The United States and China are about to send the solar industry into its “second growth phase” says Vishal Shah, a Barclays analyst.
The first stage of solar growth was spurred by European subsidies. Those created reliable profits for solar companies, allowing the industry to get its legs underneath itself.
The next phase of the industry will blossom as utility scale solar projects start to come on line in the next three years. The most obvious example of this: First Solar just announced a new deal to build a 2 GW plant in China. As Environmental Capital points out, that’s more solar than all of the U.S. has installed now.
This is just a starting point, expect more deals like this to pop up in the next few years as more utilities look at solar projects.
As solar expands, it creates an opportunity for a second industry to blossom: energy storage. Greentech Research estimates that energy storage will go $365 million today to nearly $2.5 billion in 2015.
Solar energy can generate juice all day long, but when it’s dark it’s pretty much useless. Right now, it’s still the early stages for energy storage, but it looks lithium ion batteries are being favoured for storage technology. The companies developing lithium ion batteries for storage are also working on batteries for electric cars.
Any advances in storage technology could be used to build better electric car batteries. And those electric cars could one day be juiced up by utilities providing power from solar panels.
In that way, the whole thing creates a big virtuous cycle.
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