The cost of solar energy has declined significantly in recent years, making it more accessible to a wider audience. As a result, many businesses and homeowners have switched to solar power in an effort to reduce their energy bills and become more environmentally friendly.
But while solar energy is practical and economical today, some experts predict that this could change in the near future. They say that the future of solar energy may not be what we think it is and that we need to adjust our perspectives regarding this clean and sustainable energy source.
In this article, we will examine some of the factors that could shape how we interact with solar energy in the future, including cost and accessibility.
Cost Of Solar Energy Has Declined
The cost of solar energy has declined significantly in the last few years, making it more affordable for average families and individuals. In 2020 alone, the cost of solar power fell by 22%, making it more affordable than ever before.
This is largely due to the fact that solar power has become more accessible to the general public. Major manufacturers have streamlined the purchase process for solar energy systems, making them more affordable to average families and individuals. This has, in turn, led to a surge in interest in solar power and an increase in renewable energy adoption across the world.
According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), at least 135 million solar-powered devices will be connected to the grid worldwide by 2025, up from 35 million devices in 2020.
One of the major factors that could influence the future of solar energy is accessibility. Currently, solar power is largely reserved for special projects, such as large-scale commercial and industrial buildings, due to high installation costs and limited manpower (electricians).
However, as the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more and more individuals and families could become empowered to install and maintain solar panels on their rooftops. Indeed, a 2019 report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) estimates that 1.2 million American homes could have solar power by next year, with this number eventually rising to 3.2 million homes by 2035.
According to the report, the major reason behind this trend is increased solar cell network connectivity and affordability. The authors of the report predict that “as the cost of solar electricity continues to decline and more people find ways to store energy, we can expect to see an increase in the number of people with rooftop solar installations in the United States.”
For now, the majority of people looking to install solar power are interested in small-scale projects, such as powering mobile homes and small businesses. But as the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more and more families and individuals could become empowered to install and maintain solar panels on their rooftops.
Cost Of Installing Solar Panels
Another important factor that could influence the future of solar energy is the cost of installing solar panels. Just like any other major home renovation project, installing solar panels requires a significant investment. Depending on the system you choose, this cost can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
The price varies by the size of the system you want and the site where it will be installed. To minimize your upfront costs, it’s important to decide what size system you need and what brand and technology you want to use for the installation. If you are on a tight budget, take a look at solar panel lease programs, which can help you spread out your investment over time with minimal upfront costs.
Solar energy technologies are also evolving to make it more affordable, efficient, and accessible to more people. For instance, thin-film solar cells, which were relatively unknown to the public a decade ago, are now available in commercial quantities and possess much lower operational costs than earlier generations of solar cells. (Image credit: International Society of Optical Engineering (SPIE))
Thin-film solar cells are more flexible than earlier generations of solar cells and can be rolled up and stored for later use. These cells are often used in conjunction with solar thermal energy storage, where sunlight is concentrated by rooftop solar collectors (such as parabolic mirrors or tubes) and stored in large tanks (in the form of heat energy) for later use.
Another important technology that is improving the cost-effectiveness and portability of solar energy is microinverters. These are electronic devices, often mounted on the rooftop, that transform the flow of current from the solar panels to a different circuit. By doing so, microinverters allow homeowners and businesses to maximize the power of their rooftop solar installations without needing a professional to install the equipment for them.
Microinverters, depending on the system, can decrease installation costs by 30% to 50% compared to earlier generations of inverters. Furthermore, they can lead to lower electricity bills for homeowners and businesses.
These are all important considerations for those looking to make the shift to renewable energy. But just because the cost of solar energy has declined in recent years does not mean that it’s the solution for everyone. The key is to look at all the pros and the cons and decide which option is best for your specific needs.