Investment and Innovation Boost Solar Prospects Worldwide

The steady uptick in global solar investment is gathering pace off the back of breakthrough innovations that continue to drive costs down and efficiency levels up.

Whetting the global appetite

Solar continues to dominate the discussion on the world’s transition to a cleaner and more efficient energy future. Recent months have brought us breaking headlines of solar becoming cheaper than hydrocarbon-produced energy, prompting those countries well placed to take advantage of solar to double down on investments and look to become global leaders in solar expertise. As further innovations continue to make solar energy a more appealing alternative, rising enthusiasm and market expansion have inevitably followed.

Big breakthroughs and imaginative approaches

“Upconverting”:  A term used by researchers in Australian and US universities to turn low energy, non-visible light into high energy light, upconverting is being heralded as the key to improving the efficiency of solar cells, as tiny semiconductors known as quantum dots absorb the low energy light and turn it into visible light to capture more energy.

Perovskites: These may prove essential for creating the next generation of solar cells, as this material is lighter, more flexible and cheaper to produce than current silicon-based cells. As the industry looks to scale up quickly in accordance with governments’ ambitious energy diversification goals, reducing costs while boosting efficiency is a much-needed double win.

Double-sided tracking solar panels: Engineering panels that can effectively track the sun for the optimal angle throughout the day is not a new concept, and neither is making panels double sided to help with this outcome. However, the simple but novel approach thought up by a team from the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore to combine both these factors in their panels certainly is new, and by all accounts it’s startingly effective. By using two-sided panels with dual-axis trackers, they can capture light reflected up onto their undersides as well as directly onto their sun-facing sides. The Singaporean team claims that this lets their panels produce 35% more energy while at the same time reducing the associated costs by 16%.

Solar investment picks up pace

Saudi Arabia views solar as essential factor to its diversified energy mix: June saw Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman announce that the GCC nation is aiming to produce 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This is no mean feat for one of the world’s leading oil-producing nations. Saudi Arabia is now moving at pace to boost its solar capacity to meet this tight deadline, and other Middle Eastern nations are following suit. The Middle East Solar Industry Association anticipates that by 2023, the region’s total solar energy investment will exceed $1 trillion each year.

Global investments rise: The need to secure solar power production capacity fast is not just being felt in the Middle East, but across the globe, as the race for positioning in the post-hydrocarbon-dominated renewable energy new reality is well and truly on. Countries looking to shrink their carbon footprint without sacrificing the reliability of their energy supplies are viewing solar as an increasingly attractive prospect as the cost/efficiency factors keep moving in the right direction with every breakthrough. This has led to a recent round of impressive predictions for the global industry’s future – by 2026, the global solar market’s value will reach $223.3, up from just $52.5 billion in 2018, representing a CAGR of 20.5%.

On track for 2030 targets

The 2020s are already being viewed as a crucial decade for the future of solar and the general adoption of renewables. It’s no coincidence that leading nations around the world have committed to sizeably ambitious energy mix targets by 2030; predictions from both economists and ecologists regarding spiralling energy demands and dire climate change possibilities are combining to spur on the global energy transition. Solar is a critical piece of the puzzle, with its track record of providing clean energy at a lower price than its hydrocarbon-based established competitors, along with its growing ability to be scaled up effectively. As the realities of the challenges facing us as a species are brought home by the ongoing pandemic, the need to act is translating into tangible action.