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Solar Marvel: making it to a better tomorrow

While everyone loves Marvel’s brash yet boastful, almost arrogant Iron Man (especially in Robert Downey Jr.’s incarnation), practically, the world may have to love the lesser known Sunspot (also a Marvel character) instead. Why? Because for now, it seems that Iron Man’s reactor is a big issue in the world of energy consumption and subsequently radioactive waste. Contrasted to Sunspot’s solar power, Iron Man may have to look at adopting the sun in his suit.

Since 1975, research has been on to harvest the energy of the sun – the cleanest and arguably easiest available resource for our world. There have been various efforts to harvest this energy and produce electrical output comparable to those produced by conventional energy sources. Since these efforts, we are able to use the power of the sun in our homes and also to bring solar energy for business (pun intended).

Solar energy for business has its advantages. For one, many countries offer a solar investment tax credit on equipment used for harvesting the sun’s power. In fact, the US offers a 30% tax credit to home and business owners. India, offers investment opportunities and excise/custom duty rebates to investors in the solar sector.

Another reason and probably the best one, is a minimal, almost non-existent power bill. Companies could be prepaying their energy bill for the next 40 years. Obviously, the long term investment in solar, will surely bring good returns on the investment. Maintenance is another factor for bringing solar power for business. Install once, pay the one-time cost and pay a small subscription fee to keep it going. Sound familiar, anyone?

Besides, every company would like the green label, to show it’s done, it’s two bits for the environment.

Another major reason for bringing solar power for business is the availability of land in most countries that can be used to place arrays of cells for actually pulling power. India, for instance, has a lot of waste land that could be used for this purpose – and we could count the number of terrace tops too. However, the biggest reason could be the decreasing costs of solar power, where some experts believe that grid parity (solar power vs conventional energy sources) could be achieved in the next five years, and we’re talking about developing countries here. This will surely be a big boost to small and private businesses where cost fluctuation can mean death or life.

Another set of people waiting to get on the bandwagon for solar energy are the providers, so to speak solar-as-a-service providers, what with their equipment and their metering gadgets. Surely the adoption of solar power will be a big boon to the service providers as they hope to reduce costs to make this technology more available.

So, how this technology getting cheaper?

Firstly, it’s the panels themselves. Since a few years ago, the panels costed more than five times than what they cost now. A big reason for this is the fact that China has given a boost to the solar energy business. Those guys know how to produce almost anything on a large scale and so lower costs. This is why the costs have come down. Of course, we still need to install those panels.

That’s where the second part has become cheaper. Installation has now become cheaper than ever. An installation that earlier would take two days now takes just four hours. But a major player in the ballgame of solar energy business, could be solar-as-a-service providers, who could substantially reduce costs. A simple way would be to rent out the panels and bear the installation costs while asking the business/home owner to pay a monthly bill for the next twenty years – creative financing.

All in all, I think we’re all headed to be Sunspots soon. Cheers to a bright future.

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