Emerging Technology of Solar Energy – What is it?

Sustainability, climate change, and energy security are becoming major issues, and governments and organizations around the world are taking note. With countries like China and India leading the way, it is only a matter of time before renewable energy sources like solar power catch on worldwide. For those seeking to invest in renewable energy, it is essential to understand what solar energy is, how it works, and its status in the global energy market. This article will answer all these questions and more. It will cover everything from technology basics to market sizing and investment choices.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is natural energy which is freely available to all. It is a form of energy which does not contribute to climate change. Instead of generating its own heat like conventional energy sources, solar energy is directly converted into electric energy. This energy is then stored and used whenever needed. It is completely reliable and there are no chances of running out of it. The only byproduct of solar energy is water, which is mostly harmless and can be easily recycled.

History of Solar Energy

While solar energy has been used for centuries, it was not until the last few decades that it began to emerge as a serious contender for global energy use. Since the invention of the photovoltaic cell in the 20th century, solar energy conversion has increased exponentially, and it is now a significant energy source in its own right.

In the early 20th century, solar energy use was largely confined to space travel and military applications. From its initial use in space travel, harnessing solar power has spread to Earth-bound applications. These days, it is estimated that approximately 70% of the electricity produced around the world comes from solar energy. This trend is only set to continue as more and more people become aware of the power of the sun and its potential to generate endless energy sources. As the world’s population gradually shifts to cleaner energy, solar energy is bound to become an even more vital and integral part of our daily lives.

Key Facts About Solar Energy

The world’s largest solar power station is located in California, US. It was designed and built to generate 5.75GW of power and is capable of supplying enough electricity for roughly 750,000 US homes. This makes it the largest in the world.

The total photovoltaic capacity (including small-scale systems) in the US reached 45.7 GW in 2011. This is equivalent to the power of about 500,000 homes. Furthermore, the country’s solar energy sector has grown at a rate of 38% annually since 2000. This puts the US well ahead of any other country in terms of cumulative installed photovoltaic capacity.

The average power output of solar panels is approximately 0.25kW. A standard panel can produce up to 1.5 kW of power, providing enough electricity for a small home. Large solar farms contain many panels and are designed to generate megawatts of power. The world’s largest solar energy farm is called Mojave Solar Plant and is located in California, US. It began operating in October 2010 and is estimated to have the capacity to generate 675 million kWh of electricity each year. This is enough to power 475,000 homes for a year.

How Is Solar Energy Different From Conventional Energy?

Sustainability, climate change, and energy security are issues which are high on the agenda everywhere, and they are issues which the conventional energy industry is keen to address. Conventional energy sources such as coal and natural gas cause climate change when they are burnt, whereas solar energy is completely clean and sustainable.

Solar energy can be stored for later use, unlike other sources of energy, which are quickly consumed. This makes it ideal for those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to climate change mitigation efforts.

In terms of cost, conventional sources of energy are very high in price because there are many costs associated with their extraction and delivery. This puts them out of reach of many ordinary households. On the other hand, solar energy is readily available and can be extracted at a low cost. For those seeking to invest in renewable energy, this is a very attractive option.

How Big is the Market For Solar Energy?

The solar energy market is a rapidly growing industry, and the demand for clean energy is becoming a mainstream trend. This is evidenced by the fact that countries like Germany and China have committed to moving to 100% renewable energy, and many businesses and large companies have likewise decided to go green.

The global market size for solar energy is projected to hit 33.9 billion USD in 2016, representing a CAGR of 23.2% from 2015 to 2020.

Amongst the major markets, China will account for a large proportion of the market growth in the coming years, and here in the UK we are well-placed to take advantage of the trend. The Chinese market is a massive 1000 million USD bigger than the next biggest market, India. With the Government enthusiastically backing green energy, it is likely that the demand for and prices of solar energy will increase significantly in the next decade.

What Type of Investment Do I Need To Make In Solar Energy?

This is something which needs to be considered carefully, as there are several options which can be taken into consideration. For those seeking to enter the market for solar energy as an investment, they should investigate the various types of financial instruments which are available. These include stocks, bonds, and private equity. Stocks are simply a share in an enterprise that generates profits through investment, whereas bonds are similar to stocks but are issued by a government or other entity (such as a bank or corporation) to raise funds. Private equity essentially operates like a partnership between an investor and an entrepreneur. The investor provides the money for the project, and the entrepreneur then carries out the work to generate the desired returns on investment.

Stocks and bonds are ideal for long-term investment whereas private equity is good for short-term or emergency purchases. As you would imagine, the more money you can afford to invest, the better the return on investment. This is because more expensive stocks and bonds generally generate higher returns than cheaper items.

When Will I Start Reaping The Benefits Of My Investment?

This is always a tricky one to answer, as it depends on your desired timeframe for the return on investment. Short term investments are great for taking advantage of the increasing demand for and prices of solar energy, but long-term investments allow you to participate in the sustainability trend and help reduce your energy consumption.

In any case, the sooner you make the investment, the sooner you will start to see the benefits. This is because the earlier you invest in solar energy, the cheaper it will be in the long run. However, you should try to avoid buying expensive equipment which will only depreciate in value (hence the need for long-term investment).

Where Can I Sell My Solar Energy?

If you have generated revenue from selling solar energy and want to be able to invest your money elsewhere, you need to decide how to handle your profit. Different countries and businesses have different rules and regulations regarding what to do with extra revenue, so you should do some research before making a decision.

In general, you can choose to either invest your money or to leave it in a bank account (and take your profits in the form of cash or cheque). If you are looking for an easy way to get rich, you could always invest in some penny stocks which are generally considered to be high-risk, but high-reward investments. Penny stocks are generally available for purchase on stock marketplaces like the NASDAQ and NYSE, and they can also be acquired through brokers who offer financial advice and assistance to individuals seeking to participate in the stock market. Alternatively, you could set up a corporation in the UK or US, and make an offer to buy commercial quantities of solar energy from certified solar panel installers.

Conclusion

In short, the future of solar energy seems very positive. The price of solar panels has decreased significantly in recent years, mainly due to increased production and efficiency, and this trend is only set to continue. Countries and businesses which have embraced sustainability and climate change awareness have taken note of the positive impacts which solar energy can have, and the demand for it is on the rise. This is because more and more people are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to climate change mitigation efforts. As a result, more and more people are likely to be turning to solar energy as a sustainable and affordable source of energy.

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