiency
Data charts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) track the performance of the highest confirmed conversion efficiencies for research cells for a range of photovoltaic technologies from 1976 to the present. The latest module trend predicts market growth centered around HJT and TOPCon solar cells. TOPCon technology may replace PERC with improved efficiency due to passivation in added layers, using an ultra-thin SiO2 tunnel oxide layer and n+ Poly-Si layer. This technology also includes more advantages, including lower degradation. AE Solar introduced various types of TOPCon PV modules, to address the growing need on the market.
This aspect of solar PV continues to undergo improvement. For example, the traditional 60- and 72-cell panels, known as “full-cell panels,” have been redesigned to produce more electricity using the same surface area. To achieve this, the panel’s cells are each cut in two, creating “half-cell solar panels” of 120 and 144 cells, respectively, in the same space. Currently, this more efficient technology remains harder to install and more expensive but improvements are underway to change this.
4. Solar PV has greater ease of diffusion
Solar PV technology is advancing to not only boosts solar energy production and different uses innovation but also increases the convenience of adopting solar power, making it more accessible and appealing to a broader audience.
With the continuous expansion of the Solar PV market, various photovoltaic-related grading and ranking systems have emerged worldwide to help global customers choose from different solar brands. Taking PV module ranking as an example, the most authoritative one is the Tier 1 manufacturer list ranking issued quarterly by BloombergNEF. It is one of the most well-known and authoritative industry rating systems globally, evaluating product quality assurance, government project bidding, bank financing support, and various dimensions. Due to its rigorous selection process, Tier 1 lis is often considered a fair, objective, and highly credible reference, serving as a vital determinant for global photovoltaic project investment attraction. Whether you are a rooftop solar user or a centralized power station purchaser, finding various manufacturers is easy and straightforward.
Installation at home is becoming easier too, with professional solar panel installers deployed when customers invest in PV panels for their home. These professionals will measure the rooftop to calculate the number of PV panels that can be installed safely for maximum efficiency.
Thanks to increased efficiency, adaptability, ease of diffusion, and low cost, there has been huge private and public investment in developing PV technologies. This has meant IEA forecasts have changed to predict 43% more solar output by 2040 than previously predicted in 2018 and led to the tracking status of solar PV to be upgraded in 2023 from “more effort needed” to “on track.” This indicates that solar electricity will occupy a large percentage of energy production in the global green future and highlights photovoltaic cell technology’s status as the best-performing clean energy source.
About AE Solar
AE Solar is headquartered in Königsbrunn, Germany, with satellite offices in Brazil and Georgia. The production lines are located in China and Turkey with an annual capacity of 2GW.
AE Solar has a global distribution network in more than 95 countries, and products are available in more than 100 countries and regions around the world.