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Apeh, O.O.;  Meyer, E.L.;  Overen, O.K. Solar Photovoltaic Systems to Environmental and Socioeconomic Aspects. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/27735 (accessed on 15 April 2024).
Apeh OO,  Meyer EL,  Overen OK. Solar Photovoltaic Systems to Environmental and Socioeconomic Aspects. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/27735. Accessed April 15, 2024.
Apeh, Oliver O., Edson L. Meyer, Ochuko K. Overen. "Solar Photovoltaic Systems to Environmental and Socioeconomic Aspects" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/27735 (accessed April 15, 2024).
Apeh, O.O.,  Meyer, E.L., & Overen, O.K. (2022, September 27). Solar Photovoltaic Systems to Environmental and Socioeconomic Aspects. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/27735
Apeh, Oliver O., et al. "Solar Photovoltaic Systems to Environmental and Socioeconomic Aspects." Encyclopedia. Web. 27 September, 2022.
Solar Photovoltaic Systems to Environmental and Socioeconomic Aspects
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The world is undergoing exciting haste to install photovoltaic (PV) systems in industry, residential/commercial buildings, transportation, deserts, street lights, and many other applications. Solar photovoltaic energy systems are clean and reliable energy sources that are unlimited, unlike their fossil fuel counterparts. PV, is a necessity. PV technology, however, stands a better chance among all the renewable energy sources to protect the environment due to its cleanliness. Moreover, this technology is a more beneficial, efficient energy resource than other renewable technologies. For instance, solar PV technology remains a significant motivator for electrification in rural regions in developing countries. 

solar photovoltaic system efficiency renewable energy fossil fuel environment

1. The Contributions and Impact of Solar Photovoltaics on National Development

The amount of solar energy potential in the global community is enormous with respect to neighboring sustainable energy resources [1]. This is due to the significant amount of solar radiation that drifts from high altitudes of 0.06 kW/m2 to low altitudes of 0.25 kW/m2 toward the Earth’s surface [2]. Because of this, several governments worldwide have given mandatory research to develop and deploy solar PV technology. Many PV materials and modules are obtainable globally, with different efficiencies and limitations. Government incentives in conjunction with scientific research piloted the recent rapid installation capacity and the exponential drop in prices. This is supported by the annual solar PV electricity production report, which grew from 4 TWh in 2005 to 247 TWh in 2015 (IEA 2017) [3]. The yearly solar cell production increased from 4028 MW in 2007 to 187,453 MW in 2021, whereas the cumulative cell production increased from 4028 MW in 2007 to 1,050,231 MW in 2021. The development in global solar energy, as presented in Figure 1, demonstrates the increase in effort on solar power generation in 2021. As a result, the study on enhancing solar energy-producing efficiency with the least effect on the ecosystem and the environment is hugely motivated [4][5].
Figure 1. Global annual and cumulative solar PV cell production from 2007–2021 [6].
Meanwhile, the rapid studies in the solar PV industry have made it a marketable grown technology capable of producing and supplying short- and long-term electricity. Although the PV technologies are yet to meet their target since they could only deliver 0.1% of the global electricity demand, some PV marketers have presented records that the yearly averages of the PV technologies are expanding steadily at the rate of 40% [7]. The unit cost of PV technology has decreased to nearly one-third of its initial stand more than four years ago, coupled with constant practical improvements and studies for efficiency rise. Henceforth, PV will remain at a strong emerging rate and finally become an indispensable energy provider in the universe. Researchs have reported that solar PV generations deliver the world’s energy of about 345 GW, which is around 4% by 2020, and 1081 GW by 2030, while the cumulative installations are projected to have reached 600 GW worldwide and are projected to reach 4500 GW by 2050 [8].

1.1. The Price Reduction and Installation Capacity of Photovoltaic Cells/Modules

Solar energy is pleasantly improving its affordability due to the impressive drop in prices and cost of installations both at utility and distribution levels. PV module prices have decreased over the past years, having degenerated by almost 100% since the 1950s [9]. This is because of tremendous variations in the cost of solar modules since 1975. In 1979, solar modules were approximately 100 times more expensive than they are now. The price of solar modules has dropped to 6.5% from the previous years due to technological advances.
On the other hand, the installation costs have been reduced by more than 70% since 2010, which is determined by mainly decreasing solar PV prices. However, the drop in prices has been influenced by many factors such as an increase in the quantity of production, the discovery of new technology, an increase in the efficiency of material, government support, and an increase in the lifespan of PV systems [10].

