Solar energy technologies convert energy from sunlight to electricity, either directly through photovoltaics or indirectly through concentrated solar power, or a combination of both.
The EU is a frontrunner in the spread of solar power and has taken significant measures to boost market uptake and make solar technologies more accessible to consumers, particularly through the Clean energy for all Europeans package.
Due to a solid industrial foundation, solar power has fast become one of the cheapest technologies for electricity generation worldwide. Between 2009 and 2018, the costs of production decreased by 75% while the market continued to expand.
In 2018, the EU market grew by 8GW, and by an estimated 15-17GW in 2019. The solar market is expected to continue to grow from 2020 onwards, making solar capacity a cornerstone of the clean energy transition.
Photovoltaics is a method to generate electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun by photovoltaic effect. These solar cells are assembled into solar panels, and then installed on the ground, rooftops or floating on dams or lakes.
The technology is becoming more widely used globally and year on year photovoltaics make up a bigger part of the EU’s energy mix. In 2018, the EU output of photovoltaic electricity reached 127 TWh, amounting to 3.9% of the EU’s gross electricity output.
The coming decade is expected to see continued growth, mostly driven by increased self-consumption and more rooftop photovoltaics installation. This puts the EU at a competitive advantage, helping to drive economic growth and create jobs: in 2018, the solar PV industry accounted for 117.000 full-time jobs and it is expected to sustain nearly 175,000 full-time jobs in 2021, with estimates of between 200,000-300,000 jobs in 2030.
Concentrated solar power
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants use mirrors concentrate sunlight and produce heat and steam to generate electricity. They can be coupled to heat storage technologies to be able to produce electricity both day and night. About 2.3 GW of concentrated solar power has installed in the EU since 2013, but most new projects take place in Africa and the Middle East.
- State-of-the-art for assessment of solar power technologies 2019
- Solar thermal and concentrated solar power barometer 2019 (EurObserv’ER)
- Solar energy (DG Research and innovation)
- Solar power (IRENA)
- SolarPower Europe
- International solar alliance
- The European Solar Thermal Electricity Association– Estela