Elon Musk, the visionary entrepreneur, said “If solar energy was the only power source and if you just took a small section of Spain, you could power all of Europe. Avery small amount of area is actually needed to generate electricity that is needed to power civilization.” Elon Musk is bang on target as solar energy reaches the earth’s surface every hour and this is enough to power the entire planet for a year and commercial solar power may well see the light of the day.
Revolution is brewing in the solar power space. The recent past has witnessed a giant leap in solar technology investments. The International Energy Agency has predicted that the world will produce 662 GigaWatts of solar energy by 2035 at an investment of $1.3 trillion. Manufacturers are creating efficient systems to harvest and store solar energy, and the cost of per watt of silicon photovoltaic cells is on the decline in the past few decades. Satellite-Earth imaging is enabling companies such as Solar City to make rapid and accurate decisions on solar panel installations. There is also a substantial jump in the ability to capture solar energy and store it for the night and the future. A massive rise in battery production is also on the horizon as Tesla’s Gigafactory alone will produce 35 Gigawatts worth of the batteries by 2020; this is more than the existing total global battery capacity.
The solar technology is expanding at a spectacular pace. The bulky rooftop panels will soon become a thing of the past with the advent of solar panels, solar windows et al.
Glass solar panels are visually attractive and durable compared to silicon cell panels. They possess a high degree of fire resistance and lower susceptibility to erosion. Frameless solar panels would make use of specialized mounting apparatus, thereby giving the panels a streamlined look. Bifacial solar panels, commonly known as double-sided panels, will offer substantial value addition by harnessing sunlight through both sides of the panel.
Solar windows are another exciting emerging solar technology. Looking like normal windows, the solar windows will generate energy as sunlight passes through the coating in the glass. Solar windows have the potential to power entire buildings and complexes.
Solar home lighting has been around for some time. Solar lights increase efficiency of power utilization and reduce electric bills, but have been hitherto been restricted to homes. But this is set to change soon as municipal and other governmental bodies look at cheaper lighting options to power the street lights.
Solar powered transportation would be another innovative offshoot of advances in solar technology. Solar-powered roads are already in limited usage and solar energy will power the cars, buses, railroads and airplanes of the future.
To conclude, harnessing the incredible power of the sun is indeed a technologically and financially daunting task. But humankind is moving in that direction in leaps and bounds due to the power of science and technology, and the journey continues.