Solar is the world’s fastest growing energy source - more than every third power plant installed in 2020 came from solar power, and in 2021 Europe broke its own solar PV installation record, making it the best year in European solar history. With profound technological advances decreasing the cost of solar energy by 90% since 2009, solar is the most affordable source of energy today. Even cautious estimates anticipate solar will become the dominant source of energy in Europe by 2050. Explore the basics of solar power and get to know this clean energy technology enhancing European lives, businesses, and environments.
A brief history of solar power
Astounding solar facts
How does solar work?
Solar energy works by converting light energy (photons) from the sun into electricity, mainly through photovoltaic (PV) panels.
When the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.
The electricity collected by the PV panels is called direct current (DC) electricity. The DC electricity then moves to an inverter where it is converted to alternating current (AC) electricity.
It is this AC electricity that is useable and can power your home, car or be sent to the electricity grid.
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The benefits of solar
Solar benefits shine through across the board
Solar energy does not produce air pollution or greenhouse gases. In fact, solar saves 96% of GHG emissions compared to coal and 93% compared to gas.
The versatility of solar results in complementary land-use that protects reservoirs from evaporation and algae proliferation, restores biodiversity to fallow land, and reduces water-use while protecting crops on farms from extreme temperatures.
Solar power is the most accessible energy source, providing electricity to millions of people living around the world without grid access. In Europe, during the 2021 gas-driven energy price crisis, solar protected households from extortionate bills – homes with existing solar installed saved 60% a month.
Solar is the most-job creating energy source, and with the right policy support could create 1.1 million clean, green, sustainable jobs in the EU by 2030. Solar growth can feasibly take on all workers from former coal-dependent employment, ensuring no communities are left behind in the just transition.
European solar development will rebuild PV manufacturing on the continent, strengthening European energy supply resilience in the face of geo-political or supply chain shocks.
Solar Power in Europe
EU annual solar PV market forecast 2025
EU cumulative solar PV capacity forecast 2030
LCOE of solar PV 2000-2021
Job creation in 2025