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Solar and Renewable Trends for 2019

Peter Thiele, president of Sharp Energy Solutions in Europe, looks at the development of Solar module technology and renewable energy in the year and decade ahead.

Over the course of the next 12 to 24 months, solar and other renewable energies will continue to gather pace in the mainstream. We believe that awareness creation will continue and the understanding of the benefits of self-consumption and the decentralised creation of electricity will grow.

On a commercial level, we will see the controlled spread of larger plants in free fields using pieces of land that are no longer used. Old army bases or old airports can be readily converted to photovoltaic installations. This will be coupled with a greater understanding from a political level of what needs to be done from a legislative view point to support renewable energy.

From a system perspective, the small residential photovoltaic units with batteries will continue to increase in efficiency. For example, new battery technologies with new chemistries will be introduced that offer better overall power efficiencies.

Future Trends for Solar 

Photovoltaic modules are quite a mature technology, so in terms of future trends we will see improvements in the cell technology that give greater efficiency and increase the output of the module itself.

From a technological point of view, while we always use the very latest technologies in our modules, the cells being used in our photovoltaic modules are going through a revolution, creating ever more effective modules with higher efficiencies, which put us in line with the expectations of the market.

Cells are usually designed with crystalline cells based on silicon with contacts located on the upper and lower sides of the cell, which creates an electricity flow through the cell. However, because there needs to be a grid on the top to control the flow of the electricity, this often blocks a degree of light. But leading companies like Sharp, have developed a technology, called back contact technology, whereby all contacts are on the back of the panel, so the top cell surface is free from shading, so vastly improving the efficiency of the module

For larger free fields, future trends will be towards developing better string layouts. We started some years ago with systems voltages that could handle 600 Volts, which meant a series of up to 12 modules could be created in a line. We are now at around 1000 Volts but the trend is towards ever higher voltages - with recent developments heading towards 1,500 Volts. This means in the not too distant future we will see up to 25 modules in one connected string, and just the final module in the line connected to the inverter, so drastically reducing costs.

In the developed countries, photovoltaic and other renewables will play an ever more important role and it will become a mandatory technology from a construction perspective. So, we will see photovoltaic on the roof with battery technology and energy management systems inside all new buildings.

We will see heating in homes moving away from gas boilers, for example, to more renewable forms of energy, especially photovoltaic. Then there will be other ideas, such as if you need to travel around in your community, then why not use an electrical bicycle, then if you do need to use a car, opt for an electrical car, which in the next three to five years will be powered by your own decentralised power system.

There is also the system aspect, which with increased digitalisation will bring greater intelligence into these systems. We may well see systems that can talk to each other, the result being that decentralised fleets of devices may manage themselves in order to provide a stable output of electricity towards the grid.

Greater connectivity will also be a benefit of future systems. People will have the option to self-consume and self-control where their energy is being spent in the house and if as we believe electric vehicles are coming, then additional connectivity comes in the form of charging your car with green power you have created yourself. It needn’t stop there, while an electric car is ideal for short city-based journeys, you could take a train powered with ecological electricity.

Digitalisation and decentralisation will allow for increased business models to be developed, offering peer-to-peer electricity solutions. So someone, for example, creates electricity and then sells it to another customer elsewhere by having a contractual relationship with them, for example using Blockchain and crypto-currency. This may be a little bit out as presently there is the grid in between and someone has to service the grid but also people have to and pay for the use of the grid, but we see these types of business models coming around.

The next decade will see a great deal of flux in the energy market. Pressure from consumers for more environmentally sourced products will put more demand on solar and other renewable initiatives. As a result, utility companies will need to respond with greener and cleaner electricity alternatives, while governments around the world will need to implement legislation that creates a ‘renewables first’ environment.

As a result, we believe there will be a stronger throughput into the daily life of renewable energies for people where it will be the main force of energy creation.

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KATE LAWSON
European PR Manager
kate.lawson@sharp.eu

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