Solar power reigns

In the context that the world is suffering a "headache" due to the energy crisis and commitments to combat climate change, solar power is being prioritised by many countries for investment and development at a cost that is no longer too high. This clean energy source will be the future of global energy.

A solar power plant in Santiago, Chile. (Photo: AFP/VNA)
A solar power plant in Santiago, Chile. (Photo: AFP/VNA)

According to the forecast of the International Energy Agency (IEA), clean energies such as solar power and wind power will thrive and become popular in this decade as the world strives to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Moreover, the cost of investing in this technology is no longer as high as before.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the cost of a solar panel unit fell by 85% between 2010 and 2019, while that of wind power fell by 55%. Small-scale energy technologies such as solar cells and batteries have thus far demonstrated faster development and adaptation than cumbersome and risky technologies such as nuclear power, the IPCC said.

Professor Gregory Nemet from University of Wisconsin-Madison stated that solar energy is now the cheapest way to generate electricity ever, adding that solar energy alone could contribute half of global electricity by the middle of this century.

Experts hope that rising fossil fuel prices and concerns about energy security due to the crisis in Ukraine will boost the role of renewable energy, especially with the US having passed an ambitious climate bill on August 7 which will save 370 billion USD in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. An analysis of Princeton University experts estimates that the bill could help increase the rate of solar energy use by five times by 2025 compared to 2020.

In a recent report, the IEA said that the new solar panels show a 20% increase in efficiency in converting light into energy compared to standard modules installed 4-5 years ago. Experts predict that panels with new or hybrid materials will be very effective in generating electricity.

These materials include ultra-light, cheap, and effective thin-film technologies, such as the use of printable perovskite minerals from ink. In a study published in the journal Science in April, scientists said that adding metal-containing materials to perovskite sheets makes them more stable, with the same efficiency as traditional silicon samples.

Researchers from Stanford University said they have produced a solar panel that can generate power even at night, using the heat rising from the ground. A design to increase the efficiency of electricity generation that is increasingly popular in large-scale projects is two-way solar panels, according to the Power Research Institute. This type absorbs energy not only directly from the sun's rays but also from the light rays reflected on the ground.

India was a pioneer in using solar cells on canals a decade ago, helping to reduce evaporation when generating electricity. Scientists in California say that if this hot US state also used solar panels to cover its canals it would prevent about 63 billion gallons of water from evaporating. Not out of trend, Colombia has just inaugurated La Loma solar power plant, the largest photovoltaic project in the South American country, with a design capacity of more than 180 MW.

The La Loma factory, with investment capital of 126 million USD and featuring more than 400,000 solar panels, is expected to make a significant contribution to the national grid, creating hundreds of jobs in the northern countryside of El Paso. With this solar power plant, Colombia reaffirms its determination to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.

Facing the fact that all energy production models have strengths and weaknesses, in which the drawbacks of nuclear power are the high level of risk and expensive technology, coal power causes environmental pollution and noise, and hydropower changes the aquatic environment; obviously, solar power is undeniably the future trend of mankind.

However, in addition to taking advantage of the outstanding technological and environmental advantages from solar power, countries must also soon consider the risk of environmental pollution from solar battery waste.