The solar panel is becoming an increasingly popular form of alternative energy around the world, using photovoltaic and silicon solar cells to convert radiation into power. Solar power has had a long history of failed starts and limited distribution. As an alternative to the burning of fossil fuels, solar panels rank alongside wind and hydropower as essential energy options for the future of the planet, and offer the additional benefit of being easier to integrate into the home.
Recent rises in popularity and use can be linked to lower costs for installation and operation, with small and medium sized panels becoming more practical for home use over more remote locations and larger buildings. At the same time, companies offering solar power solutions have been able to lower their fees for usage, with most deriving profits from extended leases, as well as from tax credits and deductions.
Those who install solar panels benefit from more efficient energy usage than electricity, as well as decreasing prices after initial installation. With coal, gas and oil prices continuing to rise, finding an alternative platform for energy is going to become more essential as consumers look to reduce rather than fuel spiraling demand.
The more recent practicality of solar power prices should consequently continue to draw more people and businesses into renewable energy schemes. Solar panel companies with large stocks have also had to make some concessions towards a slow moving market, while businesses are being attracted by the energy-saving potential of solar roofs and green storage of data.
A recent International Energy Agency report suggests that a quarter of energy usage and supply may derive from solar power by 2050, and various governments have been investing in subsidies for solar power expansion to emulate, or at least complement the capacity of energy grids currently handled by electricity and traditional fossil fuel sources.
The United States has experienced an average growth of 40% in residential solar power usage in tandem with state federal incentives; high sun areas like Florida enjoying particular growth. The United Kingdom has similarly benefited from shifts away from solar power being used in areas like the South West of England and richer regions towards more general application, with the energy regulator Ofgem noting steady rises nationwide over the past few years. However, the UK still lags behind longer term implementation of solar panels in countries like Germany, Spain and Belgium, as well as the development of environmentally friendly solutions in Scandinavia.
Further afield, China is continuing to expand its photovoltaic use, with an expanding grid system and growth around major cities and towns. China’s development into one of the world’s leading solar power producers and users is also being accelerated by an oligopoly of manufacturers, which include CHINT Group Corporation and Jinniu Energy. China is also at the forefront of developing more efficient silicon cells for energy conversion. Given the potential for large countries to deliver super grids of solar energy, with India reported to have a 5,000 trillion kilowatt capacity, speeding up these systems will ultimately result in a long lasting energy option.
Lisa Gan is an enthusiastic environmentalist who writes about recycling, waste management, renewable energy, and environmental policy.