SOLA CEO, Dom Wills and CTO, Ian Burger, are currently in Munich for Intersolar Europe – the world’s largest gathering of solar professionals. Below are some reflections from the first day of the conference. Follow updates on Twitter.
Reduced costs and better technology paints a sunny picture for solar
Overall, 2016 was a record year for solar. This is due to not only increased uptake, but also reduced cost of materials. Overall, the levelised cost of energy – or, what solar energy costs comparative to other sources such as coal and wind – has come down by 58% in the past 7 years, and storage by 40% in the past 4 years. Both of these factors are predicted to either reduce at the same rate or even an increased rate. This paints a positive picture for the future of solar and its affordability.Technical advances in the actual making of solar panels – such as integrating Silver deposits in silicon wafers that solar panels are made of – is expected to increase the efficiency of solar cells by 0.24%, perhaps even increasing to 0.35% over the next year. These technical aspects, combined with reducing costs of storage, could mean that solar far outstrips its energy competitors in coming years.
Operations and Maintenance key to solar’s effectiveness
Operations and Maintenance of solar was also a key part of the discussion, with the costs of this still needing to be reduced significantly. As more plants are built, there is a need to maintain them; however, costs of maintenance are still relatively high. Soiling losses – or dirt on solar panels that reduces their generating capacity – can be as high as 20%, particularly in dry or dusty areas. This makes the importance of maintaining solar systems even more poignant. Automation, digitization and standardisation will be key components to achieving costs reductions for operation and maintenance.
The development of specific standards for solar, such as international standard DIN77055-1, are currently being compiled and will look to be published in early 2018. Standards such as these focus on record keeping and standardising procedures, which will likely be beneficial for developing the relevant software portals for PV plants in the future.
Overall, the first day of Intersolar Europe was one packed to the brim with positive stories of solar, and how both costs and technology are advancing in the technology’s favour. From the perspective of technical leaders in the field, the future really does look bright.