The energy we consume keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but where does it come from? Our dependence on fossil fuels has put us in a perilous situation, as the consequences of climate change become more apparent. In 2018, the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion highlighted the issue of fossil fuel dependence in the financial district of London, protesting in financial hubs such as London, Paris, and New York.
The focus of the protest was to raise awareness about climate change and draw attention to the issue of fossil fuel dependence. The group’s spokesperson, Revanna Peacock, explained that the aim of the campaign was to “force the UK government to take immediate action to phase out fossil fuel use and become net zero by 2025.”
The United Kingdom is one of the world’s largest energy consumers, with over one-fifth of its power coming from fossil fuels. However, this proportion is decreasing, as renewables are becoming popular and more people are looking to reduce their carbon footprint. In 2015, renewables provided 13.9% of the United Kingdom’s electricity generation, up from 11.7% in 2004. In that same year, solar power alone provided 2.3% of the country’s electricity. This is a significant increase from the 0.8% of electricity that solar power provided in 2004. Although still a small proportion of the United Kingdom’s total energy consumption, this is a trend that is being repeated across the globe as more and more countries adopt renewable energy sources.
The Growth of On-site Power Generation
Renewable energy production is rising, providing greater stability to energy grids and allowing power generators to operate independently of the traditional power companies. This is particularly beneficial for those living in regions where utility electricity is extremely expensive. In the United Kingdom, on-site power generation is now available for rent, with demand outstripping supply. This has driven up prices and put financial strain on some consumers. In some parts of the country, the cost of electricity is already higher than the national average.
The Growth of Solar Power
One of the main reasons behind the increased adoption of solar power is the reduction in price that this technology has seen in recent years. To give you an idea of how much prices have decreased, let’s take a look at the evolution of the price of solar power in the United States over the past decade.
From 2006 to 2016, the price of solar power increased from $0.60 to $2.46 per watt. However, over the last two years, this figure has decreased by 29%, with the price of a standard system now standing at $1.67 per watt. In the last two years alone, the cost of solar power in the United States has decreased by 63%.
This cost decrease has been spurred on by a combination of factors, including the decrease in the cost of solar modules (essential for any solar power system) and the increasing availability of capital. Furthermore, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has also taken a hand in reducing the price of solar power through its ‘net metering’ policy. This policy allows consumers to receive financial compensation for the energy that they generate through solar power systems.
How Much Energy Does Solar Power Produce?
Depending on the type of system and how much shade you get, a typical rooftop solar power system can produce between 10 and 20 kW of electricity, enough to power a small home. For larger systems, this figure can increase to between 50 and 100 kW. Once you account for the cost of the solar panels and the cables that connect them to the AC power grid, the cost of a full system can range from $15,000 to $30,000. These are considerable investments, especially considering that over the course of a year, you will only generate between $15,000 and $30,000 in revenue.
Where Does All Of This Energy Go?
As discussed, renewable energy generation is on the rise, but where does all of this energy go? The simple answer is that it can’t go anywhere. Once generated, it must be stored, and in a modern society, this is no easy task. Currently, we are seeing the emergence of large-scale rechargeable battery storage, which can be used to store peak power generated by solar panels and other renewable energy sources. In some cases, this battery storage can even be used to provide ‘load-following’ power generation, whereby the storage system automatically switches between supplying power and storing it, providing round-the-clock electricity.
What Can We Learn From This?
With the world ever-changing and evolving at an alarming pace, it is important to keep abreast of recent development and changes to energy production and consumption. One area where we have seen significant change is in the way that we generate electricity. Whereas, in the past, power was generally generated by large power companies that provided electricity to large numbers of homes and businesses, renewable energy is enabling individuals to generate their own electricity, benefiting both the environment and the wallet.