Is Large-Scale Solar Deployment Feasible?
By 2050, solar will be a major source of the world’s power, according to research from MIT and the Institute for Research and Technology (ITT) at Comillas University in Spain. But the same research pointed out that energy grids worldwide are not prepared for the future of solar energy.
“One of the big messages of the solar study is that the power system has to get ready for very high levels of solar PV generation,” says Ignacio Pérez-Arriaga, a visiting professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management from ITT-Comillas in MIT’s Future of Solar Energy Report from 2015.
There are many complexities that pose barriers for large-scale solar deployment. Further complicated is that every region—at the city, county, village, and national level—has its own economics, policy, and environmental considerations. But challenges won’t stop the market forces that are driving solar adoption around the world.
As a subsidiary of Powerway Group, a global holdings company with assets in excess of $1B and a presence in three continents, Boviet Solar USA enters the United States market with an unparalleled perspective in large-scale solar deployment with respect to supply, demand, and delivery.
A Perplexing Trend
The world is on a path in which it needs to maximize its clean energy output. The revolution of energy is here, and clean energy deployment needs to happen on a scale much larger than it currently is.
Trends in the open market are supporting the need for clean energy innovation. Here are some trends that Powerway Group has observed over 20 years of research and development.
The revolution of energy is here at scale.
Efficient operational costs. For new infrastructure development, for instance, solar is available at lower operational price points than other sources of fossil fuel. More and more utility providers, private industry organizations, public companies, and governments are moving to operating more like “lean startups,” meaning that these organizations are looking to achieve maximum output per unit of overhead. Solar comes with low startup and operation costs, financial subsidies from utility providers in many areas of the United States, and quick set-up time. Solar also requires less maintenance and product expenditures over the long-haul.
Little to no water needs. Electricity plants often need steam to operate. But solar doesn’t. From a delivery perspective, technology can reach almost any terrain, ranging from water-scarce markets to uninhibited land and cold, cloudy cities.
Opportunities for space optimization. Solar farms are being installed on retired landfills. These sites are ideal. Large-scale farms are converting waste land into renewable land, turning the unusable into something sustainable. The opportunity that solar brings transforms the trajectory of the world and allows for correction on past mistakes of waste generation.
Alignment with the free market. Large-scale solar supports free-market waterfall effects into residential markets, in which renewable energy is becoming increasingly affordable.
There’s a shortage of solar storage—which means that there are many new jobs that have never been created before on the horizon. Expertise in solar will be a must. The transition to large-scale solar deployment between now and 2050 will not be sudden. It will be gradual.
Here are critical steps that both the public and private sector in the United States will need to take to keep up with the worldwide open market.
- Study successes from around the world. In November 2016, India unveiled the world’s largest solar power plant. The country is on track to be the world’s third biggest solar market in 2017. “At full capacity, it is estimated to produce enough electricity to power about 150,000 homes,” writes Al Jazeera News. This objective, in the long-term, will help with the country’s air quality challenges. The takeaway from this initiative? Incorporate solar into any large-scale infrastructural project.
Video via National Geographic. “World’s largest single location solar power plant with a capacity of 648 MW of energy, having over 25 Laksh Solar modules installed and spread across 2,500 acres of land.”
- Take small steps and learn from them. Utility providers can follow a similar “Lean Startup” approach as corporate innovation teams and startups. The fundamental idea of a Lean Startup comes from the world of manufacturing—the idea of running constant experiments and making incremental improvements. Small steps are big wins. Florida Power and Light, for instance, has connected three new 74.5-megawatt solar power plants to the energy grid, as of January 2017. There are four more set to open this year.
- Aim bigger than you think you can achieve. Small steps will help you arrive at the destination where you will be. Even though India is already operating the world’s largest solar power plant, the country is already making plans for an even bigger one. A total of 20 national and international players in the renewable energy space have submitted bids, explains The Times of India.
- Harness the power of wholesale. Developing utility-scale solar is one of the fastest ways to address climate change in the United States, explains the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“What distinguishes utility-scale solar from distributed generation is project size and the fact that the electricity is sold to wholesale utility buyers, not end-use consumers. Utility-scale solar plants provide the benefit of fixed-priced electricity during peak demand periods when electricity from fossil fuels is more expensive.”
Commercial demand for solar will put pressure on governments and utility-scale solar plants to supply options and increase accessibility at scale.
- Explore small-scale alternatives to today’s energy grids. There are more than one billion people in the developing world who lack access to a reliable energy grid, says MIT’s Future of Solar Energy study:
Tesla introduced its Powerpack for business and utility storage.
“For the more than one billion people in the developing world who lack access to a reliable electric grid, the cost of small-scale PV generation is often outweighed by the very high value of access to electricity for lighting and charging mobile telephone and radio batteries.”
Global market forces and local politics will push the United States to create alternative, off-grid energy storage solutions. Just take a look at Tesla, which has created a Powerpack for utility and business energy storage.
A holistic perspective will be necessary to tackle the energy grid challenges for large-scale solar infrastructure. With a vantage point and presence in three continents, Boviet Solar USA has unparalleled expertise to turn big ideas into reality. Get in touch with us to see how we can support your large-scale solar project.