The solar industry is booming, exceeding all predictions for growth set just a couple of years ago. With rapid growth comes innovation. Check out how solar production and technology are evolving – and how solar is being used creatively to generate electricity in our communities.
Solar Industry Growth
The average annual growth of the solar market over the past 10 years is 42% – and in the first quarter of 2021, solar made up 58% of all new generating capacity2. There’s enough solar installed in the U.S. to power 18.6 million households3.
At this rate, 324 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity will be installed over the next decade, which is three times the total amount installed through 20202. With more than 10,000 solar businesses in the U.S., the 2020 national solar market is valued at $25.3 billion2.
2021 Solar Trends
Traditional energy companies continue to move toward reducing their dependence on fossil fuels by diversifying to include renewables. With a new U.S. administration, there are renewed efforts to modernize the infrastructure, increase regulation, and reduce incentives on oil and gas.
Since 2018, many installers have diversified their supply, bringing more manufacturing plants to the U.S. In the post-COVID era, we can expect to see renewable energy stakeholders continue to review and digitize their supply chains4. Companies are developing and using new technology to address energy storage needs in one of the industry’s fastest-growing areas, creating more efficient, multi-use storage options (ancillary grid services and on-demand power) to handle residential and utility solar markets4.
Artistic Use of Solar Panels in Communities
Developments in solar module technology, lamination glass, and special films in the past several years have taken solar panels from just functional, clean energy-producing objects to aesthetic elements used to beautify cities and communities. Environmentally friendly, color-treated glass laminate can be applied during the module production process to photovoltaic (PV) or flat solar thermal modules, creating various colors. Another technology takes an all-black laminate and then uses variations in the glass to create greyscale patterns, while a ceramic printing technique can also be used to convert solar panels from energy-producing objects into striking art pieces.
A printed film can also be applied to the face of solar modules – perfect for photographs or other vivid images that are creatively obscuring the fact that these images are also generating electricity. These films can also mimic building textures, helping to blend the panels into building facades.
Curved solar modules for exterior lighting poles now give artists creative license beyond the confines of right angles. Organic photovoltaic thin film (OPV) is light and flexible solar technology available in multiple colors – a great medium for various creative applications. The German Pavilion at the Milan Expo in 2015 used OPV to create custom shapes to enhance the expo’s aesthetics. Another type of innovative technology, luminescent solar concentrator (LSC), is the basis for artistic works; it starts from using a mostly (70%+) clear glass pane to generate electricity by sending the right wavelengths of light to PV cells located in the edges of the module5.
Everyday Use of Solar Technology
There is an explosion of new solar products hitting the consumer market, replacing traditional powered products such as smartphone chargers, outdoor motion sensor lights, generators, watches, Bluetooth speakers, backpacks, keyboards, and cookers. If a gadget that works from electrical or battery power, chances are good it’s available in a solar-powered version – or will be soon.
Going Solar: Bring It All Home
You’re bound to notice the abundance of solar products and the innovative use of solar in all facets of daily life. As you drive your electric car home, you might see some beautiful art created from solar panels. Once you’re home, charge your phone, cook your dinner and listen to your favorite songs – and relax until your outdoor motion sensor lights come on – all using solar technology.
But why not really leverage solar’s power by participating in a local community solar project? There are no start-up costs or fees – and you’ll actually save on your monthly energy costs. With the money you save, think of all the new solar-powered gadgets you can buy. Sign up for a solar project today.