Solar power is having a sunny time. Solar panel installations in the U.S. have fully recovered from the Covid slump, with analysts predicting more than 19 gigawatts of capacity installed, compared with 13 gigawatts at the close of 2019 solar power Data from industry research suggests that the number could quadruple within the next decade. Even without considering the further impact of new regulations and incentives, the green-friendly Biden administration might launch.
The solar industry’s pandemic-proof performance is thanks in large part to the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which offers a deduction of 26% for residential and commercial solar-related expenses (down from 30% in 2006-to 2019). Commercial installers will get a permanent 10% tax credit after 2023, while home buyers will lose the credit entirely. As a result, solar sales will likely burn even hotter in the coming months as buyers race to cash in while they can.
The booming solar industry isn’t just due to tax subsidies. Thanks to several waves of manufacturing innovation mostly driven by China’s industry-dominant panel manufacturers, panel conversion efficiency has improved by as much as 0.5% per year in the last ten years, even if production costs (and prices) have sharply declined. It, therefore, translates into lower up-front costs per kilowatt of energy generated for the end-user.
What Is Solar Power?
Solar energy is a technology that harnesses the sun’s energy and converts it into electrical power. Globally, the technology provided less than one-tenth of one percent energy in 2011.
Many people are familiar with photovoltaic cells or solar panels used on spacecraft, rooftops, and handheld calculators. The cells are constructed from semiconductors, like computer chips. Solar radiation causes electrons to be knocked loose from their atoms when they hit cells. The electrons then flow through the cells, generating electricity.
On the other hand, solar-thermal power plants use a wide array of techniques to concentrate the sun’s energy. Heat is used to boil water, generating steam that drives a turbine that generates electricity in a manner similar to coal and nuclear power plants, supplying electricity for thousands of people.
How to Harness Solar Power
The technique uses long oil pipes with U-shaped mirrors running through the center to focus sunlight on it. This causes the oil to boil, thereby generating electricity. Using moveable mirrors, the sun’s rays are concentrated on a collector tower, where a receiver sits. The receiver runs a generator by heating molten salt flowing through it.
There are other passive solar technologies. A building’s sunny side, for example, allows sunlight to warm up heat-absorbing materials on the walls and floors. As a result, the surfaces release heat at night, keeping the building warm throughout the day. Like absorbent plates, tubes that supply hot water to a house can be heated with liquid on a roof.
It has traditionally been hailed as an inexhaustible source of fuel that is pollution-free and often noise-free. There are also many applications for this technology. It is simply as easy for solar cells to generate energy for satellites orbiting Earth and a cabin deep in the Rocky Mountains as it is to power a downtown building and a futuristic car.
It is not possible to use solar power at night without a battery, and cloudy weather can make the technology unreliable during the day. As well as being very expensive, solar technology also requires a large area of land to collect the sun’s energy at rates useful to many people.
The use of solar energy has increased by about 20 percent a year over the last 15 years, despite the drawbacks. This can be attributed to rapidly decreasing prices and improvements in inefficiency. The return on investment from solar electricity can often be five to ten years, due to tax incentives and efficient coordination with energy companies. The major markets for solar cells are Japan, Germany, and the United States.