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Advances in solar power attributed mainly to developments in polymer materials

Advances in solar power attributed mainly to developments in polymer materials

Since solar panels are made from plastics, harnessing solar power would be impossible without them. Any developments in this sector can be attributed mainly to polymer material developments.Global solar energy market will grow from around US$39.6 bln in 2011 to US$75.2 bln in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate of 13.7% during the same period as per MarketsandMarkets. Increasing environmental concerns such as green house gas emission, growing energy consumption especially from emerging countries, increasing investment in renewable energies, and low operating and maintenance cost of solar power plants put the world at cumulatively 40.7 GW of solar photovoltaic and concentrated thermal power installed capacity at the end of 2010. In 2010, estimated market size for photovoltaic and concentrated solar thermal technologies was US$36.6 bln. New solar technology like concentrated solar power (CSP) and the opening of new markets are tipped to become a strong growth engine for solar moving forward, according to a new report looking at how the industry will develop before 2016. Overall, it was found that the solar market will eclipse US$75 bln and that installed capacity will reach 227 gigawatts (GW) by 2016. Global solar installations, meanwhile, are expected to reach 46.8 GW pa in 2016, up from 19.8 GW in 2011, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.7% during the same period. Again, there was the prediction of short-term stunting of the market. The cumulative installed solar capacity, which increased by 70% in 2010, is estimated to grow by only 50% in 2011, affected mainly by governmental interference with feed-in tariffs and concessions, as well as global economic conditions. CSP is predicted to have annual installations of 46.7 GW in 2016 and a CAGR of 18.7% through to 2016. The report makes special mention of CSP becoming more of a market force in the near future, as investment, as well as research and development of the technology help make it a viable alternative to traditional photovoltaics. CSP technologies are expected to grow at a faster rate than photovoltaics due to new markets like China, India, Brazil, Canada, Germany and France opening up, as they look to exploit the newest technologies. During 2011 to 2016, the CSP market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 44.9%, compared to a photovoltaic market growth of only 29.9%. These levels will still leave it trailing photovoltaics by a fair margin though, as cumulative installed capacity of CSP and photovoltaics is expected to be 8.6 GW and 219 GW respectively at the end of 2016. North America is the fastest growing market and will grow by a CAGR of 30.7% in annual installation during 2011 - 2016. By 2016, the solar energy market in North America will be at 5.1 GW of annual installations with an estimated market size of US$14.8 bln. The growth of North America is led by the U.S.; where both photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar thermal (CST/CSP) solar power technologies are getting investments. Asia-Pacific is the second fastest growing market, only after North America; which will grow by a CAGR of 20.5% in annual installations during 2011 – 2016. The region's growth will be pushed by increasing installations in China. Development of remote regions, substitution of nuclear reactors with renewable sources and technological innovations such as space solar power generation are the main market opportunities responsible for compounded annual growth rate of 30.3% in annual solar power installations in the next five years. Asia-Pacific is predicted to be the second fastest growing market, and will develop by a CAGR of 20.5% in annual installations, driven mainly by increasing investment and installations in China. From 2011 to 2016, the rest of the world – constituting Brazil, Israel, and the Middle East in the report - will explore solar energy and will experience a CAGR of 18.8%. Europe, so long the mainstay of global photovoltaic output, will remain the biggest market, it was said, driven by Germany and Spain.

As per Solarbuzz.com, among industrialized countries, the German and Japanese governments have led the way in legislating high incentives to stimulate development of their domestic solar markets. The German feed-in tariff model has been increasingly used in countries around Europe, including Italy and France. As a result, the industry structure has evolved, leading to strong distributor and dealer networks with well-trained installers and good customer support capabilities. Government policy is designed to reduce CO2 emissions via solar deployment and to create high-tech jobs through the development of a strong national solar industry. In the United States, utilities have played a stronger role in market development. In developing countries, markets have benefited from the steady decline in solar PV prices, but they have also been stimulated by continued multi-lateral and bi-lateral development aid. This has meant that solar has been an enabling technology for developmental programs for education, clean water, and healthcare.

Facts of competing solar technologies CSP vs PV:
Concentrated Solar Thermal systems (CSP), are not the same as Photovoltaic panels; CSP systems concentrate radiation of the sun to heat a liquid substance which is then used to drive a heat engine and drive an electric generator. This indirect method generates alternating current (AC) which can be easily distributed on the power network. CSP systems are capable of storing energy by use of Thermal Energy Storage technologies (TES) and using it at times of low or no sunlight, e.g. on cloudy days or overnight, to generate electric power. This capability increases the penetration of solar thermal technology in the power generation industry as it helps overcome intermittency problems; usually due to environmental fluctuations Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels differ from solar thermal systems in that they do not use the sun's heat to generate power. Instead, they use sunlight through the 'photovoltaic effect' to generate direct electric current (DC) in a direct electricity production process. The DC is then converted to AC, usually with the use of inverters, in order to be distributed on the power network. PV systems do not produce or store thermal energy as they directly generate electricity - and electricity cannot be easily stored (e.g. in batteries) especially at large power levels. Thus CSP systems are far more attractive for large scale power generation as thermal energy storage technologies are far more efficient than electricity storage technologies; CSP systems can produce excess energy during the day and store it for usage over the night, thus energy storage capabilities can not only improve financial performance but also dispatchability of solar power and flexibility in the power network.

Source: renewablegreenenergypower.com, pv magazine

 
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