The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. Soon after, The New York Times stated that this discovery marked, “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams — the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”
Today, demand for solar in the United States is at an all-time high. The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years — from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 GW at the end of 2015. That’s enough energy to power the equivalent of 5.4 million average American homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The U.S. is currently the third-largest solar market in the world and is positioned to become the second. Still, the biggest hurdle to affordable solar energy remains the soft costs such as permitting, zoning and rigging a solar system up to the power gird. On average, local permitting and inspection processes could add more than $2,500 to the total cost of a solar energy system and even take up to six months to complete. Many major US companies have resorted to using solar energy leading consumer goods stores such as Walmart, Walgreens, and Target have installed around 150 solar grid systems to cut down on energy spending.
On a larger scale, the solar tech industry is constantly involved with governments from all over the world. Countries that seek to go green hire solar specialists to develop plans and technology to integrate into their most dense cities in hopes of increasing sustainable energy while also cutting costs. Due to international competition between the United States, China, & India’s major solar exporters, solar prices continue to fall, making solar energy is increasingly more affordable for the average homeowners and businesses from around the world. India’s Energy Minister, Piyush Goyal, says that the cost of solar power is now cheaper than coal. “I think a new coal plant would give you costlier power than a solar plant,” Goyal told the media at a press conference on April 2016.
And if the price keeps falling at a similar rate, it will soon drop significantly below coal, with some saying that by 2020, solar could be as much as 10 percent cheaper than coal power. Cheaper electricity sourced from the expansion of solar plants across the country could help make for a better, more reliable grid, and one that’s less harmful to Indians and the environment at large. California is one the few states currently spearheading energy reform in the United States. In June 2016, PG&E Corp.’s released a plan to shut California’s last nuclear power plant by 2025, which would cost approximately $15 billion if all its output is replaced with solar-generated electricity at current prices, according to Bloomberg analysts.
Moving into 2017, we can expect to see more countries and corporations move towards renewable energy. The growing solar industry will result in crucial development jobs becoming available for computer scientists, data analysts, construction experts, and marketing specialists alike.