Big changes are beginning to happen in the solar power industry. Home retail store IKEA recently confirmed that they are looking to be 100% energy independent with renewable technologies by the end of the decade. Using solar and wind they are making their buildings across Europe more sustainable and reducing their carbon footprint dramatically.
And more good news came for the solar industry when Department for Energy and Climate Change minister Ed Davey said that the falling cost of setting up solar panels was going to make it the cheapest energy source in the future. On a visit to ReneSola in Sussex this month, Davey said: “The people I talk to, whether they’re in financial institutions or research labs, are showing very clearly that solar costs are going to come down and down, so it will be the cheapest form of electricity, I’m absolutely convinced about that.”
Why Solar Costs Are Coming Down
How we utilise the power we get from the sun has been on the minds of researchers and inventors from the time we first became civilised. Solar power is unique amongst all the renewables in that it can be used across a wide cross section of society to provide power. You find it on the rooftops of domestic properties and industrial buildings; there are large solar farms dotted across the country; it is being touted as the way to power our cars, and you can even buy mini-solar systems to power up your gadgets whilst trekking out in the wilds.
The main reason for the costs coming down are, of course, increased competition and developments in system efficiencies, as well as the governments Feed in Tariff that means installations can reach a significant and beneficial return on investment.
The Independent reported that recent innovations will see solar panels becoming cheaper and safer in the future. Some estimates even show that solar will be a cheaper energy than gas by as early as 2018. With developments such as the research being undertaken in Liverpool to replace the toxic components of solar cells with magnesium chloride the future is looking increasingly bright.
Solar Takes to the Water
Amongst the latest innovations in the news is the 800 solar panels installed on a farm in Berkshire. The difference? The array has been placed on a reservoir rather than on land. This could see solar farms finding a place on hundreds of new sites across the UK and solve the problem recently highlighted that existing constructions were taking up valuable farm land that should be used for agriculture.
These floating solar panels have been developed by French company Ciel et Terre and the innovation has already been used on a large scale in countries such as Japan. The Sheeplands Farm array was installed for a quarter of a million pounds and is expected to earn the owner £20,000 a year from the Feed in Tariff, with a return on investment over the next 15 years.
DECC Comments Welcomed by the Industry
After a year of being hammered with the reduction in subsidies that has created uncertainty in the solar market, Ed Davey’s comments have been welcomed by many industry insiders. The problem this year has been the introduction of Contracts for Difference which are intended to replace the old subsidy and were largely seen as not being suitable for solar farm development.
There are some, though, who believe that the new CfDs may well make things easier for solar developers. According to the managing director of Conergy: “The CfDs will see a new phase of development, and will be more attractive than the [old scheme] as they offer a fixed price. Investors love that certainty.”
Whatever the future of solar panels in the UK, across the world major developments are taking place with more installations being built as we come to realise that the sun and our use of its power is one of the most important renewable energy sources for us all.