In great news for the planet, science experts admit they made a mistake. Solar energy is actually expanding at a much faster rate than they expected. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), last year Solar Power surpassed any other energy forms to be the fastest growing global source of power. This rapid growth has been caused in part by a lowering of overall costs associated with energy projects as well as more favorable government legislation.
Many governments worldwide have made pledges to increase their use of solar power in preference over traditional fossil fuel sources such as coal. This shift has allowed large projects to get approval for expansion and growth previously unheard of. China has been a big driver for the expansion of the technology. The powerful nation was responsible for the installation of more than half of the world's total solar panel installation.
The IEA has admitted it underestimated just how fast solar technology was going to grow. India is another unexpected source of solar growth. Its solar energy capacity has been predicted to double by 2022. If the prediction proves correct India will take over the EU in its solar energy production.
While solar energy is going from strength to strength, it is also facing some challenging hurdles. The president of the United States, Donald Trump has promised to reignite the coal industry and at the same time, the country may face tariffs on the import of Chinese solar panels. If these actions go ahead, the USA’s position as the second fastest-growing renewables market will more than likely slip.
China leading the way in solar energy production
China is by far the most aggressive leader in solar power technology. The push is driven by a nationwide concern regarding air pollution. China outlined its country’s power ambitions in its last five-year plan report. The report included the solar energy goals for the country to be achieved by 2020, but in fact, the country has already surpassed the solar PV targets. The country will soon also surpass its wind targets. In addition to its staggering growth in solar and wind, China is now the world market leader in other renewable energies including hydropower and electric vehicles.
While solar energy is a winner for the environment on a broad scale, there is a downside to the solar panel industry. Using high levels of caustic chemicals is necessary for the production of the panels and the energy used to create panels is often coming from non-renewable sources. Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) has released a Solar Scorecard that ranks solar panel manufacturers according to their environmental footprint. The latest scorecard results show Chinese manufacturer, Trina, as the leader in the industry with California based SunPower a close second. The coalition is creating the scorecard to ensure transparency in an industry that can gloss over its impacts with the good news of the end results of its products.