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ICEF 1st. Annual Meeting Summary: Concurrent Session - Solar Energy
There were presentations held on the topics of issues and challenges faced in solar power industry, technology improvements and future forecasts, and possible ways to effectively utilize solar energy.
After the presentations, discussions were held on a number of topics, including ways to consider cost for solar energy, political and social issues regarding solar power, and ways to deal with intermittency issues.
In this session, it was recognized that solar energy generates only a small percentage of the primary energy and that it still has a lot of issues. Considering that the difference between success and failure is in the expectations that are set, expectation for solar energy should be adjusted to match the real situation, in order to avoid a backlash. The public should know that presently solar electrical energy is in some countries is more expensive than energy generated by other renewables.
However, as the efficiency of solar system increases, the cost of solar energy decreases, and the decrease is sustained and rapid. The solar energy R&D community could be tasked to target life cycle costs, i.e. to simultaneously optimize efficiency, panel cost, service life and maintenance costs.
Also, to cost-effectively reduce CO2 emissions, it was suggested that solar energy could target energy intensive industries, such as iron and steel, which emits 4% of all CO2 emitted globally.
The cost-raising intermittency of solar energy was also discussed. The issue is intrinsically addressed in concentrated solar energy systems, where a storable hot fluid is produced; it is, however, the dominant cost-increasing factor of photovoltaic systems. While large electrical energy storing systems could be used in the latter, the development of low-cost and energy-efficient storage technologies has been slow. The intermittency of sunlight can, nevertheless, be mitigated in some parts of the world by adding to the photovoltaic systems energy-efficient, low capital cost combined cycle natural gas turbines that can be turned on and off on demand.