1 Terawatt and Beyond: Solar Energy’s Unstoppable Rise and What Lies Ahead

Highlights :

  • From about $378 in 2010, solar prices fell to about $68 by the end of the last decade, falling by about 80 per cent.
1 Terawatt and Beyond: Solar Energy’s Unstoppable Rise and What Lies Ahead

Solar has come a long way in the last few years, from over 100,000 megawatts in 2012 to one terawatt now (1 terawatt is 1 million megawatts). So, what spurred this development? What were the factors that facilitated the achievement of this feat? We’ll be going over humanity’s journey to 1 TW of installed capacity and our next step moving forward.

Factors for Solar Growth

Throughout the last decade, prices of solar power continuously kept falling, becoming more and more accessible to the average consumer. The rise in demand led to the rise of new manufacturers even at the local level. This, coupled with several other factors, such as governments’ policies, climate change awareness, monetary benefits of solar, etc. gave solar an edge to become the preferred choice of renewable energy.

Falling Prices

One of the main reasons for solar energy becoming the fastest-growing power source in the world was its rapidly falling prices. From about $378 in 2010, solar prices fell to about $68 by the end of the last decade, falling by about 80 per cent.

Source: Statista

Solar energy is versatile and can be installed almost everywhere; the only major requirement would be considerable exposure to sunlight. This rendered many to consider solar as a dependable source of renewable energy. While the average consumer makes up a small portion of the market, they make up one nonetheless, and their buying decisions impact those of the larger players as well. The governments world over, especially the ones located in the tropical region, exploited the opportunity of falling prices and opted for solar utility-scale projects to steer their energy transition from fossil fuels. Some of the biggest projects like Dubai-based Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Bhadla Solar Park of India.

Solar Efficiency

Additionally, technological advancement led to an increase in solar efficiency, which fuelled the growth drastically. Solar panel prototypes have gone from 17.8 per cent efficiency in 2012 to nearly 47.1 per cent in 2022. These innovations eventually trickle down to consumers. Solar panels have become more and more affordable as well, allowing more and more industries and larger corporations to see solar as a viable alternative.

Longevity and Accessibility

A massive part of solar becoming so widely adopted has also been its longevity and accessibility. One of the things that make solar power so desirable is its longevity. The panels serve and can last for more than 15 years. Wind turbines, hydroelectricity and other sources of renewable energy are still extremely situational and are very often massive undertakings. Solar can be installed anywhere the sun shines and doesn’t require much in the way of maintenance.

Rising Awareness

One of the most important factors responsible for solar achieving 1 terawatt mark was an upsurge in positive PR, likely due to the rising awareness among the masses about global warming. More and more companies are adopting solar purely for PR purposes, with Apple going 100 per cent RE-dependent in 2018. It has become the new hip thing to go solar and not have to depend on the government as much for your energy. Universities, the most well-known bastions of progressivism, are increasingly going for solar as well.

What Lies Ahead?

The technological advancements have opened gates for other sources of renewables as well. By the end of 2022, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3372 Gigawatt (GW). Interestingly, an impressive 83 per cent of all power capacity added last year was produced by renewables. Although hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable generation capacity with about 1250 GW, solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity, with solar alone contributing a 22 per cent increase. However, other sources of RE are also gaining traction with wind energy contributing an increase in capacity by 9 per cent.

While solar dominates now with 1 terawatt of installed capacity, the sector needs to overcome some challenges to further its penetration to even the remotest and hitherto most underserved areas, such as Africa.

First, solar needs to become much cheaper. The right steps are being taken to do this, but for solar to become a major source of energy capable of competing with fossil fuels, solar panels should be accessible to all, with a quicker ROI.

Second, solar batteries need more innovation. For a lot of people, simply saving on their bill isn’t enough, they need independence from the electricity contractors. Solid-state batteries look to bring massive improvements in battery technology in the next couple of years, which is something we’re all looking forward to.

Fossil fuels need to be more and more restrictive by governments, making massive corporations look to renewable energy sources. Looking at the EU the only way to bring about positive change by modern companies is to force their hand. We saw this with USB-C and replaceable batteries on personal devices, it needs to be seen with massive MNCs and their offices. A lot of people are also asking for 1TW deployments per year by 2030, which can definitely be achieved at the current rate we’re moving forward.


Contributed by Yash Singh

"Want to be featured here or have news to share? Write to info[at]saurenergy.com