Brandon Greenblatt // 13 March 2016 // #GoingGreen
Of all the topics I blog about, one of my favorites is the global energy market. I find the way that international actors decide between diverse energy sources – including wind, solar, hydroelectricity, nuclear power, coal, oil, and natural gas – to be absolutely fascinating! When selecting a fuel source, there are so many different factors to consider, such as energy efficiency, carbon dioxide output, ease of accessibility, monetary cost, and long term sustainability. Examining how different governments and companies balance all of these considerations is really interesting.
Recently, what I’ve been observing in the global solar energy industry has been especially exciting. In this blog post, I want to share a couple of news items with you all. I hope they’ll illustrate the enormous potential that solar power has to revolutionize our energy sector and encourage sustainable development around the world.
First, in early February, Morocco announced that it had installed one of the world’s largest solar panel plants, ever! Located in the middle of the Sahara Desert – where there’s a lot of sun, to be sure – the Noor I power plant is expected to generate approximately 160 megawatts of power. Even more exciting, there are two more installation stages planned, meaning that, once completed, this will be the biggest solar power production plant in the entire world! Of course, this project is still in its early stages and not yet fully operational, but to hear that Morocco is taking such a big step to promote sustainable energy is definitely exciting and shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Secondly, the Solar Energy Industries Association announced late last month that the United States’ solar energy capacity grew by historic proportions – 17 percent – during 2015. Led by states such as California, New York, and North Carolina (my home state!), the United States installed 7,286 megawatts of solar PV in 2015, with multiple states incorporating solar energy at faster rates than ever before.
»The United States’ solar energy capacity grew by historic proportions during 2015.«
This development in the United States’ energy market, where solar energy now accounts for just under 30% of all new electricity capacity, is enormous! A strong transition to solar power over the past few years, and 2015 especially, offers hope that the United States is making strides in an overhaul of its energy sector. More importantly, everyday Americans are quickly recognizing the benefits of solar power. Solar energy is renewable, good for our environment, and affordable in the long term – all advantages that the American consumer has recognized. In fact, Greentech Media reports, residential solar PV installations grew by 66% last year alone.
But the news doesn’t stop there! Get this: On March 3, the United States Department of Energy released an incredible announcement about solar panel technology. Ellen Williams, the Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa-E) at the Department of Energy, confirmed that the agency has recently discovered a “holy grail” in energy development. She stated that Arpa-E had developed a new type of battery for solar panels, which she expects will revolutionize the way that solar companies store their energy. Williams didn’t offer too much detail about how the new battery technology works, but she did say that these developments coming out of Arpa-E’s laboratories have the potential to transform the United States’ energy grid.
Now that’s a lot of information! Solar capacity, Noor I, growth rates, battery storage…what does all that mean for us?
Essentially, people all around the world are quickly realizing the benefits of solar power – and renewable energy in general – and are investing in the technologies to support a sustainable lifestyle. Of course, there’s still a lot of research that can be done to make solar power even more viable and affordable for the future, but recent growth in the industry is an encouraging sign that policy makers and scientists are starting to go green!
If you are interested, you can read more about ARPA-E at this link. You can also learn more about the Solar Energy Industries Association here.
Images are provided courtesy of Wikipedia.
Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown’s international affairs newspaper.