Full Title: More than the sun: The solar outlook
Publication Date: April 7, 2021
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Around the world, developers are building or expanding solar PV plants, which are projected to meet one-third of global electricity demand by 2050. That success is due in part to lower component costs, rising technology efficiencies, decreasing levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), and increasing pressure globally to address electrification and climate change. Intense competition and decreasing LCOE have led to ever lower solar electricity bidding prices. Governments and regulators in many regions, including China, across the European Union, and the United States, have begun to remove or reduce subsidies for solar plants, cutting off a significant amount of support. Competition from other solar plants and generators with greater flexibility will tend to limit value long term. Price cannibalization, where each solar-generated megawatt hour is priced lower than the previous one, will have an effect for many years. For the developer and plant operator, there are two general options—lower the costs on the development and operations side or increase the value of generated power in the auction and power purchase agreement (PPA) by achieving “dispatchability.” Digitalization will be the Introduction enabling factor for both areas in solar’s future. It will improve project development and system design. The ability to control plant assets remotely and with precision, collect and analyze the data they create to increase the efficiency of systems and processes, automate operations and maintenance, and move from reactive to predictive maintenance, will reduce costs and increase performance as well as lengthen asset and plant life. These data-driven insights, in concert with integrated energy storage capabilities, will boost project value in the market, offer other revenue opportunities, and allow owners to command higher electricity prices as a dispatchable generator. Many of the digitalization tools are here, and several are still evolving. Managing the adoption of these is a strategic challenge for your teams and the industry. In this three-part series, we will review our outlook for solar for the coming decades in terms of the anticipated costs and market drivers, as well as those technologies that can help systems and the grid to adapt to changing markets and deliver more valuable solar assets. Digitalization, software, and data analytics will play important roles in designing and operating valuable and reliable systems that will deliver on dynamic and robust climate action, while being powerful economic drivers for communities and clean power systems of the future.