When it comes to understanding the energy market, one of the best resources is the data provided by the industry-leading sources. The problem is that, at least at first glance, the energy world can seem chaotic, complicated, and—at times—even overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to break down the complexity with simple, clear graphics and easy-to-follow guides to better understand what’s really going on in the energy world.
Top Shareholders of the Solar Industry
Since 2010, the top five stockholders in the solar industry have seen impressive gains of over 600%. Three of the companies—SolarCity, SunEdison, and SunPower—are now in the Fortune 500, while two other solar firms—AES and Innovalight—are in the Forbes list of America’s Most Promising Companies.
SolarCity now controls almost 19% of the photovoltaic market. With almost 50,000 MW of installed capacity, the company is the second-largest photovoltaic power producer in the U.S. behind only panel manufacturer China’s SunPower, which holds over 70% of the photovoltaic market. In 2018, Solarcity was valued at almost $16 billion.
Price Volatility Is Widespread
Price volatility is commonplace in the solar industry. In fact, the average price change for a typical solar installation over the past six years has been +39%. From 2010 to the middle of 2018, the cost of a typical residential solar system increased by 64% according to a study by the U.S. Commerce Department.
The main reason for this is that the price of solar electricity depends on many factors, including the weather, demand for electricity, and the installation cost. In the early years of a solar project, power purchase agreement markets, where large companies and utilities buy electricity at predetermined prices, can cause significant spikes in solar prices. This trend is likely to continue, as the cost of traditional power sources, such as coal and natural gas, continue to rise.
Roughly Half of All U.S. States Have an Increase in Solar Energy Investments
In 2017, approximately half of all U.S. states experienced an increase in solar energy investments, according to a study by the Frontier Group and the U.S. Commerce Department. This is an obvious shift from the years preceding the 2010s, when states were pulling back on their investments due to the Great Recession. However, since 2010, the number of states that have increased their investments in solar power has nearly tripled, from seven to 21.
The group of 21 states that invested the most in solar energy in 2017 included:
- New Jersey
The study noted that this trend is likely to continue, as 48 of the 51 states that were analyzed saw an increase in solar energy investments in 2018.
Energy Storage Market Is Growing
Just as the cost of solar electricity is volatile, the price of energy storage is also expected to rise in the near future. But the price volatility associated with energy storage is somewhat tempered by the fact that it is a one-time cost for the average homeowner, whereas the price of generating electricity fluctuates with the sun.
Based on data from GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association (ESA), the global energy storage market was valued at around $16 billion in 2010. Since then, it has doubled in size more than every year except for 2014 and 2015. In 2018, the global energy storage market was valued at $32.5 billion and is expected to rise to $45.5 billion by 2022.
The main reason for this is that batteries are becoming an ever-more popular way for households and businesses to store energy when the Sun isn’t producing, such as at night or during a cloudy day. This allows them to sell their excess electricity to utilities at a time when it is most useful to them (e.g., during the day), rather than when it is most convenient for the utility company (e.g., at night).
Record-breaking Invertebrate Discoveries
The U.S. government’s entomology department—the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Sciences Division —recently announced three new species of insect that have been discovered and named after the Silicon Valley tech giants that made significant donations to the museum that houses the California Academy of Sciences. The academy is home to the Hope Diamond, the largest diamond in the world, as well as all the gemstones, fossils, and other natural history collections that it houses.
The donations from the tech giants—which total $20 million—were used to fund the department’s research into the insects’ behavior and biology, as well as their role in the ecosystem.
One of the newly discovered insects is the California scorpion, which is named after the Academy’s founder, Carl Ferdinand Gottlieb. It was first identified in 1907 and was rediscovered in 1932. Since then, the scorpion’s range has been expanding ever since, and its population is estimated to be in the billions. The species is named after the city of San Francisco, which is within its range.
The other two insects, which are found in the southwestern U.S., were first identified in 2018 and were also given Latin names that are connected to the companies that made the original donations: The Acryllis spider is named after the company that donated it, Acryllis Enterprises Inc., and the Scaptia canary is named Scaptia Canary Island Offshore Wind Project, which donated the canary island on which it was found.
The news that these tech giants were connected to such incredible discoveries in invertebrate zoology is bound to interest nature lovers and anyone else who finds natural history fascinating.
Green Energy Investment Is Here To Stay
The clean energy economy is a global phenomenon that is expected to continue growing in the coming years. According to the Global Cleantech Innovation Center (GCIC), over 500 innovative companies are currently working on clean energy technologies with almost $16 billion in investment. That’s over 10 times the amount invested just four years earlier.
The main drivers of this trend include the growing demand for clean energy, the rising cost of traditional power sources, and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, are now cheaper than electricity generated from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas. As a result, the share of renewables in the global energy market increased from 6% in 2010 to 16% in 2018. In 2022, over 20 countries, including Germany, France, the U.K., and Spain, plan to completely phase out the use of fossil fuels in electricity production.
This shift is likely to be mirrored in the commercial sector, where growing numbers of companies are incorporating sustainability goals and strategies into new product development. One of the best examples of this trend is Silicon Valley’s own Apple Inc., which recently became the world’s largest private employer with over 100,000 employees. In 2018, the company was valued at almost $1 trillion.
The tech titan also has a 100,000-plus solar energy system in place that provides almost all of its headquarters’ energy requirements and some of its campus buildings. In 2022, Apple is expected to invest heavily in renewable energy sources to reduce its impact on the environment.
To find out more about the role of the tech sector in the renewable energy market, check out these blog articles from renewable energy experts at GTM: