Solar Energy

The most abundant energy source on Earth

Both the fastest-growing and most abundant energy source on Earth, solar energy is a reliable, sustainable, and effective way to generate power. Despite its global reputation as a leader in renewable energy, the technology still has a huge amount of potential to be unlocked as we race towards net zero.

Solar power has been outlined as a key player in the global shift to carbon neutrality. In Europe, solar power soared by almost 50% in 2022. Although the US currently only sources 2.8% of its electricity from solar power, its potential is astounding. Solar panels on just 22,000 square miles of the nation’s land could provide enough energy to power the entire United States. With this, it’s unsurprising that the solar industry is experiencing rapid growth in the US every year.

Solar energy, alongside offshore wind and onshore wind, is playing a crucial role in aiding the energy transition by enabling us to decarbonise the energy grid and move away from fossil fuels.

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Harnessing the power of the sun

Solar energy is created when PV cells in solar panels absorb the energy from sunlight. This creates an electrical current which is converted so that it can be used to power homes. Solar energy is notable for being the most common method of renewable energy production for individual households - with approximately 1 million European homes currently utilising rooftop solar PV systems and generating a staggering 9.3 GWh. Alongside rooftop installations, widespread solar farms also contribute a tremendous amount to the industry’s power generation. In 2022 alone, Europe installed a whopping 41.4 GW of solar power.

One disadvantage of solar power is that it naturally fluctuates depending on the amount of sunshine available. This is most clearly illustrated in the Duck Curve diagram.

The Duck Curve

The Duck Curve outlines two key issues with solar energy generation.

  • Solar energy generation peaks at midday when the demand for energy is at its lowest.
  • Solar energy generation drops after the sun sets (around 6pm), when energy demand peaks.

These issues have been drivers for significant development in the green energy storage sector, allowing us to reserve any surplus energy which is otherwise curtailed (for example, the energy produced at midday when demand is at its lowest).

Smaller-scale energy storage systems such as electric battery banks for households are becoming more commonplace. A variety of large and grid-scale energy storage technologies such as Compressed Air Energy Storage, Hydrogen Storage, Flywheel Energy Storage, Pumped-Storage Hydroelectricity, and more, are also seeing substantial growth and investment throughout the world.

Advancements shining the spotlight on solar

  • The efficiency of solar PV systems has increased to a 31.6% conversion rate for solar energy to electrical current. This is up from 24.4%, indicating outstanding growth which could transform the global potential of solar energy.
  • 2022 saw the development of the first commercially viable perovskite solar cells. These are notable as they are manufactured at room temperature and require significantly less energy to produce than their silicon-based counterparts.
  • Solar-to-fuel research is creating hydrogen as a fuel by using solar energy to split water. These fuels have a variety of industrial purposes and can play a significant role in decarbonising the global transportation.
  • One of the world’s first commercial solar-powered cars is set to begin production in mid-2023. The Sono Sion is expected to have a 190-mile range, with 465 integrated solar half-cells on its exterior.

Continuous solar growth as we race to net zero

Solar energy is forecasted to undergo even more growth throughout the next decade, aligning with global targets to achieve a substantial reduction in emissions by 2030.

By 2030, solar power’s market size is expected to reach a staggering $368.63bn, with the overall output set to reach 650 GW.

Finding the leaders in solar energy

As the solar energy sector grows to keep up with the demands of our net-zero goals, it is expected to triple in numbers of jobs by 2030.

Businesses which are currently operating in the solar energy industry are challenged with discovering the very best talent to help them realise their projects. Here at Gibson Watts, we proudly support the solar energy industry, assisting organisations in their mission to identify their future teams and leaders to drive their business forward.

From Solar PV Engineers and Project Managers to C-Suite executives in the industry, we are fully committed to helping the solar energy industry develop. From our offices in the US and Europe, we are playing a key role in facilitating the growth of solar energy across all of the world’s major markets.