The Economist ran a couple of stories about Solar Energy in the latest issue (16 April 2016); mainly touting the trends the industry has been facing in the recent years:
- Falling cost of panels
- Increasing interest, attention and commitment (in the form of Feed-in Tariffs)
- Falling levels of subsidy support and FiTs
- Increased avenues of financing and ambitious solar farm projects
Quite a couple of bottlenecks to the growth of solar still awaits solutions; and in the recent years, competition in this industry will be shifting into solving some of these problems holding back the development of solar energy.
- Land intensity of PV solar farms (need to improve efficiency and quality of PV cells) – land is an issue because of potential competition with arable land (plants need sunshine too) in certain places
- Intermittency of Solar power (a large dark cloud moving over a PV farm by can reduce generation significantly and abruptly – need for energy storage and some sort of balancing mechanism)
- Grid curtailment issues; inability of the grid to take in the power generated when at the peak generation capacity (especially with wind power thrown into the vicinity).
As a result, I believe these issues are going to drive the growth of this few industries/businesses:
- Data analytics combining weather/cloud forecasting with energy storage smart systems to optimise the operations of large scale solar farms
- Market platforms that helps with cost-balancing and electricity trading in order to smoothen demand and supply fluctuations from solar/wind power
- Improvements in both energy storage technologies as well as PV cell technologies.
- Further financial innovation in financing solar power deployments – including leasing of panels, leasing of rooftop space, usage-fee-purchase model, etc.