Photovoltaics, today, is a fast-growing and dynamic industry and its success story has been driven both by national support schemes and first-class research and demonstration.
The current levels of dependence on fossil fuels, the need of reducing the carbon emissions associated with energy use and the prospects of developing a new and extremely innovative technology sector, make photovoltaics increasingly attractive.
Although photovoltaic currently appears a costly option for producing electricity compared with other energy sources, many countries support this technology because of its promising future potential and the additional benefits besides generating electricity.
About 5.56 GW of PV capacity were installed during 2008 (an increase of about 150 % over the previous year) which brought the total installed capacity to 13,4 GW. By far the greatest proportion (75 %) was installed in Spain and Germany alone. If Italy, the US, Korea and Japan are also included, then over 96 % of PV installations in 2008 occurred in six countries.
It is estimated that by that by 2050, PV will provide around 11% of global electricity production and reduce 2.3 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 emissions per year.
As PV matures into a mainstream technology, grid integration and management and energy storage become key issues. The PV industry, grid operators and utilities will need to develop new technologies and strategies to integrate very large amounts of PV into flexible, efficient and smart grids. Future work needs to address technical developments closely with standards development, as well as changes in regulatory frameworks, so that photovoltaic technology becomes an active part of the tomorrow’s electricity networks.