Maximising the promising future that is solar power.
The sun is an infinite source of renewable energy with immeasurable power to fuel life on earth. The energy derived from the sun is inexhaustible – solar energy that reaches the earth in one day can be used by humankind in one year!
So, how exactly can we benefit from solar energy? The sun’s energy can be converted into electricity through solar panels containing photovoltaic (Photo = light, voltaic = electricity) modules. The PV modules absorb sunlight and convert it into direct current electricity (DC). An inverter then converts the direct current into alternating current (AC) for battery consumption or storage. Solar panels have low maintenance costs and can last more than 25 years.
Why is solar energy important? Unlike fossil fuels that pollute the air with greenhouse gas emissions, the sun is a clean source of energy that will not run out of supply. When the sun does not shine, solar power enables the storage of solar energy in batteries. The sun’s capacity to expel energy is unlimited. What is limited is man’s ability to harness the power of the sun.
Solar Power in Australia
Australia has a long and arduous love affair with solar energy. The sunniest country in the world has taken the lead in solar research since the 1950s. It took the country by storm with the invention of the first solar-powered water heating system. The invention played an essential role in the 1973 oil crisis. At that time, energy was a precious and unaffordable commodity when fossil fuel prices soared. This experience taught Aussies not to be dependent on other countries for vital necessities. Consequently, solar power has become a household name since then. As of 31 January 2022, 30% of Australian homes have rooftop solar PV.
The solar industry’s success is evident in the lives of every Australian – from hot showers and water treatment to modern telecommunications. If success is measured in terms of the widespread use of solar panels in homes and offices, the solar industry has indeed come a long way and will continue to soar to greater heights.
Why solar energy is soaring high in Australia
The sun is shining in the solar industry in Australia. Investors have a keen interest in renewable energy, particularly solar and wind energy. This is an exciting time, not just for the solar industry, but also for all businesses! It is apparent that everyone wants to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 – but here’s the rub: Australia will need 1.9TW of solar PV to reach net zero by 2050.
Is it doable? The solar energy sector is supported by state-wide renewable energy goals. Businesses that have met target emission goals are given incentives by their respective states. The recent surge in demand for solar panels tipped the economies of scale and made them more affordable. It is a concerted effort to provide clean air for humans.
How much is the solar industry expected to grow?
Solar energy now provides 3% – 4% of global electricity and 15% in Australia. However, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) wants to increase it to 50% to limit the impact of heating climate due to fossil fuel emissions.
The solar industry will grow in leaps and bounds due to the high demand for energy around the world. Solar energy is the best option to meet future demand among other sources of renewable energy (i.e., wind energy, geothermal energy, and hydroelectric energy). Its cost-effectiveness, accessibility, capacity, and efficiency make it a viable option.
How much of Australia’s energy is expected from solar by 2050?
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Australia could source 86% of its electricity from solar and wind by 2050. Another report from researchers says that Australia could produce 200% of its energy needs from renewables by 2050. This team of scientists working under the Australian-German Energy Transition Hub concluded that Australia could become a world leader in climate mitigation and the export of zero-carbon energy.
What is the future of solar energy?
It has been over three decades since Martin Green, a UNSW professor, developed PV cells with 20% efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity. Now, panels operate with 23% – 24% efficiency. Moreover, solar power now operates in two out of three Australian households.
However, the biggest challenge facing the solar energy future is its unavailability all year, high capital cost, and scarcity of materials for PV cells. That is why the ARENA will grant $45M to the UNSW-based Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics over the next eight years. The fund will help researchers focus on increasing the manufacturing of more efficient and durable solar cells with abundant and cheaper metals. The goal is mass production of solar cells with 30% efficiency at 30 cents a watt by 2030.
The Australian Continent has the highest solar radiation per square metre and some of the best solar energy resources in the world. Without a doubt, solar is going to be a big part of Australia’s energy future as both Federal and State Governments make commitments toward renewable energy. Australia can become the world superpower in clean energy by replacing coal, gas, and uranium export with renewable energy.
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