1. Increase in solar investment
As many countries, states and provinces in North America and Europe provide incentives for home owners to install solar arrays while launching large-scale projects of their own, the solar industry will continue to grow. India is also stepping up its solar presence. This year Rajasthan will invest in various projects totalling 200 MW. Ontario’s own Recurrent Energy has secured funding for a 200 MW investment spread over 20 solar projects.
2. Not being killed by killer solar flares
NASA has issued clarifications on the predictions that increased solar flare activity could have catastrophic implications for the inhabitants of earth. They have moved the solar flare dates back to 2013 and 2014 and claim that the worst we can expect is a disruption of cell phone and GPS signals. Although they admit the possibility of blowing transformers in power grids, this is certainly a far cry from previous apocalyptic predictions.
3. Solar PV prices will come down
Solar panel prices will continue to drop, this despite the brewing conflict between the US and China over solar subsidies. In December 2011, the US International Trade Commission found that subsidies to the solar industry by the Chinese government rendered Chinese solar imports dangerous to the local economy. This clears the way for the Commerce Department to impose heavy import tariffs on Chinese-made solar products. An infuriated China pointed to US subsidies of the industry, most notably the $535 million subsidy the now defunct solar manufacturer Solyndra received from the federal government. Although this could ultimately lead to a tip-for-tat imposition of import tariffs that could drive solar prices up, several delays in imposing the tariffs by the Commerce Department are expected this year.
4. More Solar Powered Gadgets
Great gadgets are key for the spread of solar energy this year. The SolarKindle is a cover that charges your Kindle while providing a reading lamp for night reading. The Husqvarna Automower is a Roomba for your lawn which is powered by the sun. This cute little mower can cover lawns of up to 1/2 acre without any help from humans. Although it still needs to be charged, solar panels on the top of the fully automated machine will augment power supplies. Solar powered toys are also on the increase with small solar panels negating the need for batteries.
5. Exponential increase in solar efficiency
Breakthroughs in solar technology in 2011 were legion including full spectrum cells which enable solar panels to absorb light from the whole solar spectrum. Also in the offing were polymer solar cells which used textured substrate layers to improve performance by 20%. Japanese scientists took a slightly more bizarre turn, creating a non-reflective film to improve solar efficiency by using the inside of moth’s eyes as inspiration. The crowning glory of the year was the group of Stanford researches who succeeded in creating solar cells with quantum efficiencies exceeding 100% that marked the year’s most significant increase in solar efficiency.
2012 will be a solar year
The rapidity of technological advancement of solar energy coupled with dropping prices and increased financial support from governments worldwide promise to give solar its best year ever. Predictions see US growth doubling each quarter for the next year; bolstered by government investments. In 2012, it seems the future of solar is so bright, you may have to wear shades.