Even though many people think solar panels just started becoming useful, it’s not really true. Solar power is one of those brilliant inventions that slowly crept into our everyday lives without us really paying attention to it, and now it’s a force to be reckoned with.
The first recorded solar array installed on a rooftop took place as early as 1884, by a man called Charles Fritts. But the technology and research just wasn’t there yet, so it would take almost another century and a fossil fuel crisis to spark interest back into solar energy research. In addition to solar panels becoming more efficient, the problem with storing the energy was also addressed by young geniuses like Elon Musk. Now, more and more countries are getting on the solar power bandwagon, while scientists try to make it even more practical for daily use.
Why is everyone in such a rush?
Because it’s necessary.
There’s no getting past the fact that things need to change, but it’s also good to know change is actually happening. So, instead of trying to convince the inconsiderate individuals to get with the program, this article is going to celebrate the magnificent change, and how it’s unfolding through photovoltaic advancements. Plus, we’ll look at the countries leading the way forward.
Solar Power in Everyday Life
Starting with things you probably use on a daily basis, calculators have to be the first thing that comes to mind. For so many years you’ve seen that solar strip at the top, but how often did you stop to think, “Hey, I don’t need to change the battery on this thing.” Then we have solar lights stretched across highways, flashing at night to keep drivers aware. Solar power even keeps the satellites in space functioning along with the space stations, maintaining your cable connection and cellphone reception.
But designers have become more innovative, and by making panels more flexible, they can be used in more practical ways. For example, there are fashion lines with sowed in flexible panels, which can be used to charge a phone and other devices. But it keeps getting better, if you take into account the solar power lawnmowers you can buy, the lights you can use inside and outside your house, and just think about the money you save when using a solar geyser.
But innovation didn’t stop at clothes and cute little plastic solar bonsai trees that can charge your phone, because bigger challenges were sought out. By doing a little searching on the web, you can come across solar powered cars being tested in places like China. You’ll also might come across a solar powered yacht, or maybe even the Solar Impulse 2 (the first solar power aircraft to fly around the world). Everywhere you look, people are using this amazing and abundant renewable energy in the most incredible ways. As a matter of fact, there are people living completely off the grid thanks to solar power.
Solar Energy Giants
Now that we’re all a little more aware of how solar power has been part of our lives, it’s time to look at the countries that support the cause the most. And at the top of the list lies somewhat of a contradiction.
Italy is fairly new to the game, but they’ve caught up incredibly fast over the last few years. During 2013 it managed to supply 7% of its annual energy demand with solar power, and in 2016 it officially became the fifth largest producer with a total capacity of 19,300 MW. Very impressive for such a small country.
- United States of America
Most people expect to see the United States at the top of the list, mainly because it’s the leader in so many areas. However, it’s still the fourth largest producer on the globe, which is saying something. As it stands, America has a total capacity of 40,300 MW after adding 14,730 MW in 2016.
It’s no secret that Germany wants to keep investing in renewable energy until the whole country runs on it. This type of thinking alone deserves praise, but Germany isn’t just making empty promises. With 41,200 MW of solar power capacity, it’s been a big hitter for a long time and it will probably continue to stay on top.
Japan has been expanding its capacity since the late 1990’s, and they are catching up for lost time. In 2016 it was recorded that Japan had 42,750 MW after adding an impressive 8,600 MW. However, it’s still not close to the leader on the list.
As a country that didn’t much care about its reputation for burning fossil fuels like it will flow forever, China surprised everyone. The government’s attitude towards renewable has undergone a major change, and today they invest more in renewable energy (hydro, wind and solar) more than any other country in the world. They currently put out a whopping 78,000 MW, and in 2016 alone they added 34,540 MW. If this isn’t a sign that things can change for the better, then you might be a little too pessimistic.
Sure, a big part of the world is still incredibly ignorant about the situation of things, but hope comes in small packages, namely solar panels. If things can keep on changing towards the better, who knows where we can end up?