The consumption of energy is critical to our everyday lives, as well as economic development. The world needs more power to extend electricity access to over one billion people and to support stable growth and rising living standards for billions more. However, the big question is, how can we get power when and where it is needed? This conundrum seems to be more valid when read along with the projection that world energy consumption will grow by 56% between 2010 and 2040. Moreover, the traditional sources that we relied for power have become scarcer throughout the world. It is at this point, we need to identify whether the following challenges can be resolved or not
- Maximise renewable energies and innovate ways to store that power
- The necessity of technology in making, measuring, monetizing, consuming, controlling, storing, trading, and transmitting electrical power
- Re-thinking the way how energy can be efficiently generated and delivered by collaboration and innovation
The road to renewables
Solar has emerged over the last five years as one of the fastest growing forms of electricity. The major reasons are:
- Solar is a much cleaner and sustainable source of power
- The fuel is free and abundantly available in several parts of the world, making it immune to geopolitical conflicts and increasing the possibility of off-grid solutions in remote areas and places like Africa
- Technological advances in Solar and storage batteries have made it more economically viable
- Customers have the option of acting of ‘Prosumers’ (Producers + Consumers) giving them more control with functions like net metering, demand management, distributed energy management, etc.
- Fossil fuels still remain cheap and they are not scarce, so that point is not driving solar investment
Imagine a time when in millions of homes and offices running with solar power, people driving zero-emission cars that run on hydrogen fuel – created using solar energy that splits waste water into hydrogen and oxygen. We are not far from it. In fact, we have technologies for the solar-powered world today that overcomes issues over long-distance transmission from sunny to sunny-less areas, or find storage solutions to allow it to carry on generating power when it gets dark.
Major energy players like China has already invested in building high-voltage power lines to spread output across its vast territory from burgeoning solar power facilities. Along with it, the Solarcity project, backed by Elon Musk, Chairman and top shareholder as well as CEO of Tesla Motors also unveiled the plan to make solar roof modules made from solar shingles that both protect the home and produce clean power all at once. The market for solar roofs is steadily expanding as the costs of renewable energy technologies continue to plummet, thanks to innovation and economies of scale.
The great space race
As earth’s appetite for power continues to grow, and the need for a basic answer to issues about generating power when the sun goes down, the vision of harvesting solar energy from the space and beaming it down to earth gained prominence and had often been inspected. With no atmosphere, never cloudy and no nights in geosynchronous orbits, space is the perfect place for a solar power station to harvest uninterrupted power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Today, the idea is less science fiction than a steadily advancing reality.
Both China and Japan are all set to build Space-based Solar Power (SBSP) stations by 2030 that will dwarf previous projects of this kind. Engineers point out that, Space-based solar panels can generate ten times as much electricity as ground-based panels per unit area, eliminating the wastage that happened with reflection and absorption in the Earth’s atmosphere. However SBSP poses enormous challenges such as:
- The need to ensure super-accurate transmission
- System maintenance in the hostile environment of space and getting SBSP stations into orbit
- Putting humans into space while creating SBSP stations
Nevertheless, it is the developments on the ground, where the actual potential of the advanced solar technology lies. Efficiency lies in converting the availability into usability to meet humanity’s power demands, without much wastage. However, the main challenge is something more critical and beyond the domain. With panels that are affordable and more efficient, that could convert around 20% of the sunlight falling on them to electricity, how come solar energy currently supplies only to a meagre share of the world’s power demands? Is technology the only restraint? Are there some barriers that block the shared vision of what future can bring?
The road ahead to a Solar Future
Despite the fact that renewable energy technologies have enormous potential, these hurdles limit the latest developments:
- Commercialization barriers faced by new technologies
- Price distortions from existing subsidies and unequal tax burden between renewables and other energy sources
- Failure of the market to value the public benefits of renewables
- Political inertia drove to a large extent by the vested interests of the giant fossil fuel businesses
It is time for us to get inspired by the global trend and growth, adapting to the changing regulations and requirements. Many companies are running innovative programs to find even more efficient and cost-effective ways to produce and store energy. Above all, it is crucial to adopt the right technology tool that will enable you to connect the dots. With the right technology in the hand, solar energy players can demonstrate the viability and safety of their solutions to many different stakeholders, from regulators to financiers, from local communities to media. Also, with the development of systems, leveraging collaboration, and innovation that will more accurately control demand, you can be a part of the massive transformation that will foster the dream of making solar-powered future a reality.