Development prospect of solar energy

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Ten years ago, solar energy was a loser in the global energy competition. Of all the major power sources, solar power accounts for the smallest, at less than 1%. But all that has changed.

On February 28th, the International Energy Agency said that solar photovoltaic power generation capacity will exceed hydropower in 2024, and by 2027, it will surpass coal-fired power generation to become the largest source of power generation capacity.

On February 16th, Wang Bohua, honorary chairman of China Photovoltaic Industry Association, said at the 2023 situation Prospect Seminar of China Photovoltaic Industry Association that under conservative and optimistic forecasts, domestic photovoltaic installed capacity in 2023 will be 95-120GW, and global installed capacity will be 280-330GW.

On February 28th, the China Federation of Electric Power Enterprises released the report on the Analysis and Forecast of the National Electric Power supply and demand situation in 2023, which is expected to be 9.15 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2023, an increase of about 6 percent over 2022. The new installed capacity of total power generation and non-fossil energy power generation will hit a new high this year. The expansion of power supply, the acceleration of power construction, new energy power generation projects, or the addition of new transmission and transformation equipment and lines are inseparable from steel, so it will lead to an increase in steel demand.

Photovoltaic power generation is an important development direction of renewable energy. With the progress and iteration of industrial technology, such as the reduction of energy consumption of solar-grade silicon materials, the improvement of photovoltaic cell efficiency, the continuous thinning of the substrate, the reduction of raw material consumption, the shortening of the energy recovery period of photovoltaic power generation system, the advantages of solar energy are gradually emerging.

The rapid development of solar photovoltaic power generation, on the one hand, benefits from the sharp rise in the price of fossil energy, the cost advantage of solar photovoltaic power generation compared with other energy sources is prominent; on the other hand, due to the rapid decline in costs guided by technological progress in its own industry, cost advantage leads to an increase in investment. According to IEA statistics, more than 50% of the investment in renewable energy is invested in the photovoltaic solar power industry, which is the main investment in the global power industry in 2022.

For utility-scale solar energy, the average cost of building and operating solar energy has been falling since 2009, to about $36 per megawatt-hour by 2021, down about 90% from 2009, according to the International Energy Agency. The cost of coal has not changed much, at about $108 per megawatt-hour in 2021. Bahar, an analyst for the renewable energy market at the International Energy Agency, said solar energy is expected to account for almost 60% of new power facilities over the next five years.

In terms of cumulative photovoltaic installed capacity, by the end of 2021, China, the European Union, the United States, Japan, and India were firmly in the top five, each for 306.4GW, 158.1GW, 93.7GW, 74.2GW, and 49.3GW, accounting for a total of 80.9%. Among them, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Spain ranked among the top five within the European Union, and the cumulative installed capacity all exceeded 10GW. In addition, countries with cumulative installed capacity exceeding 10GW also include Australia, South Korea, Vietnam, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.

According to the new photovoltaic installed data, the United States, India, and Brazil ranked in the top five in 2021, with 53GW, 21.4GW, 19.9GW, 10.3GW, and 5.2GW each accounting for 82.6%. Among them, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Poland ranked among the top five within the European Union, and the new installed capacity exceeded 2GW in 2021. In addition, countries with new installations exceeding 2GW also include Japan and South Korea.

Solar photovoltaic power generation will occupy an important position in world energy consumption in the near future, not only to replace part of conventional energy but also to become the main body of the world energy supply. It is estimated that by 2030, renewable energy will account for more than 30% of the total energy structure, and solar photovoltaic power generation will account for more than 10% of the world's total power supply. By 2040, renewable energy will account for more than 50% of the total energy consumption. Solar photovoltaic power generation will account for more than 20% of the total electricity. By the end of the 21st century, renewable energy will account for more than 80% of the energy structure, and solar power will account for more than 60%. These figures are enough to show the development prospect of the solar photovoltaic industry and its important strategic position in the energy field.