Interesting Solar Power Statistics

The sun is the world's largest power plant. It provides more energy to the earth in 1 hour than is produced by all nations in a year. However, solar power statistics show that we only use the sun for a tiny fraction of our electrical needs. Despite the advances in solar power technology, it still costs significantly more to produce electricity from solar panels than it does from using traditional coal, gas or nuclear sources. But as energy prices continue to increase, the future looks bright for solar power.

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Market Share

The amount of electricity produced from solar power (photovoltaic and thermal generation) makes up the smallest portion of electricity generation in the US.

Statistics show that Americans are both working in the solar industry, and adopting solar power as an alternative form of energy, in ever-increasing numbers. The fall in prices of solar panels as well as the decrease in cost of installation are great motivators for people who want to "go green", but were previously unable to do so due to the large initial financial commitment. Solar power still isn't cheap and many people still cannot manage the initial investment ... however, as prices continue to fall, so too will interest continue to rise.

Here are some resources that provide detailed statistics on the adoption of solar power:

Because of the high manufacturing costs of PV cells and the large land area needed to collect sunlight, solar power has the highest cost per Watt of all generation methods. The fact that power is only generated when the sun is shining means this expensive equipment sits dormant during the night, cloudy weather or when debris and dust collect on the surface.

More Solar Power Statistics

  • PV solar panels are highly reliable and can have a lifespan from 20 years to up 40 years.
  • Advanced silicon PV solar panels generate the same amount of electricity over their lifetime (50 years) as nuclear fuel rods, without the hazardous waste.
  • Depending on the amount of sunlight a location receives throughout the year, a solar power plant requires 10% of the land area compared to a hydro reservoir.
  • One kW of power generated from solar panels prevents: 150lbs of coal from being mined, 300 lbs of CO2 from being emitted and 105 gallons of water from being consumed.
  • Wind is a form of solar power that's created by the uneven heating of the earth's surface.

To make the massive switch from coal, natural gas and nuclear power, the following technological hurdles must be met first:

  • The average efficiency of the solar panels will have to be increased from an average of around 22-23% to over 40%. More wavelengths can be used, cheaper semiconductors need to be discovered and more efficient manufacturing techniques employed.

  • Huge areas of desert lands will have to be covered with PV solar panels and thermal power-tower plants. Environmental impacts of using the land will have to be addressed.

  • Alternate energy storage capabilities will have to be developed, as batteries are inefficient and expensive on a large scale.

  • New direct current (DC) transmission lines will have to be installed. They are smaller than the current high-voltage AC lines but new ones will have to be installed across the continent.

Human creativity and innovation can help improve these solar power statistics. We are likely still a few decades away from breaking our reliance on fossil fuels... but statistics show a dramatic interest and adoption of solar power in recent years. The future of more environmentally-friendly, alternative energy sources like solar power look promising.