Blogs, Community Solar, Solar

Solar Then and Now

Just south of the State of Washington lies the vast desert areas, ample in sunlight for solar farms to have a strong percentage of the total energy picture, Solar use could easily double just by the projected year of 2050, with the love of individual solar installations shown by many in the field.

It just makes sense. Yet solar realists from North Carolina to Washington state today continue to face hurdles to establishing the simplest, cleanest offerings of solar energy to the energy mix, Too too often community solar only succeeds against the odds.

Thus the fable about the progress of man. The ancient history shows that solar was seen as a wonderful gift of an energy source and the frustrations then were in regards to access, not acceptability.

The global solar power industry has experienced remarkable growth since the 2009 recession. The growth rate each year between 2007 to 2011 was around 70%. At the end of 2011, the total GW of solar panels installed worldwide was 62, divided between residential roofs, commercial buildings, and utility plants.

As is well known, Germany is leading the way when it comes to solar power installed today, and it has been doing so since 2010. Germany’s goal is to replace its nuclear resources completely by 2020 with renewable energy just pushed the country faster. The goal was what initiated the government Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, which intends to encourage the take-up of solar energy among households and businesses, through a renewable reward system.

The U.S has a strong take-up of solar energy, with installations totalling 1,855 MW at the end of 2011. Although, it is yet to compete with countries such as Germany and Italy because it has no feed-in tariff as of yet. Several states in the U.S., however, including California and Arizona, have implemented their own solar energy incentive schemes, and the U.S is expected to become a more important global player in solar energy in coming years.

As Arizona, Nevada, and Texas are some of the sunniest places in the entire world, the potential for the U.S. to fully harness solar power is great. A manufacturer in California now has a capacity for 354 MW and is a significant global source for solar power.

 

As futurist and international businessman Dr. Alexander Mirtchev noted, in a world lit only by fire, what we now term “alternatives” were the main source of power. The ancient Chinese, Greeks, Rome and Aztecs used passive solar design in their dwellings and homes and used glass to trap solar heat, Mirtchev said. “The historical underpinnings of alternative energy development amply demonstrate that sources of energy have influenced human behavior through the ages,” he wrote. ” They are embedded in humanity’s consciousness in all their different iterations and have generated a will and interest to master the different resources and the opportunities they provide. It shall continue to go forward.”

Mirtchev is one of those who realizes that the path forward is replant with illusions to the past.

The Great Recession, combined with a plunge in the price of photovoltaic panels, has created a Darwinian moment, thinning out the solar industry here and around the world. And it isn’t over.

“In the next decade, we’ll see fewer solar companies standing, but the ones that are left will be in a stronger position,” said Ron Pernick, co-founder of the Clean Edge Inc. research firm.

 

Since mid-2008, panel prices have tumbled about 40 percent, by several estimates. Solar companies now have to deal with a world in which their customers see photovoltaic panels as commodities, widely available and increasingly inexpensive. For an industry that tends to view its products as highly developed pieces of technology, it’s a big adjustment.

 

“It will certainly be a fascinating, shooting-the-rapids experience for the solar industry,” said Julie Blunden, vice president of public policy and communications for SunPower Corp. of San Jose.

Soon, solar will be the new cell phone, as some say — a once exorbitantly expensive technology that has crossed the threshold of mass production and plunging prices to compete with fossil fuels. Our ancestors will be smiling.