How will solar power look in the future?
Predicting how solar technology will evolve in the future is difficult but we can look at history and the factors that are driving energy demand around the world as a guide.
Historically, solar costs have fallen by 20% for each doubling of manufacturing volume and roughly followed Moore’s Law which was first identified by an Intel executive in the mid 1960’s. Given that semiconductors and solar cells share the same base material (silicon), the evolution and cost reduction trajectories could considered to be quite similar.
If the industry’s growth and cost reductions continue along the same trajectory, solar energy will be cheaper than today’s lowest wholesale energy cost (typically coal fired) within the next 10 to 20 years (perhaps even sooner) which is likely to create even more growth.While the introduction of electricity storage solutions in the next 2-5 years will change the distribution model fundamentally.
We have also seen efficiency, reliability and performance of solar systems increase steadily which increases the future use of solar across many applications.
For example, LG's innovative NeON solar panels use double sided wafers to harness even the light reflecting in the backing sheet of the panel. While these panels created 270W per panel in February 2013, only 9 months later 300W panel were being produced. This represents a 10% increase of output in a relative short timeframe.
There are also a wide variety of as yet experimental ways to produce electricity from the sun using new materials such as Nano technology films, that can be applied to regular building materials. Since 2009 LG has secured over 200 patents in solar technology, the highest of any solar panel manufacturer. These patents will shape the technological advances of solar power systems in future years.