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LLNL’s Recommendations For Boosting the Solar Energy Market

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EY-AA597_SOLAR_D_20131107193959Technological advances, governmental incentives and increased people’s awareness are probably the most important factors that determine the rising popularity of solar power. As new efficient and flexible materials get discovered, prices are dropping even further, convincing specialists that the moment when solar is no longer novel and adventurous is approaching fast.

Yet, skeptics still argue that this moment will never come, as predictions indicate that by 2040, solar will contribute to only 4% of the U.S.’s energy mix, according to EIA. But can anything be done in order to boost the market of solar and make it the one to beat? Experts say ‘yes’, and here are their recommendations for how to achieve it.

According to recent surveys conducted on consumers indicate that despite of their will to switch to solar, people are still hesitant mainly because of the high cost. As researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory point out, prices for residential installations might have dropped significantly over the past five years, but utility rates are still too high to be afforded by the average person. In order to overcome this obstacle, banks and investors should become more willing to finance the leasing market, and provide solar companies with the comfort and enough time to prove they can generate profit and return funds.

The next important factor is governmental incentives and policies. Currently in the U.S. there is a policy, which offers households and businesses a highly competitive rate for any excess solar energy that they produce. As great as it is, however, the so-called ‘net metering’ policy have limits on how much power can be sent to the grid in most of the 43 states where it applies. Specialists point out that the only way to boost the solar market would be to maintain and stimulate governmental subsidies. A successful example is Germany, where thanks to policies and incentives, the country quickly became the world’s largest solar market. In the U.S. however, the plan is to reduce the percentage federal tax in 2016, which will affect consumers, making them much less willing to switch to solar. Specialists say, this should not happen.

Moving on to the next advice. New developments should be directed towards producing cheaper ultra-thin solar cells. These have proven highly efficient and effective in powering satellites, however they are much more expensive than conventional silicon-based cells. The key to success is to find a material that can bring these ultra-thin cells to the commercial market, making rooftop panels much more efficient and worth the investment.

Another key recommendation is the implementation of strategies and technologies that can improve the energy management. Although currently the number of panels mounted on residential rooftops is not sufficiently high to present an obstacle, if projections come true, suddenly the power grid might become overwhelmed by high voltage and frequency of electrical current, making current technologies unsuitable to handle the input. Naturally, to construct such management technologies would require quite a high investment, but it is definitely something that is highly needed and should be implemented before it is too late.

And last but not least, the competition. No utility company would promote solar simply because any household that installs their own panel will no longer be a customer of a utility giant. Of course, changes could be made, such as utility companies could offer leases for solar, or provide panels for rent to customers. Unfortunately, any change in marketing and profit making that a company decides to implement, should be approved by the regulatory bodies, a process which is tedious and time-consuming. Advisers suggest that if an increase in sun power production is desired, then utility companies should be stimulated without having to directly compete with private solar companies.

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