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Natural Awakenings

Global Industry Turns to Solar Energy

Sunlight shining on solar panels with sky and clouds in the background

Pixabay/Pexels.com

The investment bank Lazard states that production costs for solar energy dropped by 90 percent between 2009 and 2020. Today, electricity from large-scale solar plants costs an average of $.037 per kilowatt hour (kWh). New coal-powered plants cost three times as much; $.112/kWh, with natural gas at $.059/kWh, nuclear at $.163/kWh and wind at $.04/kWh. New, more efficient solar panels will lower costs even further. Christian Breyer, a professor of solar economy at LUT University, in Finland, says, “We’re going to see solar power plants all over the world. In some places, wind power is still a bit cheaper,” depending on available sunlight.

Experts estimate that photovoltaic plants with a total capacity of around 60 million megawatts (MW) will be needed to supply the entire world with electricity. That’s 70 times more than all of today’s existing solar capacity. The industrial sector needs a lion’s share of that energy. Starting in 2022, several Bayer Group chemical plants will run on 100 percent green electricity from a 590 MW solar power plant in southern Spain. For the energy-intensive steel industry, low-cost energy availability is a decisive factor when planning the location of new mills. Aluminum plants, car factories, cement manufacturers and data centers are all powered by solar farms.

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