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How advancements in solar energy will pave the way for a clean energy future

© Mark Merner

Following the Paris Climate accord, there has been a renewed focus on improving solar energy production. Leading experts from around the world consider solar energy to be the future and a key force in helping to reduce global carbon emissions. The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that the future is bright for solar energy and new technological innovations will dramatically reduce the costs of solar power, making it as economical as fossil fuels in the years to come.

By 2030, solar could become the largest source of energy for many parts of the world. The only obstacle preventing progress in solar is the absence of technology that efficiently harnesses the sun’s energy.

Currently, a majority of solar panels on the market are 20% to 22% efficient in converting solar energy received into usable electricity. Experts believe that there is considerable room for improvement and newer technology will easily bridge the gap between solar power and cost effectiveness.

In recent years, several companies have made significant investments in research and development of solar technology. Among them are Enphase Energy, who have been at the forefront of development. One of the UN’s Sustainable development goals is to ensure that access to affordable and clean energy is provided to everyone. Currently, the best candidate in the market to achieve this goal is without a doubt solar energy.

With clean energy a central topic of international debate, solar is seen as a viable long-term solution in reducing carbon emissions, with governments increasingly looking to invest and subside production through tax incentives.

Among some of the leading schemes include America’s tax credits and rebates for residents who choose to install home solar systems. One such incentive is the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which gives a 26% tax credit.  At the end of 2020, the U.S. produced enough solar energy to power 16.4 million homes with new solar projects set to create an additional 2,500 MW of power generation in the coming years.

Solar critics often point out that the costs are not justifiable. However, solar production costs have decreased dramatically. In 1956, energy produced by solar panels would cost around $300 per watt. Today, the cost is $0.50 per watt. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar prices have fallen by 70% in the last decade.

For the critics of solar, a pessimistic world view about the progress that has been made may now seem a little short sighted given the progress in the past several years alone. Technological innovation has come along way with billions being invested globally in renewable solutions and solar technology.

As solar power has the potential to satisfy the increasing energy needs of the planet, this could lead to dramatic changes in home design and construction standards globally. Therefore, solar has the potential to be on a hyper-growth trajectory in the coming decade, and a technological domain that is overdue for a profound breakthrough. Will solar be the game changer we’ve been hoping for?