The solar power industry began 2021 with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing. Due to it, disruption occurred in the production, shipping, and installation of solar panels across the world. This said, solar businesses looked to drive forwards as best they could nonetheless, and consumers remained anxious to take up solar power. 2021 was also a year in which a number of truly exciting breakthroughs occurred.
So as we now make our way into a new year, what landmark moments were seen in the solar power and wider renewables sector during 2021? And what do early indications tell us about how 2022 may play out? Let’s unpack these questions now.
More capacity and falling cost of solar power operation in 2021
2021 was forecast to be the year where the world would add an extra 290GW of renewable energy to existing global capacity. While such an achievement would undoubtedly be regarded as outstanding on its own merits, it’s also reflective of the potential for solar in 2022 and beyond (albeit with some turbulence and uneven growth is of course expected). In turn, that there is now such enthusiasm for solar power is undoubtedly illustrative of the growing interest among households, businesses, and wider communities to go green, and it’s also a response to the ongoing decline in the cost of solar power from a megawatt-hour perspective. The fact this cost is held to have fallen by 80% since 2010 according to the World Economic Forum, provides a clear-cut illustration of just how substantially prices have fallen.
The next era becoming visible on the horizon
2021 was also a year where a number of very exciting developments occurred which provided a window into the future of (more) great advances in solar technology. In looking at just Australia exclusively during 2021, a great window is on offer into the exciting progress that was made.
As detailed prior in Solar Magazine, in July academics from the University of New South Wales’s School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering published a paper which affirmed adding gallium would increase a solar panel’s strength, and thus it's potential to last longer over the long term in contrast to one with boron.
At the Australian National University in August, it was announced that its scientists had developed a “true bifacial solar cell”. One with “...nearly symmetrical power generation capacity on both surfaces of the device.”
Then in December, SunDrive solar fabricated its first full-sized panel. This followed on from its achievement in September of setting a new world record for solar cell efficiency in a silicon solar cell that is of commercial size.
Together, these examples serve to show that—while the solar industry in Australia and around the world has continued to make great strides in 2021 that has built on inspiring growth in years prior—ultimately by many measures we’ve really just begun to scratch the surface in terms of what innovations solar power can yet achieve, and accordingly what it can yet come to offer our communities in the future.
A silver lining for solar
While the pandemic has been horrific, there have also been silver linings that have arisen as a result of it. When it comes to solar power in particular, many people who’ve been required to work from home have subsequently acquired an increased interest in obtaining solar power. There can be many reasons for this—be it a desire to reduce electricity bills, pursue an upgrade to the home while able to be on-site for installers, an aspiration to make a contribution to a more sustainable world or another factor! But whatever precisely motivated each individual household, there’s no doubt many homes have acquired solar sooner than they otherwise would have due to the pandemic. Amidst a year and period of history that has been very difficult for the solar industry and everyone as a whole, this is certainly a development to cheer.
Looking ahead to 2022
While there is no doubt solar power and renewable energy more widely has a very bright future, there’s also the reality that some temporary turbulence due to the upheaval caused by the pandemic can be expected in the near term, alongside other factors such as regulatory headaches that are yet to be resolved, and could damage consumer activity.
Accordingly, as it pertains to 2022, it’s held a bumpy year will be seen in solar markets across the world. Indeed, the U.S. solar industry alone has been estimated to grow 25% less in 2022 in comparison to 2021, according to a late 2021 report released by Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie. According to Rystad Energy, a business intelligence organization from Norway, the increase in materials and shipping costs is expected to cause major pain in the industry throughout 2022.
From 2021 to 2022: Resilience amidst uncertainty
Just as 2021 had many wonderful developments, 2022 will undoubtedly bring many more with some new challenges alike. We’re yet to know how the rest of the year will unfold, but unquestionably the positives of 2021 provide a fantastic platform for all solar enthusiasts to draw inspiration from, and to build on in the months to come.comment↓