Is the UK solar industry gaining momentum once more?

Back in 2011, BP decided to close its solar energy business, BP solar on the basis that the business was not generating any revenue. Six years later, BP has decided to reinvest once more into the solar industry. In the last month, BP has invested over $200 million into Europe’s largest solar manufacturing company, Lightsource.

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This investment suggests BP’s belief and reaffirmed commitment to the renewable energy industry. The CEO of alternative energy for BP has emphasized they believe the transition to low carbon energy sources is very real and happening now. BP also believes that the solar industry, in particular, will experience the fastest growth in the coming years.

The investment into Lightsource will assist in the expansion of the business worldwide, at a time when demand for solar is increasing rapidly. The International Energy Agency has stated that global solar capacity has tripled since 2012. The solar market now employs more people in the USA than the oil, gas and coal industries combined.

The solar industry in the UK has dropped in recent years but today it now has the capacity to generate energy to nearly 3 million households. In the last few years, leading solar business Good Energy has constructed 8 new solar farms nationwide. One of the significant developments that have surprised all, including solar professionals is the rapid and continued decline in prices for solar technology. For example, solar PV panels cost in excess of $1000 ten years ago. Today the costs are on average under $100. This significant drop in prices is mainly due to the Chinese solar market and the government driving rapid development of the manufacturing and installation industries across the country. To date, China produces nearly 50% of solar PV panels worldwide.

Further research and development studies suggest that prices could continue to fall further if the industry moves away from relying on silicon. Whilst the most popular material in solar panel construction there are other cost-effective and efficient alternatives. Oxford University has been exploring the potential of applying perovskites with the capability of producing energy at twice the efficiency of a traditional silicon cell.

Oxford University has recently received a significant loan from the European Investment Bank to develop perovskite solar cell and bring them to market. This material could be applied to glass, allowing windows to be capable of producing power. Research is exploring all alternative ways of applying perovskites to electric vehicles and even on our clothing.

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