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Solar Power: A Glowing Future

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














































Technology



Solar Photovoltaic (PV)



Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)



Working Principle



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



Type



Mono-Si, Thin Film, Multi-Si, Others



Parabolic Trough, Power Tower, Linear Fresnel



Capital Cost



USD 825/kW - USD 2,825/kW



USD 6,000/kW - USD 9,090/kW



Efficiency



15% - 20%



7% - 25%



Applications



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



Energy Storage



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.


Industrial Landscape


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:


Solar Power: A Glowing Future


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:


Solar Power: A Glowing Future


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


Solar Power: A Glowing Future


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






















































Country



Targets & Policies



China




  • Carbon Neutrality Goal by 2050

  • National Energy Administration (NEA) target of installing 90 GW wind and solar in 2021

  • Subsidy-free era from August 2021, wherein large-scale solar parks and large rooftop systems will no longer receive a government subsidy



United States




  • At the end of 2020, a 2-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to enhance solar deployment

  • 100% carbon pollution-free electricity target by 2035



Vietnam




  • Feed-in Tariff 2 (FIT2) incentives from May 2020 to December 2020 led to an increase in solar deployment

  • According to Resolution 55, the share of renewable energy (including solar) of the primary energy consumption is targeted at 15-20% in 2030 and 25-30% in 2045



Japan




  • According to the Long-term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) in 2015, the cumulative installed solar PV capacity target for 2030 is 64 GWAC

  • According to the July draft of the industry ministry's policy, 36%-38% of power supplies by 2030 would be derived from renewables



Germany




  • Carbon neutrality target by 2050 and a 100 GW solar capacity target by 2030 according to the Renewable Energy Act 2021 (EEG 2021)

  • The Climate Protection Act of June 2021 moved the year of achievement to 2045 instead of 2050

  • The second technology-neutral innovation tender of March 2021 solar & storage projects was awarded all the 258 MW tendered capacity. In the previous round, in September 2020, almost all 650 MW capacity was awarded to solar projects, with more than half involving battery storage



Spain




  • Spanish National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) announced a solar PV capacity target of 39.2 GW by 2030

  • Spanish Climate Change Act, approved in May 2021, set a target for renewables by 2030 as 42% share in final energy consumption and 74% share in electricity generation



Mexico




  • In 2015, clean energy targets by the Energy Transition Act (LTE) and Transition Strategies of clean electricity generation minimum share to be 25% by 2018, 30% by 2021, 35% by 2024, 40% by 2035, and 50% by 2050.

  • According to the Development Program for the National Electric System (PRODESEN), the installed capacity in distributed solar PV is targeted to be 6 GW in 2025, and the targeted increase from 2021-2025 in utility-scale PV capacity is around 4.76 GW.



South Africa




  • As per the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019, an additional capacity of 6 GW utility-scale solar PV and 6 GW distributed generation, of which the majority will be based on solar power, is anticipated to be installed by 2030.

  • The installed PV capacity of the current total electricity supply is targeted at 11% by 2030.



United Arab Emirates




  • According to the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, the contribution of renewable energy in the total energy mix is aimed to be 50% by 2050 and the reduction of the country's carbon footprint due to power generation by 70%.



Egypt




  • According to the 2035 Integrated Sustainable Energy, the supply of electricity generated from renewable sources is aimed to be 20% by 2022 and 42% by 2035.

  • Solar PV is anticipated to provide 22% and CSP 3% of the energy for electricity generation by 2035.



Israel




  • In 2020, Israel announced solar capacity addition of 15 GW by 2030 to increase the national electricity from renewable sources target from 17% to 30%.

  • According to the Rooftop PV incentive scheme of 2018, projects under 15 kW will be eligible for net metering and a 25 year FIT.



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.

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