The world has around 300 gigawatts of solar power installed, and it is observed that the annual potential for harvesting solar energy supersedes the world’s energy consumption. Scientists have projected that photovoltaics (PVs) have the capacity to produce around 10 terawatts (10,000 gigawatts) of the world’s energy by 2030. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the goal of using the sun to provide a significant fraction of global electricity demand is far from being realised.
A new Science paper titled, “Terawatt-Scale Photovoltaics: Trajectories and Challenges,” contributed by scientists from NREL, and their counterparts from similar institutes in Germany and Japan, have researched on the recent trajectory of solar photovoltaics (PV). They have put forward an outline on the potential worldwide pathway to produce a significant portion of the world’s electricity from solar power. Nancy Haegel, director of NREL’s Materials Science Centre and lead author of the published paper said that there was a consensus that the global PV industry was on a clear trajectory to reach the multi-terawatt scale.
NREL said that around 57 experts at Global Alliance of Solar Energy Research Institutes (GA-SERI), discussed on policy initiatives and technology advances needed to support a significant expansion of solar power. Haegel added that for reaching the full potential for PV technology they would require continued advances in science and technology.
It is reported that the International Solar Alliance had set a target of having around 3 terawatts (3,000 gigawatts) of additional solar power capacity by 2030. Meanwhile, the GA-SERI paper discusses a realistic trajectory to install 5 to 10 terawatts of PV capacity by 2030.
The science paper is co-authored by David Feldman, Robert Margolis, William Tumas, Gregory Wilson, Michael Woodhouse, and Sarah Kurtz in addition to Haegel of NERL. The experts predict that 5 to 10 terawatts of PV capacity would be in place by 2030 provided the following changes are achieved.
- Reduction in the cost of PV and improving the performance of solar modules.
- Drop in cost and time to expand manufacturing and installation capacity.
- More flexible grids to handle high levels of PV.
- Increase in demand for electricity by focusing on using more heating and transportation or cooling.
- Progress in storage for energy generated by solar power.