Businesses and governments have become more conscious of energy consumption and energy delivery methods for cost and climate reasons. One alternative that has been around for decades but is just now coming into its own is solar power. Solar is becoming more affordable and emerging as a solution for isolated and systemic needs, separating it from much of its competition.
Here are a few things to watch out for as solar energy becomes more and more prevalent in commercial and governmental projects.
Artificial intelligence (AI) takes hold
AI has grabbed just about everyone’s attention over the last few years because of the reach of its impact. Virtually every home and office has some form of intuitive learning technology, and that trend seems to be gaining even more momentum. The solar industry is no exception.
Over the past several years, AI has been introduced and integrated into solar products and systems to help manage energy flow and storage, and create a smart grid. Formerly allocated to smaller, isolated roles, such as providing power to road lighting or signs, solar power is quickly becoming an alternative energy source for more and larger applications.
The cost of solar energy has always been a sticking point, whether the budget spent was commercial or public. While the energy source is impeccable, the individual units, like solar arrays, have been prohibitively expensive in any large-scale implementation. Working in its favour has been the reality that solar technology is getting much less expensive.
Part of the reduction in production and operational costs has been due to better technology. A solar charging station or solar panel is no longer a major expense, particularly when two things get considered: solar-generated energy savings over the long term; energy costs in relationship to escalating fossil fuel costs.
Affordability by comparison
As a method of energy delivery, solar power benefits from the explosion in pricing for oil and gas. Traditionally, both energy sources were inexpensive alternatives, and solar energy was often written off because of the initial outlay in implementation costs. Many budget-minded managers regarded solar energy as a “nice but expensive” source. The rapid increase in fossil fuel prices has evened the playing field, whereas the cost of solar energy implementation is concerned. The initial outlay is no longer “so expensive,” nor fossil fuel alternatives “so much cheaper” that solar is off the table before the debate starts.
Similar costs between solar and traditional energy have had another consequence. Many managers now consider solar more seriously because solar helps commercial and governmental entities hit energy efficiency goals. That does not mean as much in the private sector, but in the federal government, it can be a major influence as it pertains to departmental energy efficiency objectives.
Another issue many have had with solar energy sources is the durability of the equipment. Equipment that was susceptible to damage because of bad weather, extremes in heat and cold, or being moved around a lot prompted many to write off solar automatically.
For example, you cannot have solar energy arrays that need constant repair and maintenance when both budget and manpower resources are low. In areas where inclement weather is a feature more than an exception, the argument against solar because of equipment fragility and system unreliability was a non-starter.
The equipment and parts that make up a solar system have gotten much more durable and reliable, and that has put solar energy systems into play. As more people in the commercial and private sectors have adopted solar energy, the push to develop and produce better equipment, parts, and systems has gained momentum.
More solar jobs and industry growth
Jobs and industry growth in solar energy have always existed at the developmental stage. Since the first solar panels were introduced at Bell Labs in the 1950s, solar equipment and system development have been a major player in creating jobs. With the continued growth and adoption of solar as a viable energy source, more jobs in more areas of solar have emerged.
Those jobs include, but are not limited to: manufacturing of parts and equipment; installation of solar energy systems; maintenance of solar energy systems; analysis of energy needs and solar energy alternatives.
As solar energy is adopted on a greater scale, job growth in those areas will remain consistent.
Regardless of where anyone falls on the climate change debate, government initiatives to promote energy efficiency are a driving force in solar energy adoption. Government incentives – mostly through tax credits and deductions – have driven the adoption of solar energy in some sectors. Those incentives will likely increase as the push to address climate change grows.
The future is exceptionally bright
A headline touting the future of solar energy for decades was little more than wishful thinking. Improvements in affordability and durability have helped the solar industry grow to be a major player in the energy realm. That reality is proof that wishful thinking has finally become a reality. In and of itself, a bright future for solar is also a trend that will continue to grow in 2023 and beyond.