The sun is an unlimited source of energy. This readily available, easily harvestable source has come to the forefront over the past decade. In the past, solar energy was often associated with low-efficiency energy generation and higher investments. However, as technological advances break this myth, solar energy is expected to become the prevailing source of energy for all services.
In this article, we’ve highlighted the future of solar energy and how this shift will affect an average person. But before these complex topics are explored, it is critical to understand why the shift is necessary.
Why are the current sources of energy failing?
There are several reasons why the current sources of energy are no longer adequate. Let us look at each of them in detail:
- Pollution caused by fuel
The world’s energy needs are met by generating electricity in fossil-fuel-powered plants. In India, the national electric grid can supply 338.134 GW of energy. The total electricity production in FY 2020 was 1,383 TWh. Out of this, over 75% of energy was generated by fossil-fuel-powered electricity plants, while 62% of energy was generated by burning coal.
While burning coal to generate electricity is a simple process, the method is highly inefficient. The coal is never fully combusted into heat. Instead, during the process, greenhouse gasses like Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon oxides contribute to phenomena like acid rain, smog and haze and can spread respiratory illnesses.
It is estimated that burning coal can produce 214.3 to 228.6 units of carbon dioxide for every unit of electricity generated. This is the reason why India is the second-largest carbon dioxide producer in the world and contributes to global warming.
- Inability to meet demand
In India, there has been a 54% increase in the demand for energy between 2010 and 2020. During the same period, the energy generation capacity of the country has increased by only 33%. This gap in energy capacity and demand means several areas around the country face frequent power cuts and outages. In other cases, due to the high demand, the electrical grid is no longer able to supply power according to the requirements and results in blown circuits.
To meet this increasing demand, the government has no option but to import coal and other fossil fuels from other countries. However, the constantly fluctuating prices of fossil fuels make it difficult to rely on the source of energy.
- Non-renewable resource
As popularly cited, fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource. There is a limited quantity of oil, natural gas, diesel and other fossil fuels that can be extracted from this earth. It means at some point shortly, this resource will no longer be available to many countries. It may cause severe damages to the economy as governments try to find alternative sources to meet the demand.
Shifting to solar energy now ensures there is a backup infrastructure in place for when fossil fuels run out. Therefore, it isn’t a matter of if we will rely on solar energy, it is when we will start depending on solar energy.
These are the three primary reasons why a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy is required. While there are various types of renewable sources – wind, hydro, biomass, etc. – solar energy is considered more reliable than any of the others.
Why is solar energy preferred?
There are two primary causes for the global preference:
- Abundant and reliable
The sun produces over 4.26 million metric tons of energy per second. While only 47% of this energy reaches the earth, it is enough to run solar power plants. The sun’s energy can be harvested in any part of the country or world. Therefore, regardless of the place, time and date, the energy can be relied upon for electrical needs.
Unlike windmills, biomass generator plants and hydro plants which need specific location and significant space, the infrastructure requirements of solar energy are low. Solar panels can be installed on rooftops of buildings, on the ground or even on top of vehicles. This flexibility and variety ensure that people everywhere can depend on the same technology without worry about space and costs.
You can understand the additional advantages and disadvantages of solar energy by reading [Article].
What does the future of solar energy in India look like?
The future of solar energy can be understood in two aspects:
- Technological advancements
When originally invented, solar panels were bulky, heavy and inflexible that could only be installed on the ground. In the past two decades, technological breakthroughs have given us sheet-like, flexible solar panels that can be installed on top of cars; lightweight solar panels that can float on water; and most importantly: compact solar panels that can be carried in your backpack.
As the inclination to find renewable energy increases, there will be several technological breakthroughs.
- Increased affordability
When originally invented, solar panels were expensive items that were considered an investment. Over the last decade, the prices of solar panels have reduced significantly. It is estimated that the prices of solar products have decreased by over 82% since 2010. As technology continues to advance, we can see a further reduction in the price of solar panels and other solar products.
These two factors influence the future of solar energy.
Future of Solar in India
Solar energy is often dubbed as the way to a clean India. The Indian Government’s initiative to increase their renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by the end of 2022 shows the future we’re heading towards. As the government provides subsidies, discounts and various other financial schemes for anyone willing to install a solar panel, the shift in solar energy is permanent.
As the awareness of global warming and its irreversible consequences become more widely known, breakthroughs promise a clear path for a clean future. As more people understand the advantages of using solar energy and that there are few financial restrictions, solar products and solar panels will become much more accessible.