The compact fluorescent light bulb may not be the obvious piece of technology to start a short story about solar but it was indeed this product which enabled the combination of a small, low cost, thin film solar panel together with a battery to enable a commercial mass produced (over 1MW in total) solar garden light to enter the market. This was well before mobile phones, laptop computers and the internet had come to the attention and reach of the general public who until then had probably only seen solar in action on their calculator.
Through seeing the solar light in action numerous additional solar products came to market – solar clocks, car ventilators, pond aerators, pest deterrents, battery chargers, insecticide dispersants as well as a recognition of the possibilities for industrial applications such as in data telemetry, cathodic protection, electric fencing, water pumping, healthcare, and of course lighting.
The year was 1988 and a high power Chronar thin film solar module achieved an efficiency of about 5%. When we sold 1kW of solar products to a customer the whole company went to the pub for lunch!
Spring forward to 2008 and at Suntech in Europe we sold over 1,000MW of crystalline solar modules in a single year – a shipping rate of about 10 x 40 foot containers every day, 365 days a year! These were sold into a number of European markets where government support in the form of feed-in-tariffs, led by Germany, had stimulated the market and captured home owners and project developers minds to the possibilities for solar energy. A market leading mono-crystalline solar module had an efficiency of around 18%.
And now in 2019 here we are at GRIDSERVE with bi-facial, half-cell, mono silicon, glass / glass solar modules mounted on a single axis tracker to maximise energy yield. With a front face efficiency in excess of 20% and an additional significant generation through the bi-faciality from the back face complimented by the sun following tracker the cost of solar energy generated competes with traditional sources even here in the UK. Incorporated into a grid scale, subsidy free, solar system co-located with multi MWh energy storage in the form of Lithium Ion batteries, reliable and dependable, sustainable energy which is sold through a Power Purchase Agreement to a local authority reduces their energy costs and enables them to become fully renewable energy powered.