Since the early 2000s, solar thermal energy (STE) has experienced phenomenal growth, driven by the development of affordable and efficient solar heating technologies. Countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that were among the earliest adopters of solar power have seen demand for STE double in size every year since then.
But despite its popularity, STE is far from being easy to implement. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The process of converting sunlight into thermal energy is both complex and costly, which has prevented many developing countries from fully taking advantage of its many benefits.
Why Have Poor Countries Adopted STE?
Solar thermal energy is generated using solar energy and heat retention systems to collect and store thermal energy. A major advantage of solar thermal energy is that it can be used for both cooling and heating, which means that it can reduce the need for both air-conditioning and hot-tubs. It is, therefore, a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly option than other forms of heating.
However, adopting solar thermal energy isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even the technology behind it is complicated to implement, and the environmental and social impact that it can have is another obstacle that many countries have to overcome. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors that prevent many poor countries from fully embracing solar power:
Technology Is Complicated
The first, and perhaps the most obvious, barrier is the complicated nature of the technology itself. To generate solar thermal energy, you will need to install large solar collection systems, which means that you will need to hire a large number of specialists to carry out the work. Since this is complicated and costly work, it is no surprise that many poor countries have yet to fully implement it.
However, the situation is gradually improving with time. As the cost of solar equipment falls and the availability of trained specialists increases, so too will the use of solar thermal energy. It’s just a matter of time before all of the major developed and developing countries have installed sufficient amounts of solar capacity to meet their energy needs.
Even if you do overcome the initial barriers of technology and installation cost, you will still need to pay for the energy that you use. This cost, known as the operating cost, can be more than double that of traditional forms of energy, such as coal and natural gas. In addition, since solar thermal energy is collected and stored at night, it requires more resources to maintain. This is known as the storage cost, and it adds another level of complexity to the equation.
While the cost of solar thermal energy is still significantly higher than other forms of energy, it is decreasing at an impressive rate. In the next few years, we will see significant cost reductions as the cost of solar equipment continues to fall. The future looks very promising for solar thermal energy, especially as more and more countries are able to reap the many benefits that it has to offer.
Institutional And Regulatory Barriers
A country’s legal framework can also pose significant barriers to the adoption of solar power. As we have already established, storing thermal energy is both complex and costly, and this brings us to the next major barrier – legal and regulatory issues. If a country chooses to adopt solar thermal energy as its main source of energy, it will need to establish clear guidelines regarding the location and number of power stations that can be built.
In some countries, such as Germany, it is illegal to build a solar power station, and this is why the country doesn’t use solar thermal energy as its main source of energy. In other countries, such as Australia, there are clear regulations regarding the maximum amount of energy that can be produced by solar power stations. These are just some of the legal and regulatory barriers that make it very difficult for some countries to fully adopt solar power.
Another obstacle that some countries need to overcome is the societal impact that the technology can have. When we talk about solar thermal energy, many people automatically think about environmental concerns, especially when it comes to the impact that power stations have on the surrounding areas. However, there is a different side to this story that many people don’t talk about.
Solar power stations have a very positive effect on the livelihoods of people that live near them. Installation of a solar power station can lead to significant job creation, as we have established. In addition to this, it can also lead to increased revenues for local businesses, as power stations usually charge a premium for connecting to the national grid.
But while these are all very positive aspects, it’s important to remember that not everyone will be able to reap the benefits that solar power stations can offer. In some countries, the government has decided that certain groups of people – the poor and the middle class – won’t be able to connect to the grid, in order to protect their own privacy. In these cases, the power generated by the sun will be completely wasted, as there will be no way for it to be used.
It’s no secret that many developing countries haven’t been able to benefit from the advances in technology the way that some others have. When it comes to renewable energy sources, it is often the case that the countries with the best resources are also the ones that are able to implement and develop the technology. This is why we are often asked about renewable energy resources when it comes to places like Africa or South America. However, it is important to note that there is a way for these countries to benefit from these resources as well – they just need to use the right channels.