• Why Solar?

    Solar energy is the largest energy resource on Earth – and is inexhaustible.

    Solar energy offers a clean, climate-friendly, very abundant and inexhaustible energy resource to mankind, relatively well-spread over the globe.

    In 90 minutes, enough sunlight strikes the earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year. While solar energy is abundant, it represents a tiny fraction of the world’s current energy mix. But this is changing rapidly and is being driven by global action to improve energy access and supply security, and to mitigate climate change.

    While proven fossil reserves represent 46 years (oil), 58 years (natural gas) and almost 150 years (coal) of consumption at current rates (IEA, 2010b), the energy received by the sun in one single year, if entirely captured and stored, would represent more than 6 000 years of total energy consumption.

    Solar energy is widely available throughout the world and can contribute to reduced dependence on energy imports. As it entails no fuel price risk 
or constraints, it also improves security of supply. Solar power enhances energy diversity and hedges against price volatility of fossil fuels, thus stabilising costs of electricity generation in the long term.

    Solar energy has been the fastest-growing energy sector in the last few years, albeit from a very low basis. It is expected to reach competitiveness on a large scale in less than ten years.

    PV system prices have been divided by three in six years in most markets, while module prices have been divided by five. The cost of electricity from new built systems varies from USD 90 to USD 300/MWh depending on the solar resource; the type, size and cost of systems; maturity of markets and costs of capital. 

    Since 2010, the world has added more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity than in the previous four decades. New systems were installed in 2013 at a rate of 100 megawatts (MW) of capacity per day. Total global capacity overtook 150 gigawatts (GW) in early 2014.

    In Germany, more than 1.3 million solar power plants generated almost 30 TWh in 2013, equivalent to 5.3% of German electricity consumption, and total capacity was rated at 36 GW at the end of 2013. In Italy, PV systems generated 22 TWh in 2013, or 7% of electricity consumption, with total capacity rated at 17 GW at the end of 2013. 

    For the bulk of the world population, solar energy can provide inexhaustible and clean electricity in large amounts, only surpassed by wind power in temperate and cold countries. Electricity will be the main carrier of solar energy, displacing fossil fuel use with efficient motors and heat pumps, drawing heavily on solar and geothermal ambient energy.

    Solar energy makes the largest additional contribution to CO2 emission cuts, probably because of its almost unlimited potential. Solar electricity tops 25% of global electricity generation by 2050, more than either wind power or hydro power. By contrast, most other renewables – with the possible exception of wind power – may meet some kind of intrinsic limits. If this is the case, in a carbon-lean world economy solar energy would continue to grow faster than any other energy resource long after 2050. Solar energy is particularly available in warm and sunny countries, where most of the growth – population, economy, and energy demand – will take place in this century. Warm and sunny countries will likely contain about seven billion inhabitants by 2050, versus two billion in cold and temperate countries (including most of Europe, Russia and parts of China and the United States).

    The geographical pattern of deployment 
is rapidly changing. While a few European countries, led by Germany and Italy, initiated large-scale PV development, PV systems are now expanding in other parts of the world, often under sunnier skies.

    Based on a detailed analysis of all main PV markets, the IEA Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (IEA 2014c) conservatively estimates that cumulative installed PV capacity will likely exceed 400 GW worldwide by 2020. China, which recently adopted a target of 70 GW PV capacity by 2017, would lead the world, with over 110 GW. Japan and Germany would each reach around 50 GW, followed by the United States at over 40 GW. Italy and India would rank fifth and sixth with 25 GW and 15 GW, followed by the United Kingdom, France and Australia, all nearing 10 GW. 

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