In 1879, when Thomas Edison’s dark workshop was slowly and dimly illuminated by his creation, we had no concern for where that energy came from. It signified the beginning of a new era. The industrial revolution, the computer revolution, and the internet era were all built on this electricity.
We came up with new uses for it every year, from heating and cooling our homes to powering moving picture boxes that would soon consume so much of our time. And, for a while, it seems limitless. Now, of course, we know better. This power comes at a cost and is finite in its origin. We’ve had to mine our landscapes and make deals with foreign powers for it. Now, more than 130 years later, we’re in the middle of a new revolution: the renewable revolution with solar power leading the charge.
Solar Power is Growing…Fast
Fossil fuels are a finite resource. This makes growth in fossil fuels a question of finding the necessary resources and creating an infrastructure capable of transporting them. Other sources of renewable energy are also restricted by their geography or geology. Wind farms aren’t as viable in mountainous regions. We can’t access the incredible power of the tides unless we’re in a coastal region.
The sun, however, literally rains its energy the world over. While the past decade has seen an influx in new renewable energy sources being researched and deemed viable, 2016 has marked the first time solar power was the fastest growing energy source. This means that, for the first time, solar capacity beat out coal as the source of electricity, a dynamic and telling shift.
Solar Power is Getting Consistently Cheaper
We can all acknowledge the incredible fluctuation in the price of fossil fuels. The accessibility of fossil fuels can be influenced by natural disasters, the geopolitical climate of certain regions, and, as seen recently, the whim of lawmakers. We saw the price of a barrel of oil jump nearly 300% from $27.69 to $91.48 in just five years. Solar power, on the other hand, has been consistently dropping in price.
In 1998, the cost of installing a residential solar system worked out to be over $12 per Watt of solar generating capacity. That price has dropped consistently year after year to a new low of $4 per Watt in 2015. Large-scale proposals are dropping too. In March of 2016, a recent bid in Mexico had the price of solar at $3.60 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Six months later, all 8 bids for a solar plant in Saudi Arabia beat that price, the lowest coming in at only $1.79 per kWh.
Solar Solutions are as Dynamic as the Needs
One of the only advantages fossil fuels have enjoyed, up to this point, is the convenience. It takes advantage of an infrastructure that was completely designed with it in mind. The popularity of solar, however, has led to increased research in an effort to close this gap. In the past, switching to solar meant having enormous rigid panels installed on the roof of your house.
Not only were these aesthetically displeasing, but it also meant the power potential was directly related to the amount of space you had on your roof. What if your business is housed in a tall office building? You’ve got a substantial amount of square footage but your roof space is rather sparse. Research at Michigan State University may have your answer: transparent solar cells.
These cells could be applied to all of the windows in your building, making nearly the entire exterior a giant solar power generator. Of course, that technology is still in development. What if you want a solution now but you still can’t accommodate large rigid panels? There’s an answer for that too.
Fralock has developed flexible solar cells. These cells were developed with space travel in mind but can be easily applied to terrestrial projects. The dynamic nature of solar power means that the number of places in the world that are unable to take advantage is dwindling rapidly.
Solar Power Represents Freedom to Entire Nations
While fossil fuels still account for the majority of the power generation in the world, it also represents restrictions on how some countries are able to conduct themselves. Smaller countries with less clout are often beholden to other nations to provide them with their fuels, in essence forcing them to play nice or lose access to affordable energy.
Solar power could mean freedom to those nations. In recent years, we’ve seen entire nations push to making more and more of their energy renewably sourced. In 2015, China installed enough solar panels to cover one and a half soccer fields every hour. In 2016 they doubled that and plan to do more, potentially meeting their solar capacity goal for 2020 in 2018. In May of 2017, a solar park in India added another 250 megawatts (MW) plant to the largest solar park in the country that was already generating 480 MW.
It’s inevitable that we will shift to a renewably sourced power grid. While “how long” remains the only question, solar power seems to be poised to deliver the punch that could fell fossil fuels, once and for all.
If you want your building or home to start generating renewable energy on its own, check out Fralock’s flexible solar cells which can help you save a lot on electricity in the long run and move one step closer towards being off the electric grid.