Solar Innovations Reduces Energy Costs
In most of the developed world, we don’t stop to think about where the power comes from when we switch on the light. Our power sources are remarkably reliable, so we know we’ll have the electricity we need, whenever we need it. It is so central for us that our way of life quickly breaks down without it. As alternative energy sources have evolved alongside our understanding of the limitations of fossil fuels, more and more of us are getting the same reliability we’re accustomed to from solar power. In fact, 748,000 homes and businesses in the United States now rely on solar-generated electricity.
Solar energy is increasingly affordable: while it cost about $100 per watt twenty or thirty years ago, it now averages just over $1 per watt. That price is competitive — but only because solar is now reliable enough to be a big part of national grids, where China is leading the way in market size, growth and percent of electricity to be generated. China became world’s leading solar power market in 2015 and is looking to add fifteen gigawatts of solar power per year, aiming to add over 80 gigawatts of solar power though 2020. This would put China’s installed capacity of solar energy systems production at 150 gigawatts, about seventy percent of the current global capacity.
Advances in technology stand behind these improvements in reliability and cost. Generating solar energy costs very little, but installing solar collection arrays is capital intensive. Solar panels may not contain any moving parts, but being exposed to the UV radiation, temperature extremes, moisture, and more year after year takes its toll. As solar panels degrade, their power output drops accordingly, making solar more expensive in the long run than it needs to be.
Fortunately, there are materials, such as a backsheets made from DuPont™ Tedlar® that can extend a solar panel’s useful life to more than thirty years. Tedlar® continues to provide critical proven, long-life protection to the critical parts of solar panels by providing an optimal balance between weatherability, adhesion and mechanical strength.
Panel longevity is one of those hidden problems that bedevil the PV industry: it takes a long time to diagnose, and the industry typically only measures day one performance. Taking the long view, however, is critical to widespread adoption of solar power. As Bob Olsen, Global Marketing Director at DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions, says, “Historically the industry uses tests and standards that measure day one performance — does the module work? That’s only one indicator of performance,” he says. “We’re trying to educate the market on the importance of lifetime value and testing that predicts in-the-field stresses over time. It may actually cost you a lot of money in the long run if you have to replace a module or if it starts producing less electricity.”
Today, solar energy isn’t a fringe idea — it’s a practical solution to our energy needs. As the technology behind solar energy continues to evolve, the strongest testament to its impact is that we still don’t think twice when we switch on the light.