Breakthroughs in production and technology are driving the rapid growth of solar energy around the world.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity is rapidly increasing its share of global power generation. Globally, a record 98 GW of solar power capacity was installed last year, according to the UN Environment Programme’s Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report.
The growth spurt shows no sign of abating. PV Magazine reports that China has added almost 10 gigawatts of photovoltaic generation to its grid in the first three months of this year alone. According to Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, a leading environmental think tank, it corresponds to the power equivalent of 10 giant nuclear plants.
“We are at a turning point … from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” Erik Solheim, head of U.N. Environment, told the Reuters news agency. “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.”
Why is this happening now?
Lower prices due to increased production capacity as well as new technology and efficiency breakthroughs are two of the main reasons for the increasing adoption of solar PV around the world in recent years. Government subsidies are another but then they also exist to encourage other forms of renewable energy – even traditional sources in some countries.
Off-grid projects including solar PV are increasingly viewed as a way of implementing electricity access in developing countries, leapfrogging installations in the developed world.
International Standards are also playing a key role. The IEC has been facilitating the adoption of solar PV for a number of years.
IEC Technical Committee (TC) 82: Solar photovoltaic energy systems, produces International Standards enabling systems to convert solar into electrical energy. These include the IEC 60904 series of Standards. The TC looks constantly at new technology, including the latest thin film developments.
IEC TC 21: Secondary cells and batteries has been publishing Standards in the area of renewable energy storage, both on-grid and off-grid. To deal with rechargeable renewable energy storage systems more efficiently, it formed a joint working group (JWG) with TC 82, JWG 82: Secondary cells and batteries for renewable energy storage.
Supporting the work of the TCs is the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications (IECRE). The system facilitates international trade while ensuring adherence to required safety levels.
The IECRE operates a single, global certification system that makes use of high quality International Standards and allows for continuous improvement. More than half the Standards that the IECRE operates concern the PV sector.
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