Solar energy in Australia: The 2016 year in review

Posted on 01 Feb, 2017 in Solar Power

It's a new dawn for solar in 2017.

Solar energy and other renewables saw great success in 2016 – not only did large corporations including Apple, Google and Microsoft invest significantly in renewable resources, but the year also saw the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority break the record for the lowest cost of solar power in history.

However, as we move into the new year and face the renewable challenges of 2017, it's easy to forget just how far we've come. The feats accomplished in 2016 made it a crucial turning point for solar on many levels – so what were some of the highlights? 

Fossil fuels pushed aside in future cities

The first – and arguably most significant – solar story to emerge from last year was a record low for the cost of solar. Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was home to the solar record when, on May 1, 2016 the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority received bids for the 800 MW Sheigh Maktoum Solar Park Phase III that hit as low as US$3 per kWh. 

Solar panels could soon blend into the roofs of houses.
Solar panels could soon blend into the roofs of houses.

While this marked the lowest ever recorded cost for solar energy, it also represented a shift in global attitudes away from traditional fossil fuels in favour of renewables. The low bids for solar make it the most cost-efficient energy option in the UAE, easily beating available fossil-fuel methods on cost and demonstrating its use in competitive and ambitious projects. 

Tesla brings solar down to earth

Where will Tesla go in 2017? Nobody is ever entirely sure what the ambitious electric vehicle, solar and storage provider will announce next, with CEO Elon Musk declared either a genius or electrical mad scientist. Remove the layers of controversy, space exploration and hyperloops, however, and 2016 reveals itself as another impressive year for Tesla. 

Nearly four months after its August 1 announcement, Tesla's US$2.6 billion merger with SolarCity was finalised, with the acquisition labelled as part of Musk's plan to expedite the move from a fossil fuel energy economy into a solar future.

In between that time, however, another announcement came from the SpaceX founder: That following the acquisition of SolarCity, the company would be developing a new solar-roof product that could look as conspicuous as standard roof tiles. 

"The solar roof consists of uniquely designed glass tiles that complement the aesthetics of any home, embedded with the highest efficiency photovoltaic cells," a statement from Tesla informed the public.

"Customers can choose which sections of their roof will contain the hidden solar technology while still having the entire roof look the same."

Pay-as-you-go solar removes need for infrastructure

How do you bring power to an area that has little or no access to an established energy infrastructure? This was the question asked when attempting to bring energy to parts of Africa without affordable electricity, with the answer looking to come from combined technologies. 

Solar is now available in remote locations around the world.
Solar is now available in remote locations around the world.

Pay-as-you-go solar startups are growing in Africa – utilising solar PV, energy storage and mobile pay systems – showing great promise for areas lacking in accessible power. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), nearly 15 per cent of our 7.4 billion global population live without access to electricity.

However, the low cost and increased availability of off-grid renewable energy solutions means the issue could soon be a thing of the past. IRENA further notes that energy storage and solar PV combinations could provide electricity to 60 per cent of those currently without it – a figure of 670 million individuals. 

While 2016 is now over, it's important that we don't forget how far we have come, and everything solar has achieved as it welcomes in another new year – and new challenges. 

To learn more about solar, and what we at RK Solar can do for you and your home, get in touch with our team today. 

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