Solar energy developers worldwide are seeing opportunities like never before. Increasing demand for electricity, growth in emerging markets and emphasis on clean, sustainable energy solutions have all contributed to an expanding solar market. While challenges still exist, the growth potential for solar is tremendous.
In 2011 alone, total investment in renewable energy reached over $257 billion, a 17% increase from previous years, according to two reports on renewable energy trends.* This expansion came despite major economic challenges around the world.
Solar energy plants not only offer emissions-free electricity to help meet increasing demand, but they also help create jobs and stimulate the local economy. Furthermore, dispatchable, flexible solar energy has become increasingly important to the electricity grid. With the deployment of hundreds of megawatts of PV and wind, intermittent electricity supply is putting strain on the grid and creating challenges for the management of their electrons. However, there are advancing technologies that use energy storage, which provides the ability to generate predictable electricity when it’s needed, and helps to stabilize the grid.
For instance, the 110-MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project being built near Tonopah, Nevada, will use concentrated solar power with energy storage as the foundation of its technology. A molten salt power tower with integrated energy storage will provide for the dispatch of reliable electricity when the utility needs it, day or night. When the project is complete in late 2013, it will be the largest solar energy plant of its kind in the world, able to power up to 75,000 homes during peak electricity periods, whether or not the sun is shining.
As the global appetite for electricity only continues to grow, we will see an ever-increasing emphasis on generating energy in a way that is reliable and sustainable. There’s no better way to generate electricity than by using a resource we have in abundance, which is the sun.
Incredible growth potential exists in emerging markets like in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Africa. Solar developers are securing millions in financing for places like South Africa because of its increasing commitment to clean energy and providing rural communities with the tools they need to meet their energy needs.
As exciting as these developments in solar energy are, challenges still exist. In the U.S., policy has been unpredictable, and frankly, heading in the opposite direction of the rest of the world. Election-year politics have been strangling the creation of lasting policy that must be established in the years to come that will support investor confidence and continued growth domestically. Even while looking abroad, solar developers are still maintaining a strong focus on domestic projects that will create jobs in the U.S. and pave the way to a new energy economy.
*Reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) — Stat from EERE
By: Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve