Across all of these innovations, the key factors involved are size, weight and storage. Solar has long been criticised for its shortcomings in scaling up global capacity levels, because of inherent challenges around installation, unpredictability of production over time, and cost-efficient storage. These are all issues that are holding solar back as the premier vehicle for creating a clean, sustainable energy supply for the entire world.
With time running short to hit global climate change targets, the scaling up of solar has never mattered as much as it does now. Accordingly, the solving of issues related to its scalability have never mattered as much either. Now, with new panels that can be mounted on low-load rooftops, ‘battery-less solar facilities’ and the prospect of space-based solar collectors drawing closer, the global scaling up of solar capacity seems set for a turbo-boost in the coming years.
However, while the modular nature of solar solutions is a source of great strength for the industry, it is also a potential weakness. As new solar module sizes and configurations enter the market – made cost-effective and financially viable by innovation breakthroughs – there are concerns that this diversity will drive up costs related to installation, labour, expertise and other operational factors. While no major drive for a thorough standardisation of solar module sizes and formats is being mooted, increasingly we are seeing the industry reduce its mainstream adoption of solar down to a smaller range. This is likely to remain the case for some years, thanks to the dynamic nature of solar breakthroughs that keep pushing the efficiency, sustainability and cost-effectiveness of emerging solutions ever higher.
For now, increased experimentation on solar approaches continues to produce more breakthroughs, and the realisation of even more impressive solar gains just on the horizon.