Industry news

Renewable Supply and Demand

Globally:

  • Eighteen percent of the energy consumed globally for heating, power, and transportation was from renewable sources in 2017 (see figure below). Nearly 60 percent came from modern renewables (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, wind, and biofuels) and the remainder from traditional biomass (used in residential heating and cooking in developing countries).

  • Renewables made up 26.2 percent of global electricity generation in 2018. That’s expected to rise to 45 percent by 2040. Most of the increase will likely come from solar, wind, and hydropower.

The International Energy Agency notes that the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies will depend heavily on government policies and financial support to make renewable energy cost-competitive.

Solar 

Solar energy resources are massive and widespread, and they can be harnessed anywhere that receives sunlight. The amount of solar radiation, also known as insolation, reaching the Earth’s surface every hour is more than all the energy currently consumed by all human activities each year. A number of factors, including geographic location, time of day, and weather conditions, all affect the amount of energy that can be harnessed for electricity production or heating purposes.

Solar photovoltaics are the fastest growing electricity source. In 2018, around 100 GW of global capacity was added, bringing the total to about 505 GW and producing a bit more than 2 percent of the world’s electricity.

Solar energy can be captured for electricity production using:

  • A solar or photovoltaic cell, which converts sunlight into electricity using the photoelectric effect. Typically, photovoltaics are found on the roofs of residential and commercial buildings. Additionally, utilities have constructed large (greater than 100 MW) photovoltaic facilities that require anywhere from 5 to 13 acres per MW, depending on the technologies used.

  • Concentrating solar power, which uses lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight into a narrow beam that heats a fluid, producing steam to drive a turbine that generates electricity. Concentrating solar power projects are larger-scale than residential or commercial PV and are often owned and operated by electric utilities.

Solar hot water heaters, typically found on the roofs of homes and apartments, provide residential hot water by using a solar collector, which absorbs solar energy, that in turn heats a conductive fluid, and transfers the heat to a water tank. Modern collectors are designed to be functional even in cold climates and on overcast days.

Electricity generated from solar energy emits no greenhouse gases. The main environmental impacts of solar energy come from the use of some hazardous materials (arsenic and cadmium) in the manufacturing of PV and the large amount of land required, hundreds of acres, for a utility-scale solar project.


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