Renewable energies are unquestionably the future of power generation, yet question marks remain over their affordability and value for money. However, renewable energy advocates PV Magazine have highlighted new research that demonstrates that full renewable power use in the USA is possible by 2030. Driving this new potential are incredible new innovations in solar panel tech that are making renewable energy more affordable and efficient than ever.

The residential revolution

Residential improvements are driving the move towards solar energy. This is due to two factors. The first is simple – residential energy usage accounts for 16% of national usage, according to EPA figures, a huge slice of the energy market. Solar power experts Freedom Solar have also identified solar power as improving energy grid resilience, meaning less chance of outages. The second involves market pressures: simply put, energy-conscious homeowners put pressure on other markets. New British-led innovation that makes use of perovskite to improve cell efficiency is, according to The Guardian, likely to overhaul silicon-based panels and drastically improve efficiency.

The efficiency question

The efficiency question is what has stopped solar energy exploding in market share. The inability to effectively use the huge amounts of energy generated by panels has made it a poor choice for long-term energy options. Technology is intervening here, too. Forbes recently reported on new technology termed ‘flow batteries’, that keeps continuous energy flow between short-term and long-term batteries, and can outlast conventional lithium-ion batteries, which are often deprecated within 10 years. This solves two questions; the question of effectiveness in providing energy, and the long-term environmental impact of solar power production.

Environmental impacts

Solar energy is carbon neutral in its operation, but does have some caveats when it comes to the materials used and the production cycle in general. Solar panels also run the risk of leaking chemicals that can be harmful to the environment, and certain solar power farms – or towers – have in the past harmed wildlife. The hope is that with new materials in hand, such as those making next-generation cells, these risks will be effectively mitigated and the chance of environmental harm reduced.
Through this, it’s clear to be seen that solar energy has a lot of innovation yet to be seen. However, high-tech solutions are paving the way for a more efficient and environmentally positive future for the tech. With this change will come a further normalization of renewable energy in everyday energy markets.