Solar & Wind
Solar & wind: the basis of the energy transition
Solar PV & wind power, recently turbocharged with the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), will transform the global energy landscape . Clean, emission-free, and mature (i.e., can provide electricity on a large scale at competitive costs), they have become the two most popular green energy sources and the basis of the energy transition.
With near zero marginal generation costs, solar & wind (S&W), which are based on energy flows (not on energy stocks), reduce electricity prices . Also, they are highly modular in that their capacity can be increased incrementally to match with gradual load growth, a key feature for DG and smaller grids.
S&W are also key to produce green H2 (GH2), particularly from excess (surplus) power gen. The possibility of large-scale use of GH2 for electricity, mobility & transport, heat, and industry feedstock greatly increases the potential of both S&W.
Need for storage
But S&W are associated with a high temporal variability since it cannot be reliably dispatched or accurately predicted. So, using S&W-generated electricity in a stand-alone system requires corresponding battery or other storage medium .
S&W are the leading means of cutting electricity sector emissions: their global share of electricity generation increases from 10% in 2021 to 40% by 2030, and 70% by 2050. After reaching over 260 GW of new solar PV installations in 2022 , global PV additions will expand more than fourfold to 650 GW by 2030 (wind additions to over 400 GW) .
Solar vs wind
Solar panels require less maintenance than wind turbines, since there is no moving part, and can be deployed at lower voltage levels for direct consumption. Also, nothing is much more modular than rectangular solar panels we just plug together: wind power is modular within the granularity of the turbine size .
Unlike solar, wind-based systems can produce electricity around the clock, making them very effective when implemented properly. Wind turbines on average harness 60% of the energy that passes through them, compared with the 18-22% efficiency of solar panels .
Most homes can easily add solar panels, but not everyone has enough space for a wind turbine, which is deployed at sites away from load centers, such as farms and villages, or coastal and island communities.
S&W industry perspective
There are emerging signs of diversification in global PV supply chains, with new policies in the U.S. & India expected to boost investment in solar manufacturing by as much as USD 25 bi over 2022-2027. While China remains the dominant player, its share in global manufacturing capacity could decrease from 90% today to 75% by 2027 .
General Electric (GE) and European companies have dominated the wind energy industry. However, in the last years, companies from emerging countries are also penetrating and becoming major players: emphasis can be given to China, which has a deposit pattern detached from the rest of the world.