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September 17, 2021 | Energy & Power
With the development of industries, rapid urbanization, extensive commercialization, and radical digitalization of human lives, the earth has seen a massive surge in energy requirements. The world is consuming far more energy than what can be produced by conventional fossil fuels. The excessive dependence on carbon-based fuels has severely impacted the environment causing global warming, pollution, and various health hazards. This has created a conscience among consumers to shift towards renewable energy resources. In an attempt to reduce carbon footprint, solar power has been the most adopted renewable power technology.
Solar PV: The Technological Leader
Solar power generation can be classified into solar photovoltaic (PV) and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). Solar photovoltaic has seen the highest implementation owing to technical advantages such as adaptation in low irradiance and technological simplicity. From the price point of view, the solar PV is massively winning, further driving their adoption.
Comparing Solar Technologies
Solar Photovoltaic (PV)
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
It uses light through the photovoltaic effect by absorbing sunlight, leading to the breaking of the electrons to generate an electric current.
It uses the sun's radiation to heat a liquid substance that will further drive a heat engine and an electric generator
Mono-Si, Thin Film, Multi-Si, Others
Parabolic Trough, Power Tower, Linear Fresnel
USD 825/kW - USD 2,825/kW
USD 6,000/kW - USD 9,090/kW
15% - 20%
7% - 25%
Solar Farms, Remote Locations, Stand-Alone Power, Power in Space, Rooftop Solar, Military Uses
Electricity Generation, Swimming Pool Heating, Solar Underfloor Heating, Domestic Hot Water, HVAC, Agricultural Uses, Thermal Desalination, Industrial Processes
Does not produce or store thermal energy; directly generates electricity
Capable of storing energy using Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technologies and using the stored energy during low or no sunlight
Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) - Unsubsidized
USD 29/MWh – USD 227/MWh
USD 126/MWh – USD 156/MWh
Source: IRENA, Lazard (2020), NREL
In recent years, PV is being installed on water instead of land. This installation technique is called the floating PV. The floating PV system is fixed on a floating platform with an anchoring system in the water. The floating PV is more capital intensive than the other PV mountings but has added advantages like saving land space for solar installation, especially in countries with land scarcity. Furthermore, floating PVs help reduce water evaporation from water bodies, and improve water quality, proving highly beneficial to commercial water bodies.
In July 2021, the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) commissioned a 25 MW floating PV power plant in Simhadri, Andhra Pradesh, the largest Indian floating solar power plant. The plant is anticipated to power 7,000 homes and reduce 46 thousand tonnes of CO2e (CO2 equivalent) every year.
The floating PV propels the technological development in the PV segment of the solar power market, driving the overall solar power adoption.
Increasing Solar Wafer Size to Fuel Solar Power Dynamics
The increasing sizes of solar wafers developed in recent years have seen a massive increase in solar module power without enhancing voltage capabilities, helping maintain capital costs. The increasing wafer sizes have helped reduce PV solar costs exponentially. After an increase in wafer sizes from the MO (156 mm × 156 mm side length) to M6 (166 mm × 166 mm side length) till late 2019, the new G12 size was introduced (210 mm × 210 mm side length), which is the most commercially available size till date. Furthermore, M10 size (182 mm × 182 mm side length) was also introduced.
These consistent improvements in wafer size by various research centers and manufacturing companies is anticipated to pave the way for highly cost-efficient solar PV systems in the future.
Technological Improvements in Solar Cells to Enhance Solar Power Usage
The PERC (Passivated Emitter Rare Contact) solar cell is the most opted for solar cell technology by manufacturers owing to the low operational and capital costs for production equipment and robust supply chains. With the high efficiency of the PERC cells, along with their benefits, these cells are globally preferred. Passivated Contacts cells or the TOPCon cells are rapidly gaining pace due to their high efficiency.
