10 Intriguing Facts About Solar Energy for 2018 and Beyond

Top Ten Most Intriguing Solar Energy Facts

The top ten most interesting solar facts might surprise you. Solar energy research and development is at all-time high. We define a solar energy fact as an event, technology, or product related to solar energy or solar power and worthy of note.

  1. A Crazy Amount of Sunshine

Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth — 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously according to energy.gov. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use.

  1. How Much is 1GWh?

Today, demand for solar in the United States is at an all-time high. The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years — from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 GW at the end of 2015. That’s enough energy to power the equivalent of 5.4 million average American homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The U.S. is currently the third-largest solar market in the world and is positioned to become the second.

  1. Surpassed Nuclear?

According to the Factbook, “Sustainable energy deployment soared to record levels in 2017, cementing its role as a key contributor to U.S. energy.” Further, says Rachel Luo, lead author of the report, “At 18% of the power mix, renewable energy resources including hydropower are making nearly as large a contribution to U.S. electricity generation as the country’s nuclear fleet.”

The Bloomberg 2017 New Energy Outlook predicts that “$10.2 trillion will be spent on new power generation worldwide through 2040, and a massive 72 percent of this will be invested in new wind and solar plants.”

Everyone agrees, solar is just getting better.

  1. Greatest Number of Photovoltaic Installations Ever!

The solar industry continues to break records. By now it is old news that Tesla installed the largest array of solar panels and batteries ever, heralded as “the world’s largest virtual power plant” in 50,000 South Australian homes (Fehrenbacher).

But, did you also know that. . ..

Globally, experts at GTM estimate, 104 gigawatts of solar power will be installed for the first time. This number represents a 6% increase in solar installations this year over last. Further, this size of increase each year is projected to remain constant until 2022 (Munsell).

To make this amount of solar energy real, recall that 1 gigawatt powers about 725,000 homes, assuming each home uses about 1,000kw’s of electricity per month as the US Energy Administration estimates indicate (Ellery). So, each year, theoretically, enough power to run roughly 7 million homes is, and will be, added to our power grid each year.

GTM also estimates by the end of 2018, thirteen countries will install more than 1 gigawatt per year.

Thanks to Green Technology Media for the graphic.
  1. Europeans Invest 5 Billion in Solar

French company EDF announced plans to add an additional 10 gigawatts of energy storage in addition to its existing 5 gigawatts. The company will spend about 8 billion Euros or 10 billion dollars between 2018 and 2035.

EDF is already a leader in energy storage, specializing in solar and hydroelectric storage. They aspire “to help ensure the smooth running of a balanced electricity system, for residential customers, businesses and countries” (“EDF”). EDF primarily serves customers in France and Europe with an additional 15,000 solar storage installations on the Ivory Coast with plans for projects in Ghana.

Along with EDF, other European energy bigwigs, including Enel, E.ON and Total, are also investing in solar storage. For EDF, “higher levels of solar penetration and a rapid decline in energy storage costs have made batteries an attractive way to shift peak load and reduce stress on the electric grid,” according to GTM.

  1. Online Training for Solar Installation
Thanks to NASA on Unsplash for the photo.

It has never been easier to become a solar installer, and some would argue that there has also never been a better time to do so. With constant improvements in solar technology driving rapid and sustained growth in the solar industry even in the current climate of handicapping tariffs and diminishing government subsidies.

Things are so good in solar right now that we are adding over a gigawatt a year just in solar installations, and the costs associated with installing solar energy systems has dropped a full 90% over the last decade! Now, that’s what we call progress and a full-fledged, lasting boom.

And we have every reason to feel sure that this energy boom won’t bust any too soon. Remember that, according to the Bloomberg 2017 New Energy Outlook, “$10.2 trillion will be spent on new power generation worldwide through 2040, and a massive 72 percent of this will be invested in new wind and solar plants.” That sounds like 22 years of steady work for solar installers and manufacturers.

Click here if you would like to know what the salary ranges are.

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is the main certifying body for solar energy professionals. The NABCEP is a non-profit organization offering certifications for both PV Installation Professional and PV Technical Sales and Solar Heating.

The programs below are schools that prepare students for the NABCEP certificate. Solar Energy International offers both the NABCEP program of study and the Solar Professionals Certificate Program (SPCP). Read more about the schools offering the certificates.

Here is the link to our search in case you would like to do your own footwork.

Everblue

www.everbluetraining.com/solar-training-and-nabcep-exam-prep-bootcamp

The everbluetraining.com website says, “If you’re interested in an entry level solar certification, we invite you to take our NABCEP PV Associate training course. This solar energy training course is designed to help individuals understand the fastest growing form of power generation in the world – solar power.”  Everblue offers an exam prep boot camp to prepare students to pass the certification test, and offers corporate training options.

