A Skeptical Engineer
4 Solar Power Predictions for 2016

4 Solar Power Predictions for 2016

To get an idea of what next year might have in store for solar power, here’s a quick look at a few predictions from Sven Lindström, CEO of Midsummer, a Swedish firm that designs and builds equipment for making thin-film solar cells.

1. China will strengthen its position as the world’s leading producer of photovoltaic solar cells. China is already the most prominent player in this field. Political stability, large government subsidies, and a host of innovative home-grown entrepreneurs will keep China at the top in terms of solar-cell production. In fact, few companies elsewhere in the world dare invest in production capacity with China so far ahead. 

2. Governments won’t be able to resist solar-energy taxes on private citizens. In most countries, the government earns more from taxes on solar power than the utilities that build solar power plants to provide the energy.So as feed-in tariffs on solar power generated by individuals decrease and installations of roof-top systems increase, governments will extend their reach into the pockets of homeowners and private citizens installing them for their own use. In fact, many countries will follow Germany's lead in establishing self-consumption levy. That means all those hoping to generate “free” electricity could be in for a surprise (new taxes).

3. Price cuts in solar power will depend on innovations in installation. Factory prices for photovoltaic modules will not fall dramatically, but there is still some room for improvements in installation and system costs. Module-level efficiencies will be improved, but the majority of the production overcapacity is now gone. As a result, price cuts will have to come from innovations and improvements in installation costs.

4. It will be a disappointing year for batteries that backup solar power. Batteries might have a future in solar power, but only for off-grid systems and those built in sun-rich countries where the amount of sunlight does not vary much over the year. Battery technology is also still uncertain, and the limited life of battery systems makes large investment into them unlikely. That’s why batteries will not boom in 2016 when it comes to those targeted at solar-power systems.

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