Rooftop solar power “can supply most of the world’s electricity needs”

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Rooftop photovoltaic (photovoltaic) solar panels could provide more than 25% of the world’s electricity needs by 2050, according to a team based at UCC.

Due to the improved deployment capacity and lower costs, rooftop photovoltaic solar panels – solar farms or rooftop solar panels used in residential, commercial and industrial buildings – are currently the technology for generating electricity. fastest deployable.

Using modeling that provides much more precise insights, the researchers conclude that rooftop photovoltaic solar panels can provide 25-49% of global electricity needs by 2050 in their study, the world’s first comprehensive assessment of energy potential. from this source.

The authors say their findings will have important implications for sustainable development and climate change mitigation efforts, as well as for the upcoming global climate negotiations at COP26 next month.

Globally, nearly 800 million people were without electricity in 2018; the majority of which live in rural areas.

The research team comprising lead author Siddharth Joshi, as well as his colleagues Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir and Dr Paul Holloway of the MaREI Center for Energy Climate and Marine, worked with researchers from Imperial College London, Columbia University in New York and Ahmedabad University in India. The results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

They mapped 130 million km2 of the world’s land area to identify 0.2 million km2 of roofs using a new machine learning algorithm. This rooftop area was then analyzed to quantify the global potential for electricity generation from solar photovoltaic on rooftops.

The authors found that an aggregate potential of 27 petawatt hours (PWh) of electricity per year can be achieved at a cost of between $ 40 and $ 280 (€ 34 to € 242) per megawatt hour with the greatest potential for generating electricity. electricity in Asia, North America and Europe.

They indicate that the lowest cost to reach potential energy is found in India ($ 66 per megawatt hour) and China ($ 68 per megawatt hour), while the United Kingdom and the United States are among the most expensive countries. They suggest that the power generation potential of rooftop solar panels exceeds the total global annual energy consumption in 2018.

The future potential of the technology, however, will depend on the development and cost of solutions for storing the energy generated, including battery technology that can conserve energy for use during times of low renewable energy availability.

Global rooftop PV can now be predicted with improved accuracy using a combination of big data, machine learning and GIS, explained researcher Siddharth Joshi. “This study may help improve the representation of rooftop solar PV power in global energy systems,” he added.

Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir said: “This potential of 27 PWh per year from rooftop solar power is very significant. By way of comparison, our total electricity consumption in all households around the world was 6 PWh in 2019. ”

These results are timely in the context of COP26, he said, because “solar photovoltaic on rooftops not only reduces emissions but also directly involves owners in the energy transition“.

Changes in building regulations would help scale up rooftop solar power in Ireland, he said, while adoption could be further bolstered by the government in the using a range of policy instruments.

“The open data generated in this research helps quantify, locate and prioritize investments in zero carbon power systems,” said Dr. James Glynn of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “By mapping the solar PV potential on rooftops in high resolution on a global scale, development banks and energy agencies in developing countries are better informed about the role of technology in sustainable development towards climate action and a affordable and clean energy. ”

Dr Shivika Mittal of Imperial College London said: “The cost of generating electricity from rooftop solar panels has fallen dramatically over the past decade. Our new data set will help governments or organizations, business owners identify solar ‘hot spots’ where they can leverage new investment, which would help accelerate solar adoption. . ”

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