BBC Highlights Solar Growth
An in-depth report from the BBC has highlighted the extraordinary growth prospects of solar energy in the coming years.
While the BBC examines the rapidly expanding market within China, the country offers lessons that are highly applicable elsewhere, particularly for distributed generation in nations without comprehensive electricity grid systems.
The impetus for distributed generation in China — where small scale solar plants are situated either on site or very close to the end user — has been given largely by farmers wanting to power agricultural equipment in areas with no readily accessible grid connection.
But highlighting other areas where off-grid solar is increasingly popular is the success of Seeder, founded by US citizen Alex Shoer, which specialises in fitting rooftop panels within the country. Its business model targets foreign businesses that want to make their installations ‘greener’ without a large capital outlay.
Speaking to the BBC Shoer said: “We will source the capital to finance, pay for the whole project and then sell the power at a discount.” This model is a highly promising field and very attractive to both end users and investors.
In China, Seeder has already installed 3MW of capacity, with another 28MW in the pipeline, with Shoer commenting he was attracted by Beijing’s commitment to the solar industry.
China’s national government has been urging local authorities to put in the business framework to encourage production as well as research and development of solar panels and power systems.
The result has been an increasing dominance in the sector, with China and Taiwan now responsible for around 60% of global solar panel production.
Its vast home market provides the financial incentive to producers. In 2016 China installed more than 34GW of solar capacity — nearly half the world-wide total. A combination of the ever increasing manufacturing capacity of Chinese solar cell companies and its huge internal market has driven prices down, not just in the country but further afield too.
This will have a knock-on effect that promises to be highly beneficial to manufacturers outside China too. The most prominent example is US-based Tesla, which is developing a series of ‘Gigafactories’ to produce solar and energy storage technology. The company’s business model relies on high sales of its battery and rooftop solar systems, and for this an affordable price point is crucial. As costs plunge global take-up of solar will grow exponentially, with plenty of demand to absorb the increasing production capacity of companies like Tesla.
Apart from simple cost, innovative technology will also drive this switch to solar.
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