Experts on solar power are calling for a continued commitment to the growth of photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing and deployment to meet the world’s decarbonization goals. The consensus, reached during the 3rd Terawatt Workshop in 2018, suggests that about 75 terawatts or more of globally deployed PV will be needed by 2050. The workshop, led by representatives from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy in Germany, and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan, gathered leaders from around the world in PV, grid integration, analysis, and energy storage, from research institutions, academia, and industry.
The increasing acceptance of PV technology has led experts to suggest that waiting for a consensus on other energy pathways or technological miracles is no longer an option. The report from the workshop noted the window is increasingly closing to take action at scale to cut greenhouse gas emissions while meeting global energy needs for the future. PV is one of the very few options that can be immediately used to replace fossil fuels. The report also highlighted the need for makers of silicon solar panels to reduce the amount of silver used and the PV industry to continue to grow at a rate of about 25% per year over the next critical years. Additionally, the industry must continuously innovate to improve material sustainability and reduce its environmental footprint.
The target of 75 terawatts of installed PV is both a major challenge and an available path forward. Recent history and the current trajectory suggest that it can be achieved. The workshop participants also said that solar technology must be redesigned for ecodesign and circularity, although recycling materials is not an economically viable solution at present for material demands given the relatively low installations to date compared to the demands of the next two decades.