Heatspring

https://www.heatspring.com/courses/58-hour-nabcep-advanced-solar-pv-training-series

Heatsping offers a 58-Hour NABCEP Advanced Solar PV Training Series, taught by Dr, Shaun White, which satisfies the requirement for advanced training needed to sit for the certificate. This training can fulfill the 58 hours of advanced training you need to sit for the NABCEP PV. The program consists of 12 learning modules and two courses, Solar PV Installer Boot Camp and NABCEP PV Associate Exam Prep and then after passing the NABCEP exam, students complete the second course, 40-Hour Advanced Solar PV Installer Training.

Eco Tech Training

http://go.ecotechtraining.com/solar/

Eco Tech offers both hands-on and online training leading to the NABCEP PV. Classes are student-driven and additional programs of study are available. Eco Tech offers all classes both live with an instructor and online.

Solar Energy International

https://www.solarenergy.org/sei-solar-professionals-certificate-program/

Possibly the best of the schools we reviewed, Solar Energy International’s program tracks include the Residential and Commercial Photovoltaic Systems Certificate, Battery-Based Photovoltaic Systems Certificate, Solar Business and Technical Sales Certificate, International and Developing World Applications Certificate, Renewable Energy Applications Certificate, and Solar Professionals Trainer Certificate.

Except for the trainer certificate, tuition ranges from around $3,500-$6,000. Tuition price varies depending on whether students choose online or classroom versions of classes. Courses range from a free 6-week course called Introduction to Renewable Energy to master’s level courses.

  1. Solar Panel That Uses Rain to Make Electricity

Previously, the one solid, incontrovertible disadvantage of using solar energy has been the unfortunate truth that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine because it is raining or overcast. Solar panels need sunlight, right? Au contraire. According to The Guardian, an invention by Baoquan Sun, at Soochow University in China, “places two transparent polymer layers on top of a solar photovoltaic (PV) cell [and]. . . When raindrops fall on to the layers and then roll off, the friction generates a static electricity charge” (“rain or shine”).

This device will even collect energy in the dark. At this moment, there is only an experimental version of the device in operation, but Sun says we can expect the product to make it to the market in 3-5 years.

Other researchers have invented similar devices, but Sun’s new device is incorporated directly into the solar panel, making it more lightweight and usable.

  1. Mobile Rolling Solar Panels Create Mobile Electricity Station

This slick mobile electricity generating station uses roll-out solar panels connected to inverters and batteries onboard the trailer that houses it and can be pulled by any 4×4 vehicle (www.renovagen.com). And that’s not all.

This solar set-up, called the Roll-Array, can be installed by two people in about two minutes. According to the website, simply “drive the car forward and allow the spool to pull the Roll-Array out like a carpet. And voila, your solar panels are dropped in a matter of two minutes.”

Normally, installing a solar array takes about 22 hours. An additional benefit of this system is that no additional workers are needed because everything you need to generate solar energy is pre-wired and pre-connected.

Another benefit is that this array can provide as much as 100kWp, a full ten times more than other mobile solar installations, and it doesn’t even require a diesel generator.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9MAZLhm_9k://

Something similar for those of us who don’t buy entire power stations.

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  1. Blockchain is a Crazy-Good Idea

According to Google, blockchain is “a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.” Blockchain transactions leave a reliable and permanent record.”

To understand blockchain, Ameer Rosic, writing on https://blockgeeks.com, advises us to “Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Then imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of the blockchain.”

We suggest you picture a big wallet floating over the USA. A man in Arizona made extra solar energy today while another man in Michigan needed extra energy today. Mr. Michigan prefers to use clean energy, so today he deposits into that big wallet in the sky. In response, Mr. Arizona sells Mr. Michigan solar energy through the blockchain. Tomorrow, Ms. Florida and Ms. Massachusetts may do the same thing.

  1. Average American Families Can Afford Solar

The average US home uses around 9000kwh of electricity per month. Several solar installation companies sell solar kits that will produce 9000kwhs per month for around $13,000.00. Some even have financing available.

According to The Guardian, “Solar power installation is soaring globally thanks to costs plunging 90% in the past decade, making it the cheapest electricity in many parts of the world.”

The biggest hurdle for affordable solar energy is “the soft costs — like permitting, zoning and hooking a solar system up to the power gird. On average, local permitting and inspection processes add more than $2,500 to the total cost of a solar energy system and can take up to six months to complete” (The SunShot Initiative).

