Solar energy continues to be the best alternative to fossil fuels. Over the past few decades, it has emerged as a clean, sustainable, and cost-effective energy source. As the world becomes more conscious of climate change and environmental sustainability, the growth of solar energy will continue to accelerate. In this blog, the HBCU CDAC Clean Energy Initiative explores the future.
1. Growth in Global Solar Capacity
One of the most significant trends in the solar industry is the exponential growth in solar capacity globally. Renewable capacity expansion in the next five years will be much faster than expectations from just a year ago. From 2022-2027, estimates are that renewables will grow by almost 2400 GW, equal to China's entire installed power capacity today. That's an 85% acceleration from the previous five years and nearly 30% higher than previous forecasts. The upward revision is primarily driven by China, the EU, the United States, and India, all implementing existing policies and regulatory reforms while also introducing new ones.
2. Falling Costs of Solar Panels
The cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels has decreased significantly, making solar energy increasingly affordable. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), there has been more than a 70% reduction in the cost of solar panels since 2010. As of 2023, the average price of residential solar panels in the United States is between $0.90 and $1.50 per watt for the materials and an additional 25% for the labor. The total cost is now between $1.10 and $1.90 per watt. This trend will continue as technological advancements, economies of scale, and increased competition lower prices.
3. Job Creation and Economic Impact
The solar industry doesn't just generate electricity; it also creates jobs and stimulates economic growth. Solar employment has been rising, and it's not slowing down. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, solar energy is the fastest-growing sector. In 2021, it provided 4.3 million jobs globally, more than a third of the current global renewable workforce. The United States had over 263,883 solar jobs as of 2022 in all 50 states, increasing yearly. And to ensure that people of color in the U.S. can take advantage of this growth, groups like the Clean Energy Initiative focus on workforce training. The organization recently won phases one and two of the Community Clean Energy Coalition prize, part of the American Made Challenge, which aims to bolster innovation and job creation in clean energy technologies. The prize money will enable CEI to begin implementing its plan to train up to 50 students and community residents in energy disciplines.
4. Solar Energy Storage
One of the challenges the solar industry has faced is storage capacity. However, advancements in energy storage technology are helping to address this issue. Storing surplus energy is essential to getting the most out of any solar panel system, resulting in cost savings and more efficient energy grids. Battery storage systems, like those using lithium-ion technology, have become more affordable and efficient. In addition to batteries, other storage systems currently being used are pumped-storage hydropower, which shows significant potential in certain regions, and compressed air and gravity storage. Additionally, hydrogen is an emerging technology that has the potential for the seasonal storage of renewable energy. Advanced research and development will lead to even more innovative and cost-effective energy storage solutions.
5. Government Policies and Support
Government policies and incentives will continue to have a significant impact on the growth of the solar industry. Many countries have implemented renewable energy targets and subsidies to encourage the adoption of solar power. For example, the European Union has set a goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050, and solar energy will undoubtedly play a crucial role in achieving this target. In the United States, federal tax credits and state-level incentives are instrumental in driving solar adoption. And in June 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration launched a $7 Billion Solar for All grant competition to increase residential solar adoption and reduce energy costs for lower-income families.
Innovations, decreasing costs, and government support will ensure that solar continues to dominate renewable energies. Solar technology's continued development and integration will contribute significantly to a more sustainable and cleaner world. It's not just a source of energy; it's our best hope for a sustainable future.
To find out more about how the HBCU CDAC Clean Energy Initiative is bringing clean energy to HBCUs and their surrounding communities, click here.
To read more CDAC Clean Energy Initiative blogs, click here.