Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Solar vs. Wind – Potential, price and production

Solar energy and wind energy still remain the most popular clean energy options for much of the people across the globe, even despite their current relatively low impact on global energy demand. Solar and wind energy industry are also among the fastest growing industries in the world, providing new jobs for many people all over the world.

Scientists have estimated that the total solar energy absorbed by our planet is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) per year. Solar energy has enormous potential, and covering only 4% of the world's deserts with solar panels would be enough to satisfy all of the world's electricity demand.

Solar power, despite having an enormous potential is still far behind fossil fuels in terms of energy use. This is mostly because solar energy is still connected with relatively high costs, even despite the recent decline in prices of solar power technologies. For instance, solar energy (at the beginning of the 2012) had the average price of 15-18 cents per kilowatt hour, approximately three times more expensive than the price of coal and natural gas.

Together with decreasing the costs solar power technologies will also have to improve efficiency because an average photovoltaic cell has an efficiency of only 15%. Despite these drawbacks global solar energy demand has grown at about 30% per year over the past 15 years and photovoltaic production has been growing by more than 20 percent each year since 2002. The world's largest photovoltaic markets are at this moment United States and Germany.

The total energy potential of wind power on land and near-shore is around 72 TW. This is enough to satisfy for over five times the current world's energy use. Worldwide wind energy production at the end of 2010 was 430 TWh, which is about 2.5% of the worldwide electricity usage. I

In 2010 global wind power sector experienced a growth rate of 23,6 %, the lowest growth rate since 2004, mostly because of the major decrease in new wind farm installations in United States. The main driving force that pushes global wind energy industry forward is China. China is currently the world's largest wind energy producer, and in 2010 China accounted for more than 50 % of the world market for new wind turbines. The largest wind market in Europe is Germany followed by Spain.

On global level, wind energy industry currently employs more than 670,000 people.