Are Solar Panels our Ticket to Clean Energy across the World?
Rayan Salloum, 7th December 2020
Solar panels are a prospect that have been present in a world following fears of fossil fuels becoming a source that will soon become redundant. Clean energy has almost always been a topic that seemed like a priority though never something that could be achievable any time soon. There are a number of negative implications of fossil fuels such as the destruction of many wildlife habitats and acid runoff into rivers. A year ago in the US, the most economically superior nation in the world, clean energy accounted for roughly 11% of total energy consumption. It is undoubtedly so that the entire world is moving forward from fossil fuels and beginning to adapt renewable energy in an economic fashion. Many countries who aim to decrease dependence on fossil fuels all are trying to minimise the harmful effects of the release of CO2 that is infamously attributed to the burning of fossil fuels These emissions cause the great detriment of global warming to damage our ecosystems, wildlife and causing the volume of natural disasters and their scale to increase exponentially.
One option that the UAE and MENA region are moving towards is solar energy. With projects such as 100% solar-powered offices being implemented as well as the creation of increasingly efficient solar panels for use in mass production, the UAE targets to have 44% clean energy by 2050 as stated in their energy strategy. Solar energy is likely to play an important role in achieving this target. JinkoSolar is the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer. The corporation is located in China and was established in 2006.
It has since made a large contribution to the field of solar panels with the release of their new 78 TR, peaking at an efficiency of 21.6% which is a record for solar panels that have been mass produced for use in the industry. Waleed AlHallaj, Business Development Manager and JinkoSolar, offered insights on the product and its global implications. “I believe the efficiency will keep on improving. The industry keeps on looking for new technologies that would assure that, and the next big thing would be N-Type Heterojunction(a conductor that will be able to increase the efficiency of solar panels) or Top-Con (a new type of solar cell) as the initial results are very interesting.”
Foremost, it is important to note that this solar panel cannot be considered a be-all and end-all solution to providing an alternative source of energy. With that being said, it is however an important step in realizing a future where we can rely on clean sources, primarily solar energy once the level of technology is where it needs to be. With JinkoSolar’s consistent release of new products and advancements across the industry could be key in achieving the UAE’s 2050 energy strategy. However, for now these solar panels are going to be the prime candidate for use in households and offices. When asked how the new 78TR series panels will be used, AlHallaj noted that “we see it now more than ever. Every few months we hear about a new market or a new sector accepting this technology. Again, solar energy became the cheapest source of electricity in the world (in general) and more people are adapting this environmentally friendly, cost effective solution.”
Still, the proper implementation of solar panels and an improved application of them to the real world is essential in making sure that a larger usage of clean energy is present overall. Nabil Battal, former Vice President - Group Health, Safety and Environment at DP World, who implemented a 100% clean energy powered building through the use of solar panels, says he had faced a number of challenges while being tasked with such a feat, the most important being“ensuring that the price of electricity produced via this project was at par with or below what was readily available from the existing grid infrastructure.”
Despite JinkoSolar’s advancement towards increased efficiency, some wonder if the same implementation can be done with households. “A 100% solar-powered household would be very difficult to achieve as per the current environmental factors (i.e. air conditioning. requires lots of power),” Battal said. “But with the introduction of battery storage solutions & micro grids, which would allow for the sharing of power between neighbors, I believe that it would be possible to achieve a 100% solar powered neighbourhood/suburb.” Though Battal and AlHallaj agreed solar power is not currently able to provide energy for a fully renewable world or even the MENA region, critical steps are being made as previously stated in order to assure that our world is moving towards becoming cleaner than ever. “Every technical advancement or achievement is vital to reach our goals. All these improvements make solar energy cheaper and more accessible. This makes it harder for other energy sources to compete and definitely move society faster towards a greener and more sustainable world for us and the next generations, ” AlHallaj said.