Technologies for producing electricity from the sun are developing at a very rapid pace with significantly lower costs, which makes photovoltaic science a key element in the process of energy transformation.
In order to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century and limit climate warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels as required by the Paris Climate Agreement, the Earth’s population will have to install four times more solar panels annually until 2023. times, as the watchdog states.
The good news is that the price of solar panels has fallen significantly.
A report, prepared by scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and published in early 2022, indicates that the costs of installing a single solar energy system fell by 85% between 2010 and 2019, while the prices of installing a wind energy system fell by 55%.
Solar power “probably constitutes the cheapest method mankind has discovered to generate electricity on a large scale,” says Gregory Nemet, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of the report’s lead authors.
Renewable energy has begun to develop in light of the recorded rise in fossil fuel prices and concerns centered on meeting energy needs.
A Bloomberg NEF report indicates that global investment in solar energy projects increased 33% during the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, and achieved $120 billion. As for the projects related to wind-generated energy, they witnessed an increase of 16% and their revenues reached 84 billion dollars.
US President Joe Biden’s massive climate plan, approved by the US Congress, contributed to boosting the momentum in the field of renewable energy, as the plan allocated $370 billion in public funds in the form of tax incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 40% by 2030 ( compared to 2005).
“Biden’s plan will lead to the promotion of solar panel manufacturing in the United States,” Laurence Tubiana, director of the European Climate Foundation, wrote in the French newspaper “Le Monde”.
Nemett believes that solar energy alone could produce half of the world’s electricity by the middle of this century, noting that “there is great potential” in this regard.
– French discovery
In 1939, French physicist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photoelectric effect, which allows electricity to be produced from sunlight.
The first prototype silicon panels were developed in the United States during the 1950s.
The International Energy Agency indicates that new photovoltaic panels on the market are 20% more efficient than they were five years ago, due to the use of modern materials that adopt two systems.
One of the most notable innovations in this field is ‘thin-layered’ plates and are cheaper than those made of silicone. It can be fixed on various types of bases using the material “perovskite” discovered by the Russian mineralogist Lee Brovsky in the nineteenth century.
In a study published in the journal “Science” in April, a group of scientists announced that they succeeded in making plates made of “perovskite” similar to that of plates made of silicon.
Another study, published in the journal Nature, used a synonymous model based on the use of perovskite semiconductors to absorb the near-infrared light of the solar spectrum, while a carbon-based material captures the UV radiation.
The issue of the panels working when the sun goes down at night remains to be resolved. This year, researchers from Stanford University succeeded in manufacturing solar panels that can generate power at night using heat emitted from the earth.
The sector “has a lot of creative ideas, a lot of creativity,” says Ron Schoff, who heads research focused on renewable energy at the US-based Electrical Research Institute (EPRI).
He considers that one of the solutions to the problem of increasing the use of land to install solar panels is to adopt dual panels whose two sides produce electricity, one of them uses sunlight and the second is rays emitted from the ground.
Other solutions focus on the use of semi-transparent panels, the use of which achieves two objectives: to generate electricity and protect crops from harmful climatic factors. India has been witnessing for about ten years the installation of similar panels that generate electricity and reduce evaporation.
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