1.2. The Trending Position of Current and Future Photovoltaic Power Generation around the World

Currently, scientific researchers are continuously improving PV power production globally. The international PV market has undergone a sudden rise since 1998, with an annual growth of 35% of the installed capacity. The installed cumulative PV capacity had also risen from 1200 MW in 2000 with a rapid increase up to 188 GW in 2014 and was found to be 490 GW by 2020 [11]. These fast advancements in PV production have created high competition in the market industries. Clearly, some nations such as the US, China, Japan, Germany, and South Africa have significantly improved in the PV market. The global PV modules at the end of 2014 were about 50 GW, in which China shared 27.2%, contributing to about 70% of the worldwide market [12]. Hence, as this swift development continues, the global market production outlook projects the PV to reach 266 GW by 2025 and 270 GW by 2030. Recently, there has been growing attention on PV prospects, investigation, and future. Most of the studies emphasized decreasing costs, expanding efficiency, and improving the present systems’ technical strategy [13].
On the other hand, many countries have also declared their strategies and policies to endorse PVs’ growth [14][15]. On 2nd June 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Clean Power Plan by declaring that renewable energy practices (as well as solar energy) will be doubled within the next ten years. In another development, the US Department of Energy (DOE) also spent $15 million to assist peoples’ initiatives and societies in developing the solar energy platform [16]. In the same vein, the Japanese government has passed laws, such as the Renewable Energy Special Measure Law and the Renewable Portfolio Standard Law, to ascertain the expansion of fresh energy ideas and tasks the parties for immense contributions [17]. China, from another angle, had emphasized a few essential and critical demonstration schemes of the PV technologies in the Outline of the National Program for Long- and Medium-Term Scientific and Technological Development (2006–2020), the National 11th Five-Year Scientific and Technological Development Plan, and the Renewable Energy 12th Five-Year Plan [14][15][16][17][18].
On the other hand, the contributions of PV technology to electricity are improving globally. According to the Statistical Review of World Energy, 2017, the total world value of the newly installed capacity was about 37.6 GW, which accounts for 53% of the world. Solar PV market research estimated that approximately 38% of the new solar PV modules were manufactured in China, Japan, the US, and Germany. China led in cumulative solar photovoltaics in 2017 with a capacity of 11.3 GW. The research by [19] on grid-connected PV systems in China showed that PV technology is swiftly emerging. The study noticed that China’s government offers unusual incentives to research and development (R&D) groups in the country for solar PV and enacts some policies for PV installations. The PV industry has experienced massive growth in the worldwide PV market for several years. The report presented by European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EAPIA), a global PV market outlook, showed that the world’s cumulative PV power installed was 22.9 GW in 2010, which rose by 45% when compared to 2008 (16 GW), and in 2017, it was about 139.6 GW, and a value of 55% was installed worldwide [20].

2. The Importance of Solar Photovoltaics as Compared to Fossil Fuels

It is becoming more apparent that the prevailing global method of generating electricity through coal fire has been unsustainable for the past years. Fossil fuel power plants control over 90% of the global electricity generation. The plants are vertically integrated in the sense that it generates, transmits, and distributes electricity to internal markets and purchases and sells electricity to and from the developing communities. Fuel is typically stored in the form of energy carried as a primary energy, which must be converted for practical purposes. Therefore, it must be burned to generate electricity, and lots of energy is wasted in transporting from the coal-fired station to the consumers. Figure 2 shows that about 65% of the energy is lost from the consumers’ primary source.
Figure 2. Description of energy transportation from fossil fuel to the consumer.
Unfortunately, only one-third of the useful primary energy reaches the customers since the chain of transportation is associated with relatively high conversion losses. Furthermore, coal, as well as other fossil fuels, contributes to climatic change in countries. It is now widely believed that climate change is partly initiated by human-generated carbon dioxide, which presents a grave environmental risk to the world [21]. Therefore, the PV energy supply is paramount has an unlimited growth in demand, and extends to other benefits. Nevertheless, PV energy resources are a sustainable energy supply choice that can expressively moderate dependence on fossil fuels. Other benefits are job opportunities, nearness to point-of-use, and less reliance on intensive energy sources (and political power) in various circumstances. However, most of the materials in PV productions are potentially poisonous, which may be discharged into the environment through air or water; hence, proper waste management methods of wastes made by PV industries have been established and deliberated [22].
A very considerable effort has been undergone in the prospect of continuous utilization of fossil fuels to solve our potential desires by using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) [23]. However, the deterioration of these fossil fuel reserves as well as the lesser efficiency of CCS make it a short-term solution. Recently, the contributions of renewable energy, especially solar and wind, in the global commercialization of energy are gradually increasing, though by less than 10%.