The following companies install solar energy systems and have informative websites. According to Jacob Marsh’s recent article in energysage.com, these companies are the top players in residential solar installation. We include links to the companies’ websites for your convenience.

https://www.sunrun.com

Sunrun is one of the largest solar companies in the US, installing solar panel systems in 22 states. Sunrun has been in business since 2007. Sunrun has recently gotten into the energy storage market. Sunrun offers leases, power purchase agreements (PPA’s), and offers loans to help you pay for your solar energy system.

https://www.vivintsolar.com

Vivint Solar started out doing business as Vivint Home Security, but in 2011 it became Vivint Solar. Serving over 100,000 customers in 21 states, Vivint originally installed solar panels free, often with a PPA-like program. Like Sunrun, Vivint now offers $0 down plans, PPAs, full ownership models, and has a solar loan program.

https://www.sunnova.com

Sunova has its headquarters in Houston, but also does business in 21 states and U.S. territories. Sunnova doesn’t have in-house installation or maintenance workers. Rather Sunova partners with local installers. Fortunately, Sunnova’s solar energy packages are on $0 down terms and include options to either own the system or lease it.

https://us.sunpower.com

SunPower produces some of the most recommended solar panels. They also only partner with local installers, giving them authorization to sell and install SunPower products. SunPower plans to expand into community solar soon.

www.solarcity.com

Although SolarCity has recently decreased its residential installation and maintenance, it is still one of the larger US solar companies. Founded by Elon Musk’s famous cousins (Tesla) in 2006, SolarCity currently serves 27 states and was just acquired by Tesla in 2016. What’s hot and interesting right now about SolarCity is that it is producing its recently upgraded solar roof in a huge factory in Buffalo, New York, called Gigafactory 2.

You can click here to search for an installer on the energysage.com website free of charge. They claim to have a list of 450 qualified and pre-screened installation companies and a searchable database. We think they are cool, but as we always caution, caveat emptor.

We thought you’d like to know about power purchase agreements (PPA’s) since you might soon enter into one.

According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) a PPA “is a financial agreement where a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property at little to no cost. The developer sells the power generated to the host customer at a fixed rate that is typically lower than the local utility’s retail rate.” So, literally, a PPA is a type of payment agreement.

Thanks to SEIA for the image.

Suggested Resources

Visit the NREL, EIA, SEIA, and Solar Technologies Office websites for more solar energy resources.

 

Works Cited

Bloomberg Energy Finance. “2018 Sustainable Energy Factbook.” Factbook. 2018. Internet.

Davies, Ellery. “https://www.quora.com/How-many-homes-can-one-gigawatt-in-energy-capacity-provide-for.” 24 May 2016. https://www.quora.com. Webpage. 27 April 2018.

Deign, Jason. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/imagining-two-futures-for-energy-blockchain?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GTMDaily#gs.rwTY0tI.” 23 February 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 30 April 2018.

Fehrenbacher, Katie. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-virtual-power-plant-south-australia#gs.V65Nel4.” 6 February 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 27 April 2018.

Froese, Michelle. https://www.windpowerengineering.com/business-news-projects/key-findings-2018-sustainable-energy-america-factbook/. 23 February 2018. Webpage. 20 April 2018.

“http://www.renovagen.com/?services=rollable-pv-array.” 19 April 2016. http://www.renovagen.com. Webpage. 24 April 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/articles/top-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-concentrating-solar-power. 31 October 2013. Print. 10 March 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/articles/top-6-things-you-didnt-know-about-solar-energy. n.d. Webpage. 28 March 2018.

“https://www.google.com/search?safe=active&source=hp&ei=2YbnWuy-DOSijwTJr5qYDA&q=what+is+blockchain&oq=what+is+bolck&gs_l=psy-ab.1.0.0i10k1l10.860.2714.0.9990.14.13.0.0.0.0.134.1227.4j7.11.0….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..3.11.1223.0..0j35i39k1j0i131i67k1j0i67k1j0.” 30 April 2018. https://www.google.com. Webpage. 30 April 2018.

“https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/13/rain-or-shine-new-solar-cell-captures-energy-from-raindrops.” 13 March 2018. https://www.theguardian.com. Webpage. 23 April 2018.

Lacey, Stephen. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/imagining-two-futures-for-energy-blockchain#gs.df8bxDk.” 11 April 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 30 April 2018.

Lawrence, Richard. “https://www.letsgosolar.com/consumer-education/solar-jobs-careers-certifications/.” n.d. https://www.letsgosolar.com. Webpage. 28 April 208.

Marsh, Jason. “https://news.energysage.com/solar-power-companies-us/.” 31 January 2018. https://news.energysage.com. Webpage. 1 May 2018.

Munsell, Mike. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-virtual-power-plant-south-australia#gs.V65Nel4.” 16 April 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 27 April 2018.

Panels, Rolling Solar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9MAZLhm_9k. 11 March 2016. YouTube. 24 April 2018.

Reid, Gerard. “http://energypost.eu/future-batteries-lithium-impact-will-bigger-think/.” 2017 15 December. energypost.eu. Webpage. 20 April 2018.

Rosic, Ameer. “https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/.” 2016. https://blockgeeks.com. Webpage. 30 April 2018.

Spector, Julian. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/power-play-tesla-nabs-south-australia-contract-for-worlds-biggest-battery#gs._alf1jA.” 7 July 2017. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 23 April 2018.

As always, its been a pleasure writing for you.