10 Facts About Solar Energy That Might Surprise You

1. Solar power is the most abundant energy source on Earth

There’s enough solar energy hitting the Earth every hour to meet all of humanity’s power needs for an entire year. Every ounce of oil, every lump of coal, and every cubic foot of natural gas could be left in the ground if only we could capture one hour’s worth of solar energy each year. That’s the scale of the opportunity.

2. Solar panel costs have fallen 99% since 1977 

In 1977, it cost £61 per watt for a simple solar cell. According to (SEIA and GTM Research’s 2017 SMI Report), the cost of a solar cell now is £0.17 per watt. An entire assembled module is £0.31 per watt. The price of solar has fallen by 82% since 2010 – with the cost decreasing by 13% in 2021 alone.

3. Solar Energy is cheaper than fossil fuels

Overall the cost of domestic solar electricity is now around 9p per kWh. This is well below the 34p average domestic import cost from the grid (which, by the way, increased by an average 4.9% each year over the past decade)

Experts are suggesting that switching to renewables can help the global economy during this turbulent time. In fact, a team of researchers from Oxford University have predicted that a transition to green energy sources could save up to £12 trillion ($15 trillion) globally, compared to taking no action.

4. Solar power plants can last 40 years or more

When a solar power plant is built, it’s usually backed by a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a customer (utility, business, or homeowner) that lasts 20 to 25 years. But that doesn’t mean such plants will be worthless two decades later.

Not only will solar panels last 40 or 50 years, the infrastructure around a solar power plant has a lot of value. Solar panels could be replaced with new, more efficient modules at relatively low cost, thus improving performance, but once a site is established and the infrastructure is built, a solar power plant has a very long effective lifespan.

5. The amount of power Solar generates is increasing each year

Roughly 90,000 homes can be powered by 1 TWh of electricity generation each year. Power generation from Solar PV increased by a record 179 TWh in 2021, marking 22% growth on 2020. 

Solar PV accounted for 3.6% of global electricity generation, and it remains the third largest renewable electricity technology behind hydropower and wind.  

6. The Netherlands is Europe’s Solar Energy leader

The Netherlands has become Europe’s per-capita solar powerhouse, with an average of two solar panels per inhabitant and an installed capacity of more than 1 kilowatt per person. The country has more than 48 million solar panels installed, and it continues to find innovative places to put new renewable energy capacity. Solar generated 3.8 per cent of the UK’s power last year compared to 9.5 per cent in Spain, 9.1 per cent in Germany and 9.5 per cent in the Netherlands.

7. Solar is the fastest energy source to deploy

When disaster strikes, no electricity source can be built or repaired as quickly as Solar. Tesla and others were able to build small solar power plants with energy storage capabilities on an island in Puerto Rico in a matter of weeks. No fossil-fuel power plant, nor any other renewable energy facility, could have been brought only so quickly.

8. How the big companies are contributing to cleaner energy

Amazon is now the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in Europe, with more than 2.5 GW of renewable energy capacity, followed by Meta (2.6 GW), Google (1.6 GW), and Microsoft (1.3 GW)

A PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) is a contract between an electricity generator and a power purchaser, such as a utility company and in this case, a large commercial energy user. In total, corporations have signed PPAs for 148 GW of clean power since 2008 – more than the total power-generating capacity of France.

9. The World’s Largest Solar Farm

Golmud Solar Park in China – A hugely impressive site with nearly seven million solar panels all working to deliver clean energy. China has big ambitions for the Golmud Solar Park as well — they’re hoping to reach 16 GW within the next five to six years. To put that into context, a single gigawatt could power one million UK homes for an hour, or around 100 million LED light bulbs.

10.  How many solar panels would we need to power the world? 

Assuming an average of 3.5 hours of peak sunlight hours (this differs greatly based on where the solar panels would be, but we’re using a conservative average), that means we’ll need 18.54 TW of solar power. If we used 350W solar panels, we’d need 51.428 BILLION solar panels.

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