January 17, 2022

5 startling facts about solar power you should know

A wind turbine on top of solar panels against a blue sky.


You know the basics about solar power, but are you aware how impactful it has been on the world? We break down what everyone should know.

In this article we will cover

Solar power: it’s the technology that’s revolutionising the way we generate electricity. Chances are, you already know the basics. Solar power has been around for more than a hundred years, after all! But there’s more to solar than just those black panels you see on the roof.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Every hour, almost 70,000 solar panels are installed worldwide

Solar power is incredibly popular no matter where in the world you are. If the sunlight can hit your roof, you can benefit from solar panels! The World Economic Forum estimates that between 2018 and 2023, 70,000 solar panels will be installed every hour across the planet. 

This includes everyone from homeowners to businesses to governments. The Chinese government, for example, is the world’s largest user of solar power and hopes to achieve 320 gigawatts of solar capacity across the country by 2022.

Here in New Zealand, things are a little smaller in scale, but no less impressive. Our total number of solar power systems has grown from just 1,400 in 2013 to more than 36,000 by the end of 2021. For those keeping score, that’s a whopping 2,500% increase in just 8 years. 

2. Solar power is in a positive feedback loop

There are a few factors that impact the efficiency of solar - air quality being one of them. The more pollutants in the atmosphere, the less sunlight hits the solar panels, and the less sunlight there is, the more we have to rely on burning fossil fuels, which means more pollutants… you get the picture.

You’d think that this would make people in the more polluted areas of the world less likely to invest in solar, but here’s the irony: by using clean, green solar panels that produce no emissions as part of their operation, you instantly reduce the amount of air pollution as well. Fewer fossil fuels burning, less pollution in the air, the better those solar panels work, and so even fewer fossil fuels need to get burned, and repeat!

This is solar’s positive feedback loop, and it could be the key to solar uptake around the world.

3. We could power the entire earth on solar

Every day, the Earth receives about 120 or so petawatts of energy from the sun. For reference, that’s enough power to fuel several quadrillion laptops simultaneously - or enough electricity to power every country in the world several times over.

We would only need to absorb a tiny fraction of this power to make the Earth completely fueled by solar energy. To do so, we’d need an area about the size of Spain covered in solar panels. Sounds like a lot? Well, the Spanish would agree! But these panels don’t all have to be in the same place, and governments are currently installing solar panels in unlived places like deserts to bump up their total coverage. 

Imagine if every roof in New Zealand had solar panels - it might not quite be Spain-sized, but it’d put a huge dent in our fossil fuel energy use.

4. Solar panels are (almost) totally pollution-free

Solar panels don’t emit any greenhouse gases as part of their operation. They have no moving parts, they don’t make noise, and they don’t require fuel or water or any of the other usual requirements of a generation system.

This is why solar power is considered one of the most (if not the most) clean and green energy production systems that exist. Some pollution is produced as a result of producing the panels - mining the silicon, manufacturing the frames, creating the panels, and so on - but it’s negligible compared to the amount of emissions the panels save over their 25+ years of operation.

5. Solar panel costs have fallen 85% since the 1990s 

In the early 1990s, it cost just under $6 worth of solar panel to generate a single watt of power. By the mid 2010s, that had reduced to under $1. Now, as we head deeper in the 2020s with all the technological innovations we’ve experienced over the last few years, that price will likely have dropped even further.

Not that long ago, solar power was thought of as a luxury, or something that only dedicated environmentalists would consider having. Now, it’s accessible to nearly everyone. If you’ve got a roof, whether it’s a business or a home, it’s never been cheaper to invest in solar power.

Solar power: it’s more popular than ever, and cheaper too, with the capacity to power the entire world with minimal carbon emissions - crazy, right? And you can enjoy all the benefits of this revolutionary technology with just a few panels on your roof.

If you’d like to learn more about solar power and its ability to change the way you think about power, get in touch with the ZEN Energy Systems team today.

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