We are all familiar with the term ‘Solar Energy’ and maybe we’ve seen some news updates on the latest tech pop-up here and there, but unless you are actively looking into renewable technologies you may not have come across these lesser known, yet very important snippets of information. So we’ve compiled a list of seven interesting and quite surprising facts about solar power, and its potential to become the future’s predominant source of clean, renewable energy.
1.The Sun is already providing more energy then we could ever need.
Many people think solar energy is a great alternative to fossil fuels, but could never match the output of today’s power plants. The truth is if we were to harness the full potential of the Sun’s constant stream of energy we would not only fill the gap of the oil industry but produce 8000 times our current usage globally. To give you numbers in one year, the earth absorbs up to 3,850,000 EJ or roughly 3.85 x 10^24 joules. Putting this into perspective that’s 1069444440000000000 kW/h! The average home consumes only 18 kW/h per day.
2. Investors are already saying goodbye to oil and hello to renewables.
In 2014, around 650 very wealthy individuals as well as 180 institutions, including the famed Rockefeller Family, relieved themselves of approximately $50 billion in oil assets as part of the Divest-Invest initiative. Even more importantly, they made the switch to green energy, stating that ‘"There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet”. However, the world’s oil industry leaders didn’t just become tree huggers overnight. They were very open about the fact that this was to be seen as nothing more than a wise business decision, stating that renewables were the future of the energy industry.
3. As a nation we are moving towards solar power.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of residential and small-scale solar systems installed in Australia, with nearly 1.5 million units installed by the end of 2014 alone. In fact in 2001 there were already 23.5 million active solar systems, meaning there was one panel for every man, woman and child. Queenslanders will be happy to know that Queensland is currently leading the way having installed over 31% of Australia’s total Solar PV capacity.
4. Solar efficiency has made strides over the years.
In 1953, at the advent of the first tried and tested solar panel engineers could only convert 4.5% of the available energy, provided by the sun, into usable AC electricity. Not only that, but the average size of the panel itself was around five metres in height, not something you’d like to have sitting on your roof. Today we have managed to push solar technology to the limits; with lab tested panels achieving up to an impressive 23.5%, while modern panels are now just over one metre in length, allowing more panels on the roof and more power to your home.
5. Solar is actually affordable!
To some this might be the most surprising piece of information we have provided so far. However, with constant technological advancement as well as a growing demand the price of a solar system has consistently dropped around 4% annually for the past 15 years. In the 20th century it could cost over $1000 for one watt of usable electricity. Today we can achieve the same output for an average of only 70c per watt.
6. Solar really is a ‘green’ technology.
Many sceptics like to quote that a solar technology uses more electrical energy during its production and manufacturing than it produces during its lifetime. This is simply not true. Many assessments have concluded that when you take into consideration everything from the energy required to mine the materials to the energy needed to install the system, on average a solar system will pay itself off in 3.5 years. Even in the dreary grey weather of the UK a solar system will still become carbon neutral in around 7 years, giving another nearly 20 years of clean, green energy production.
7. It has all been foretold.
Now this last fact is just for a little fun, yet it is interesting that one of history's greatest minds saw it all coming. In 1547, Leonardo Da Vinci famed for his art, innovative inventions, academic and visionary writings predicted there would be a solar industrialisation! Today in the age of the solar boom, with technology continually improving and prices steadily falling, the future is looking decidedly bright and sunny.