Solar Power Enjoys its Moment in the Sun as it Gains Acceptance Globally as a Clean Alternative

Over the last 50 years, solar photovoltaic (PV) has evolved into a mature, sustainable and adaptive technology, which is rapidly gaining acceptance as a cost effective and clean alternative to conventional energy sources. PV technology’s rising popularity partly stems from the increasing efficiency of its solar cells and partly from the improved aesthetics of its modules.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan’s ( Global Solar Power Market research finds that the global solar power market had 1,327 megawatts (MW) of total installed concentrated solar power (CSP) capacity and 39,611 MW of PV capacity in 2010. The total installed CSP capacity is projected to reach 15,554 MW by the end of 2017, while the total installed PV capacity is expected to reach 188,461 MW.

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The solar PV technology has the solid backing of the federal government and various state governments, which have instituted numerous renewable energy policies and programs, incentives and mandates.

“In the United States, Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) and the economic stimulus package provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a major diver for the solar power market,” said Frost & Sullivan Senior Industry Analyst Georgina Benedetti. “Similarly, in Europe, governments have passed several renewable energy laws and incentives such as feed-in tariffs for solar PV-generated power in countries such as Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and Portugal to support the growing renewable energy industry both financially and technologically.”

Although PV is riding a popularity wave, its module prices experienced a sharp decline in 2009 and 2010 due to an increase in manufacturing capacity and higher silicon supply. Further, the emergence of Chinese PV cell manufacturers that can produce cells at much lower costs placed considerable pressure on American and European manufacturers to lower their prices. To save their margins, European and American companies have to produce high-quality and highly efficient solar panels.

The governments in the West are showing an urgency to increase the domestic supply of energy to reduce their dependence on imports. This rising need for energy security translates to greater opportunities for solar power companies.

Countries’ commitment to reduce carbon emissions by boosting the percentage of renewable energy in the energy mix has given a boost to the solar energy markets all over the world.

“When backed up by thermal storage facilities and combustible fuel, a solar power plant offers utilities electricity that can be dispatched when required, enabling it to be used for base, shoulder, and peak loads,” notes Benedetti. “For off-grid applications, solar energy can provide cost-competitive, reliable, and clean electricity to remote homes and villages.”

As of 2010, there were 1,327 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity globally and more than 18 gigawatts (GW) of CSP projects in development. PV installation experienced tremendous growth during the last three years, reaching 39,611 MW in 2010.

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