Solar energy is one of the most popular renewable energy sources on the planet, yet less than 5% of electricity produced globally comes from solar power.
The benefits of solar powered energy are extensive, which is why we’re shedding light on some of the most interesting facts and how its applications are changing many industries, such as construction. The future of solar power is here. Keep reading to learn more!
10 facts about solar energy
How solar energy works
Solar energy is produced by converting sunlight into electricity. This energy is usually done through two main types of technologies:
- Solar photovoltaics (PV)
- Concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP).
Photovoltaics are the example you’re probably most familiar with, since this technology is used in solar panels.
However, new technologies that generate high-temperature solar process heat from concentrated sunlight have been developed and are currently being applied on an industrial scale.
Solar process heat can be used to produce alternative, more sustainable fuels. This means that industries that have heavily relied on fossil fuels can now use solar energy and solar process heat for a cleaner, more sustainable fuel alternative.
The construction sector is one industry that has seen many benefits from using solar power. In particular, the cement industry has been eager to reduce its carbon footprint in recent years, and solar energy is just one of the answers to this challenge. But before we get into specifics, here are some interesting facts about solar energy that we think you should know!
Interesting facts about solar energy
It’s the cheapest energy
With the recent rise in energy prices around the world, cheap clean energy alternatives are in high demand! The good news is that solar energy prices have significantly dropped in the last decade and are now 33% cheaper than gas power in the U.S.
The efficiency of solar energy
Most solar panels have an energy efficiency rating between 11-15%, which translates to the percentage of energy that can be converted into electricity. However, there are different types of solar panels and efficiency varies based on each model.
Researchers have succeeded in improving the efficiency of solar technologies, but their advancements have not yet been made available to the public.
Panels produce energy without direct sunlight
What if it’s a cloudy day or raining? This is one of the biggest doubts most people have, but even with bad weather electricity can be produced by solar power.
On average, solar panels generate 30%-50% and 10%-20% of their full potential on cloudy days and days with heavy rain, respectively. And did you know that there are already industrial-scale solar fuel plants? Synhelion’s proprietary technology uses solar panels to produce sunlight into a synthetic liquid fuel
Panels can last up to 30 years
Solar panels usually operate at a high efficiency for the first 25-30 years, but you can already begin to see a return on your investment and savings around 6 years after installation. After this 30-year period, performance will degrade, but your panels will never completely stop converting sunlight into solar energy.
It is the most abundant energy on earth
According to Scientific American, solar is the most abundant energy resource on our planet and the amount of sunlight that hits the earth’s surface in just 90 minutes is enough to power energy consumption around the world for an entire year!
Moreover, solar energy dominates all other renewable resources combined (e.g., wind, hydropower, geothermal), and uses relatively little space or resources to produce power.
Countries investing the most in solar energy
As of summer 2022, China, the European Union, the U.S., Vietnam and Japan were the biggest producers of solar energy in the world.
China currently leads the list as the top producer of solar energy, which is promising considering it boasts the largest population and carbon footprint globally. Within the European Union, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain stand out as key markets with a significant investment in solar energy.
Solar energy was discovered almost 200 years ago
The science behind solar energy was discovered almost 200 years ago by the French physicist, Edmond Becquerel. Fun fact: his discovery was made during an experiment about photography at only 19 years old!
How much energy a solar panel produces
The electrical energy that is generated through solar is expressed in kilowatt hours (kWh), which is a measure of electrical power equal to the consumption of 1000 watts for one hour.
To calculate how much energy is produced in a day, multiply the average number of watts produced an hour by the number of peak hours. This results in about 1.6kWh per day or 54KWh of electricity per month.
This energy helps to reduce climate change
Solar energy tops the list of renewable energy sources as being the cleanest of the bunch. Electricity generated from sunlight consumes no electricity and produces no emissions or pollution in the process, which is why the construction industry is taking note of this valuable resource!
There are solar cities
Solar Cities is an initiative that seeks to boost solar energy projects around the world and encourage citizen involvement in the energy transition. The project seeks to push mayors around the world to adopt solar power in urban centers and has already been signed by government officials in Croatia, Ukraine, and Georgia!
How solar energy has improved the construction industry
Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing industries around the world and is increasingly intertwined with the construction industry. Solar energy developments will continue to impact our built environment and in the future our sector will need to be prepared to build infrastructure that accommodates and prioritizes new and existing solar technologies. Solar energy is already a fundamental component of sustainable buildings and construction practices and is expected to become more mainstream in the future.
CEMEX Ventures’ commitment to solar clinker
CEMEX and CEMEX Ventures recognize the importance and potential of solar energy in the construction value chain, which is why it has invested in solar technologies and startups that use solar energy to improve and advance the industry.
CEMEX recently installed solar panels in its German cement plant in the Greater Berlin area and has implied that similar investments in solar energy are to follow, which adhere to its ambitious climate goals and Future in Action campaign.
In addition, CEMEX Ventures’ investment in Synhelion, a global pioneer in the field of sustainable solar fuels that promotes decarbonization in cement manufacturing, is testament to this mission.
Synhelion’s unique technology converts concentrated solar heat into the hottest existing heat in the market, which can be used in industrial processes such as cement manufacturing to reduce carbon emissions to almost 100%. This year, Synhelion and CEMEX pioneered the world’s first solar clinker.
Clinker, a key component in the cement production process, emits a considerable amount of CO2 since it requires fossil fuels to be heated to extremely high heats. However, the production of solar clinker, which uses solar energy in lieu of fossil fuels to be produced, is a step towards the decarbonization of the cement industry and a demonstration of CEMEX’s commitment to a lower-carbon economy.