Solar Energy – World’s Future??

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Solar Energy has changed its face in the recent times in a big way,Talking about its expansion,it has transformed itself from a cottage industry to 100 billion $ company within the span of few years in Germany.Solar PV (Photo Voltaic- refer price is decreasing alongwith the total Installed capacity has increased to a staggering figure of 65GW. Cost may decline to $2/ wp (Watt Peak) and leading for further developments in various OECD(Organisation for Economic & Non Cooperation development) countries across the globe.Both the downstream as well as upstream players are looking to tap its potential that will ultimately lead to their growth.

The transition has surely occurred in Solar Energy whether its cost or its installed capacity.

Cost dropped from 4$/pw to 1$/pw whereas installed capacity has increased from 4.5GW(2005) to 65GW today.Subsidies that related to Solar Power has attracted various players into the market leading to rise of competition.With the advent of Chinese manufacturers,market has become oversupplied & thereby mismatching the demand supply gap. Government is trying to reduce the subsidies levied in this regard in order to balance the situation. Number of companies have filed for bankruptcy in this case.(In India too Mosaer Baer Solar has posted losses in the 5th consecutive year). MAC Global Solar Energy index fell to 65% in 2011.Various companies like GE,SAMSUNG,Hanwa(Korea) are planning to enter in the field of the Solar PV manufacturers making a way for sustainable development for solar energy in the near future.

Annual Solar PV capacity will keep on increasing day by day and may even compete with other renewable sources of energy in the longer terms.As expected Solar PV cells will increase around 50 fold in 2020.

Some of the potential areas for Solar Power Development can be summarised as below:

  • Off Grid Applications; These are the high demanding areas for solar power such as Irrigation department,telecommunication towers,remote industrial sites,military area units etc.The dearth in local distribution area has led to its growth and is expected to grow by a figure of 15-20 GW by year 2020.
  • Residential as well as commercial retail consumers: Many small scale as well as medium scale industries are already generating their power using solar applications.Distributed power generators may take some steps in order to make Solar Power generation as unattractive.Companies have also opted for taking financial help from the World Bank in this very regard.Moreover there are some nations which has adequate potential of solar energy but retail electricity prices are on a high.
  • Isolated Grids: Small Grids fueled by D.G has an average LCOE(Levelised Cost of Energy- Refer require around $ 0.32 to 0.40 /KWH.This area has vast potential of Solar Energy.
  • Peak Capacity in Growth Markets: Various emerging markets are having a huge potential for the peak energy demands and thereby adequate are being taken too.Demand in this particular segment is exoected to grow by 175 -200GW by 2020.
  • New Large Scale Power Plants: New solar-power plants must reach an LCOE of $0.06 to $0.08 per kWh to be competitive with new-build conventional generation such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear.Steps are being by the government as well as Solar PV Companies to meet this target with the technological improvements they are trying to implement.Distributed Rooftop solar will be the major criterion in this regard.

How to Tackle the existing problems?

Key Factors for Upstream Players:

Various steps/options need to be explored by the players and should have around 50-100MW to compete in the solar market.

  • Development of scalable technologies:  Companies like MEMC,REC are opting for Fluidised Bed Reactor mechanism to reduce the energy intensity of  polysilicone manufacturing process thereby leading to the drop of price of Polysilicon.Manufacturers are also opting for copper indium gallium selenide manufacturing process.
  • Drive operational excellence in manufacturing: Employing an efficient workforce will help the manufacturers in this very regard to fulfill the objectives.This will help manufacturing companies to increase their capacity to more that 30-40 %.
  • Balance of Systems to be addressed : Balance of system(wires,switching, invertors) need to seriously taken by the Solar power manufacturers that can significantly reduce their costs.

Key success factors for downstream players:

Downstream players need to identify their customer choices and their aspirations:Some of the various options which can be taken up by the downstream players are

  • Develop targeted customer offerings.
  • Minimize customer-acquisition and installation costs.
  • Secure low-cost financing.
The solar industry is undergoing a critical transition. The rules of the game are changing, and many current players could face significant challenges as the industry restructures.But adequate steps are being taken to overcome these challenges.

Ref: Mckinsey Report on Solar Sustainability 2012.