Photovoltaic and Concentrating Solar Power Technologies, Capacity, Generation, Legislation, and the Future Outlook

Solar energy holds high potential for utility-scale power generation. It is estimated that solar energy received by the earth in a year, has the potential to provide 1,000 times of total annual world energy consumption, though it contributes only 0.02% of world’s total power, as the technology continues to be predominantly unexplored.

Solar power generation technologies can primarily be segregated into two categories. The first is direct solar technologies (also called solar cell or solar photovoltaic) which generate electricity directly from the sunlight. The second are indirect technologies (also called concentrating solar power technologies) which use the heat of the sunlight to generate electricity.

Currently, both direct solar technologies and indirect solar technologies deliver efficiencies ranging from 12–15%. However, direct solar technologies are preferred for installation due to better government incentives. Currently, the most prominent types of direct solar technologies are crystalline solar PV and thin-films.

Crystalline solar PV holds close to 85% of the total market share, leaving the remainder to thin-films. The growth of indirect solar technologies is expected to have large volume growth in the future on the grounds of low cost of power generation and integration with heat storage systems such as molten salt. The report provides insight on solar power generation technologies, recent developments, legislative framework in various regions and the future outlook.

Key findings of the report

In 2009, investment in renewables was US$150bn, with growth of 25% over 2008. Germany, China, and the US were the largest investors in the renewables in 2009.

The global solar power installed capacity grew at CAGR of 29.3% from 1996–2009 which grew rapidly from 2004 when Germany’s FiT scheme became effective and led to large number of additional solar PV installations.

Government incentives and mandates worldwide are the key driver for growth in solar power. For instance, Germany’s policies (including feed-in-tariffs and solar building codes) have attracted significant investments and facilitated the installation of over 9GW of solar power generation capacity in the country by the end of 2009. The incentives for solar power can be divided into feed in tariff, grants and subsidies, and tax credit.

According to projections by the EPIA’s moderate scenario, which is based on prevailing legislative framework, the world cumulative solar PV installed power generation capacity may reach 76.6GW by 2014, while cumulative Concentrating Solar Power plant installed power generation capacity may reach 12.7 GW by 2015.

Use this report to…

* Analyze the potential of solar power compared to other renewables regarding installed capacity, investment, growth, and economics.
* Achieve a comprehensive understanding of solar power generation technologies working principles, installed capacity, and efficiencies.
* Comprehend current developments in each of the solar power technologies along with major players, and economics.
* Assess the potential of solar power technologies in various regions including Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa – covering installed capacity, legislative framework, drivers, resistors, and the future outlook.
* Understand the future growth trend for prominent solar power technologies with projected installed capacity by technology

High cost of installation and generation: Solar power technology such as solar PV panels is comparatively expensive which restricts its growth among renewables. Solar panels are considerably expensive to produce due to high material costs and the cost of electricity generation through these panels increases as large arrays of solar panels are needed to provide a sufficient level of electricity.

Inconsistent load profile: Solar power technology relies on the steady delivery of sun rays to generate electricity which results in inconsistent load profile as it is unable to supply power on a consistent basis.

Limited number of high insolation areas: Limited number of high insolation regions will continue to restrict the growth of solar power. Only around 55% of the Earth’s surface (land) is ideal for solar power as unlike wind, solar plants cannot be installed offshore.

Relatively short operating life of concentrated solar energy technologies: The short operating life of concentrated solar energy (CSP) technologies compared to solar PV is expected to be a key resistor to its growth.