Sunday, November 25, 2012

Solar and wind – Current status facts

Solar energy is almost limitless source of renewable energy in our planet. The scientists have calculated that the total amount of solar energy absorbed by our planet is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) per year. What this means is that solar energy really has enormous potential, and that covering only 4% of the world's deserts with solar panels would be enough to satisfy all of the world's electricity demand.

Solar power, despite having this enormous potential is still far behind fossil fuels in terms of energy consumption. This is mostly because solar energy is still connected with relatively high costs, even despite the recent decline in prices of solar power technologies. For instance, solar energy (at the beginning of the 2010) had the average price of 18 cents per kilowatt hour, approximately three times more expensive than the price of coal and natural gas.

Together with decreasing the costs solar power technologies will also have to improve efficiency because an average photovoltaic cell has an efficiency of only 15%. Best modern solar cells on the market have efficiency of only about 24%. This means that plenty of available sunlight absorbed by solar panels gets wasted in the process (reflection, heat).
Wind and solar power put together is clean and sustainable energy solution.
Despite these significant disadvantages the global solar energy demand has grown at about 30% per year over the past 15 years and photovoltaic production has been growing by more than 20 percent each year since 2002. On global level, solar energy industry is currently the fastest growing energy industry in the world. The world's largest photovoltaic markets are at this moment United States and Germany, though China is also rapidly adding more solar power capacity to its grid.

Wind energy is currently the second fastest growing renewable energy industry in the world, behind solar. The total energy potential of wind power on land and near-shore is estimated to be at around 72 TW. So much available wind is more than enough to satisfy for over five times the current worldwide energy consumption.

Worldwide wind energy production at the end of 2010 was 430 TWh, which is about 2.5% of the worldwide electricity usage. In 2010 global wind power sector experienced a growth rate of 23.6 %, the lowest growth rate since 2004, mostly because of the major decrease in new wind farm installations in United States. The U.S. wind energy sector is still experiencing this stagnation because of uncertainties whether the wind energy tax credit that is set to expire at the end of 2012, will be prolonged or not.

The main driving force that pushes wind energy forward is China. China is currently the world's largest wind energy producer, and in 2010 China accounted for more than 50 % of the world market for new wind turbines. The largest wind market in Europe is Germany followed by Spain.

On global level, wind energy industry currently employs more than 700,000 people. Many energy experts believe that global wind energy industry will soon shift its focus on offshore wind energy projects because of the great potential and more frequent strong winds. U.K. currently leads the way in offshore wind energy race with the only real competition coming from China as Chinese are seriously considering plans for major offshore wind energy expansion, similar to what they have achieved with wind projects on land.

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