The levelized cost of energy from solar becomes competitive with conventional energy sources.
Renewable energy, and solar in particular, have come a long way in their relatively short 25-year lifespan. Back then, the early adopters who were brave enough to install solar panels wherever they could were perceived as environmentalists with a green conscience. The high cost of the panels, their poor reliability, and miserable efficiency, all contributed to an image that solar was a dream unachievable “in my lifetime”.
But wind the clock forward to today. Solar arrays are everywhere: from domestic rooftops to farmers fields. We even have an airplane navigating its way around the world solely powered by the sun – The Solar Impulse. And an increasing number of governments are withdrawing subsidies as the levelized cost of energy from solar becomes competitive with conventional energy sources.
This fast track growth is set to escalate, driven by a realization that the world’s natural resources are running out and the ability of mankind to innovate. ABB is investing heavily in the technology and is asserting itself in the vanguard of this innovation.
Digitalization for predictable and reliable power
As we move from a centrally organized world of power generation into a system of decentralized generation, more and more solar plants will be feeding their electricity into the grid, changing the conventional energy mix. But as solar power tends to be more volatile in nature, the grid must be regulated even more precisely. This requires fast, precise and reliable energy data in order to provide predictable power and minimize costly grid disruptions. To manage this digitalization of energy, the new generation of solar inverters needs to be equipped with enhanced communication and control capabilities.
Energy storage for self-sufficiency
Of course, by its very nature solar is an inconsistent source of power. Again innovation is winning the day. Solar inverters, for instance, are now available with batteries to store solar energy for later use. This is a big step towards self-sufficiency. These solar energy storage solutions can be integrated with home automation systems, making them an integral part of the modern smart home.
Higher input voltage for lower system costs
When it comes to utility-scale installations, we see a trend towards plug-and-play solutions with higher voltages needed to manage the direct current (DC) collection of bigger arrays per inverter. By increasing the DC input voltage to 1500 VDC, together with a high power rating, system costs can be decreased by reducing the need for strings, combiner boxes, and wiring.
… and for those still doubting…
There really is no stopping solar energy. In my view, it is here to stay. There are just too many reasons why it simply must succeed. It has to have a future if we want to manage the shift in the energy mix successfully. Of course, there will be challenges ahead. But so far mankind is doing a fairly impressive job of tackling its reliability, predictability, and economic viability. Expect to see a lot more from us in the areas of energy storage, digitalization, cost-effective packages with even higher input voltages: just to name a few.
If you want to learn more about the future of solar and how we can help you to get a higher return on investment from your solar installation, please contact us or visit us at Intersolar in Munich, June 22 to 24, 2016 (ABB at Intersolar, Stand B2.310). Our experts are looking forward to discussing with you the future of solar.