Good Day Sunshine

I’ve been doing some reading about solar energy and thought that I would share some of the links that I found, on the pros and cons of solar energy, the good news in the solar industry, and the current situation of solar energy in Malaysia.

Pros and cons of solar energy

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. This article from TriplePundit.com provides a fairly good overview of the pros and cons, which I copy below:

Pros:

  • Clean energy. No combustion. No greenhouse gas emission from use.
  • Inexhaustible and abundant “fuel” supply
  • Available nearly everywhere
  • Well suited for distribution generation
  • Technology exists today and is rapidly improving
  • Generates electricity directly from sunlight
  • No moving parts required
  • Power generation is silent. No noise or pollution.
  • Little or no transmission required
  • Matches up well with air-conditioning need
  • Require minimal maintenance
  • Grants and incentives are sometimes available
  • Excess heat can be used for co-generation

Cons

  • Intermittent source. Not available at night or under clouds.
  • Relatively high cost, especially with storage
  • Requires inverter to produce AC current
  • Requires storage or grid connection for continuous round-the-clock use
  • Less available for heating demand (time of day and season)
  • Exotic materials required in many thin-film systems
  • Requires a relatively large amount of open space
  • Relatively low efficiency (around 17-40 percent)
  • Relatively low energy intensity ( ~8-12 m2/ kW)
  • Fragile materials
  • Possible aesthetic issues
  • Technology risk: a much better system might come out next year

Plummeting costs and advances in technology

The cost of purchasing and installing solar cells is pointed out to be one of the biggest problems in adopting solar energy as a solution for clean energy. For this, the graph below from Treehugger.com brings good news, as we see the plummeting cost of solar modules:

Cost of solar headed for parity with coal and gas (and will later beat them)

Original Article: Cost of solar headed for parity with coal and gas (and will later beat them)

And here’s another graph for the more technically inclined:

All solar efficiency breakthroughs since 1975 on a single chart

Original article: All solar efficiency breakthroughs since 1975 on a single chart

Solar energy in Malaysia

What about the current situation on solar energy in Malaysia? A year ago, MESYM published an article via TheGreenMechanics.com, that pointed out that Malaysia is the third largest solar module manufacturing hub in the world, with many foreign investors pumping in the money. However, in terms of installing and using them, we lag behind neighbouring countries. This excellent article from Sumo.my, published just 3 months ago, gives the comparison:

Looking just across our border, Thailand has installed 228 MW of solar energy (connected and selling to grid, as of March 2012). Thailand’s solar target (Alternative Energy Development Plan 2012-2021) is now the highest among ASEAN countries, aiming for 2000 MW of solar energy by 2021.

In almost innocuous fashion, one of our regional neighbours has leapfrogged over us in total PV installed. In fact, Bangladesh has already installed 1.3 million solar home systems (PVs off-grid) equating to 65 MW and they did it without an F.I.T. system (though it should be noted that they had the initial help of the World Bank and low-cost loans from Grameen Shakti Bank, an offshoot of Grameen Bank). The Bangladeshi government has already aimed to increase RE generation to 500 MW by 2015 which is around 9% of their current generation.

Malaysia,on the other hand, has a modest national target of 5.5% RE power mix by 2015, i.e. approximately 985MW, of which the expected PV component is merely around 55 MW, although this is expected to be revised upward pending new quota releases in Quarter 1, 2013.

To date, Malaysia has

  • 16.38 MW of installed PV under the FIT scheme, as of 1st February 2013
  • an additional 142.97 MW of PV has been approved, but these are yet to be operational as of 1st February 2013

Head on to the article to understand the reason behind this lag, and some proposed solutions.

Hope that these articles have helped you understand a little more about the global and local situation on solar energy!

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