It seems as though we have known about the potential game-changing benefits of solar power for some time now, but steps toward actual adoption of the technology have been labored. In a clean energy utopia, every household would be fitted with solar panels to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Done properly, houses and public buildings could be self-sustainable, and our reliance on fossil fuels would be mitigated. Adoption hasn’t been instant despite this utopian vision, though, and this is for a number of reasons. The delay is partly down to installation cost, but other teething problems have meant that most ordinary consumers are happy to wait for the tech to come to them.
However, while consumer solar power has been slow to catch on, its industrial equivalent has boomed in what is being described as a global ‘sun rush.’ The US and China have been particularly active in installing solar farms, and more than 76 gigawatts of new solar photovoltaic capacity was installed in 2016, up from 50GW the previous year. Given that there was around 50GW of solar capacity globally in 2010, the 305GW we have today represents serious growth, and indicates that world powers see solar as a significant part of the energy supply of the future.
It’ll be a while before consumers are as attuned to the financial and environmental benefits. In a bid to bring solar power into the mainstream, though, Swedish furniture retailer Ikea has stepped forward to rival Elon Musk’s Tesla in providing solar panels to the average consumer. One of the most significant stumbling blocks for domestic solar power in the past was the inability to store the majority of the energy generated, thus wasting energy and being unable to rely on solar power outside of daylight hours.
Ikea has said that it will begin selling batteries for rooftop solar panels as well as panels themselves. The panels will be integrated with existing solutions by UK solar power company Solarcentury. For such a major and influential retailer to stock and promote solar power devices is significant for the progression of the tech, and it will make the financial benefits of installing effective solar energy devices more clear. The initial outlay is large - prices begin at the equivalent of around $4,000 - but Ikea claims that its new product could save each household that uses it up to £560 per year when compared to traditional supply. Even without the ability to store energy, the company says solar panel users can save up to £380 per year. This means that, with storage, customers can make their initial investment back over a 12-year period - a period of time that will only drop as the technology improves.
The Ikea news came on the very same day that Tesla completed the first ever installations of its Solar Roof products. The solar roof tiles, which are almost indistinguishable from regular roofing materials, provide an alternative option for those that see large, obvious solar panels as an eyesore. It’s easy to envisage these types of solutions being the future of home-building, inbuilt energy creators that require very little of the homeowner to operate. Elon Musk told TechCrunch that he has the panels on his house and took the opportunity to confirm that the first installations were already generating energy successfully. The future is certainly bright for domestic solar power, just as it is on a grand, global scale. With companies as influential as Ikea and Tesla openly betting on and promoting the tech, adoption should increase as the financial benefits become mainstream knowledge and the barriers to adoption are reduced.