With non-renewable fossil fuel supplies running out and the world’s energy needs increasing, many countries are looking at alternative ways to produce sustainable energy. One of the top contenders for renewable energy is solar power, which is available all over the planet.
Currently, solar power plants use two types of technology to harness the sun’s energy:
- Photovoltaic – uses the solar panels and is the cheapest and most popular method.
- Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) – uses solar thermal energy from large mirrors or lenses to make steam, which is then converted to electricity using a turbine.
Photovoltaic (PV) Systems
The photovoltaic system has gone from a niche market of small-scale applications in 1992 to the cheapest and most-often used technology for generating solar energy. China, the United States, and India were the top three installers of PV systems, while Honduras has the capacity to produce 12.5% of its electricity needs using PV systems.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
Spain and the United States are the biggest users of Concentrated Solar Power, with the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in California being the biggest facility in the world. However, the technology can’t compete with the reduced operating costs and huge growth of photovoltaic systems in recent years.
With its huge population and recent increased need for energy, it’s not surprising that China is the biggest installer of photovoltaic and CSP systems. Solar power is one of the largest industries in China with three of the top four PV power stations, and the world’s biggest in Tengger Desert Solar Park.
The United States has some of the world’s largest solar power stations, as well a high number of rooftop solar panel installations. The industry has seen rapid growth in recent years with the decreasing costs of installations and components. At the end of 2017, the U.S had over 50 GW of installed solar capacity and was in the top four countries for the most solar PV installed.
In 2017, India added 9,255 MW of solar power to its solar program, with another 9,627 MW of solar projects under development, making them the third largest solar power producer in the world. The Indian government’s goal is to reach 100 GW of installed solar capacity by 2022. Several of India’s large grid-scale solar parks are among the world’s largest.
Japan is the world’s biggest manufacturer of solar panels, and is the second on the list of countries with the most solar PV installed. It currently produces 2.5% of its electricity needs using solar power.
Here in Australia, we’re in the top ten for solar PV installations and CSP capacities. We have over 7,803 megawatts (MW) of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power, with the largest solar power station being Nyngan Solar Plant, which was also the largest in the southern hemisphere when completed. Our rooftop solar panel industry is also growing rapidly.
Since there is no oil in Israel, finding an alternative source of energy is a national priority. This quest, and Israel’s plentiful sunshine, has advanced their solar technology to be almost cost-competitive with non-renewable fossil fuels, and they’re working with the rest of the world to move solar technology forward.