In 2020, Oxford PV demonstrated a new type of solar cell, c-Si/Perovskite tandem cell, with an efficiency of 29.52%, making it a promising new technology. Further, in June 2021, JinkoSolar, a Chinese solar cell manufacturer, announced the achievement of 25.25% of efficiency for commercial-sized n-type monocrystalline TOPCon cells. The Heterojunction Technology (HJT) solar cells of commercial size account for almost a 25.3% efficiency, as announced by China's LONGi and Huasun companies in June 2021.
Such technological advancements in solar cells are sure to propel a positive outlook for solar power in the near future.
The key players of this market include Canadian Solar Inc., Trina Solar, First Solar, Waaree Group, Abengoa, BrightSource Energy, Inc., Tata Power Solar Systems Ltd., Yingli Solar, eSolar Inc., SunPower Corporation, Acciona Energia S.A., Urja Global Ltd., Wuxi Suntech Power Co. Ltd., Nextera Energy Sources LLC, Azure Power, and Vivaan Solar, to name a few.
Canadian Solar Inc., First Solar, and Trina Solar are some of the market leaders in this market. These companies are enhancing their production capacities by increasing installations in newer areas and improving capabilities in the existing ones.
Global Solar Module Production in 2020, By Manufacturer:
In September 2021, Canadian Solar Inc. announced a long-term operations & maintenance agreement with the Slate and Mustang solar PV plus battery storage projects in the U.S. Trina Solar is known for its investments in the research and development of solar modules, keeping it at the forefront of the industry.
In September 2021, Trina Solar announced the trial results of its series of Vertex Modules, which shows extraordinary mechanical properties at an extremely low temperature of -40˚C. In August 2021, First Solar announced a new manufacturing facility in Ohio, U.S., which will multiply its PV module production capabilities.
In August 2021, TP Saurya, a subsidiary of Tata Power, received a Letter of Award to develop and operate a 330 MW solar project in Neemuch Solar Park, Madhya Pradesh, India, by Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited.
The solar industrial landscape is growing at leaps and bounds, with many startups setting up to cater to the ever-increasing global solar type of power demand. Startups such as RateSetter, Raptor Maps, Sistine Solar, WePower, MYSUN, ZunRoof, Oorjan, and URON Energy are growing at a fast pace, transforming the global energy landscape.
Solar Power Growth During COVID-19 Pandemic
In 2020, solar power stood the highest in net capacity additions among all renewable energy projects. 138 GW generation capacity of this type of power was added in 2020, out of which 120 GW was attributed to solar PV projects. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), this capacity addition is 37% lower than the pre-COVID forecast.
Renewable Power Generating Capacity Addition in 2020, By Technology:
Source: International Energy Agency (2021)
The solar power capacity addition portrayed an almost 18% year-on-year increase from 2019, according to SolarPower Europe. China saw substantial year-on-year growth of solar power installation of 48 GW. The U.S. also performed exceptionally well in solar power installations by installing nearly 19 GW of solar projects. However, India was negatively affected due to the pandemic, and the government funds were reallocated, delaying the projects.
Countries With Highest Solar Capacity Additions in 2020
Source: IRENA (2021)
According to Lazard, one of the world’s leading financial advisory and asset management firms, solar power's cost competitiveness increased in 2020, resulting in a higher adoption, especially in the wake of rising coal, gas, and nuclear fuel prices. Despite the stellar growth in solar power in 2020, the first half of 2021 saw increasing prices of the wafer, cell, and module manufacturers, owing to increasing silicon prices due to supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19. The rise in aluminum costs further increased the encapsulation costs for solar installations. However, according to Global Solar Council, 2021 is expected to witness massive growth in the solar sector.
Key Government Energy Targets & Policies
Targets & Policies
United Arab Emirates
Moreover, the increasing environmental conscience of governments and adept regulatory mandates to reduce carbon emissions are estimated to drive the transition to renewables. The cost-effectiveness of this type of power technologies and growing efficiency due to technological advancement are expected to propel government initiatives for solar power, enhancing the market size exponentially.