3. Socioeconomic Impacts of Photovoltaic Technology

The solar PV industry has sustained itself expansively in creating several jobs globally. The industry provides different jobs in numerous fields where different skills are needed. The different job opportunities range from research-connected, highly skilled employments in the enterprise and fabricating solar energy goods to employments demanding a minor level of experiences such as the repairs of renewable energy systems and processes. In 2014, for instance, virtually 3.3 million people were employed by the solar energy industry, where the solar PV in particular recorded 2.5 million jobs [24], while in 2018, Asia alone presented more than 3 million PV employment, or close to nine-tenths of the global. Therefore, a significant aspect of the job opportunities was found in Asia, particularly in manufacturing solar instruments [25]. While there was a weak employment opportunity for solar PV in Europe, job expansion has been robust and healthy globally.
Moreover, the solar heating and cooling sector has given job opportunities to more than three-quarters of a million people worldwide in 2014, with serious markets in Brazil, China, and India [26]. Countries such as China, Japan, India, Germany, and the US have contributed immensely to job creation globally in the solar PV manufacturing sector. In 2017, global solar PV manufacturing companies had an excellent period, with 94 gigawatts (GW) installations from 73 GW in 2016 and a meaningful fresh job establishment [27]. The US, China, India, and Japan were the top essential markets, succeeded by Australia, Turkey, Korea, and Germany [28]. Furthermore, employment opportunities improved by 8.7% to reach 3.37 million jobs in 2017, while the uppermost five nations, led by China, recorded 90% of solar PV jobs globally [26]. Generally, Asia holds the key to virtually 3 million solar PV jobs which denote 88% worldwide, seconded by North America with a value of 7%, and then followed by Europe with 3% of the PV [29]. On the contrary, European PV jobs kept descending, replicating partial local installation markets and an absence of rivalry amongst European module producers. It shows an 8% drop to 99,600 employment across the European Union in 2017 [30]. More amazingly, US jobs decreased for the first time, roughly by 233,000 employments [21]. Japan’s decelerating step brought down job opportunities from 302,000 in 2016 to 272,000 in 2017. As solar PV deployment increases, more nations will profit from employment opportunities in line with the supply chain, mainly in installations, developments, and repairs [31]. Figure 3 shows renewable energy job opportunities with solar PV increasing yearly from 1.36 million jobs in 2012 to 3.75 million in 2019.
Figure 3. Global renewable energy employment by technology from 2012–2019 [32]
Generally, the top nations account for approximately 87% of the global solar PV workers, which shows that employment and industries linger in a minority of the countries. This worldwide analysis comprises approximate 372,000 off-grid employments for South Asia and parts of Africa.

4. Policies Adopted That Helped to Boost Solar Photovoltaic Systems in Leading Countries

For the past few decades, the growth of solar PV systems has been powered by the application of different assisting policies targeted at decreasing the breach between the price of PV energy and the energy price for conservative production. Hence, the enrolment of these strategies has encouraged the decline of PV energy prices, making it easy in the past years, especially in 2012 and 2013, for “fuel parity” in many countries. Notwithstanding, solar PV is still very expensive, and its growth involves sufficient supportive devices such as simple grid-connection techniques.
Several methods of funding have been established for PV sectors for the past decade, such as tax credits, capital subsidies, net-metering, VAT reduction, feed-in tariffs (FiTs), and renewable portfolio standards (RPS), etc. In the US, for instance, the growth of the PV system has been mostly motivated by net metering, RPS strategies, and tax credits (flexible in each state), while in Europe, PV was assisted primarily by net-metering and FiTs. A summary of various fiscal enticement approaches is presented in [33][34][35], which account for two fascinating descriptions relating to the rules for PV system benefit in the EU, and hence can help one comprehend the way the assistance policies have progressed for the current years.
However, the strategic conclusion for productive PV supportive parks is to have a bond between the fiscal assistance and the position of the installed PV system. A parametric assistance study is undertaken in [36] to examine the economic feasibility of big PV plants in Cyprus without appropriate assistance. The results show that the capital expenses of a PV package are a serious factor for the feasibility of the scheme without the availability of FiT. In another development, the Greek PV market is examined in [37], where authors deduce that the FiT importance should be used in connection to the position/part of the installation to eliminate unnecessary pay for the PV customers. Additionally, in [38], the authors investigate the installed solar PV and thermal collector capacities per capita in 15 EU nations and their assistance devices for PV electricity. They deduced that capital subsidies and inducements are significant in supporting solar thermal and PV collectors. The authors [39] produce a linear programming model capable of ideally powering a grid-connected PV system for domestic uses to reduce the annual energy charge use, including PV savings price, maintenance price, utility electricity price, and deducting the revenue from marketing the extra electricity. In [40], a study of PV systems in Spain, Greece, and Germany was performed by examining the key parameters that influence the efficiency of PV policies. The investigation indicates that, over a definite profit stage, risk-related issues, such as policy variability and managerial obstacles, are a significant part of promoting investment choices rather than return-related features such as the level of an FiT. In [41], the authors carry out a comparative economic study of specific European funding devices in PV sectors, centered on the design of discounted cash flows (DCF), NPV, and IRR. An isolated domestic PV plant in Italy was economically assessed [42] to estimate the economic viability with respect to the PV assistant devices. The status of PV electricity and policies was examined in Germany, Japan, Spain, China, and the US, deducing that, to obtain a quantifiable result on market development as well as to attain a varied cross-section of customers, trade funding terms need to be fluctuating. An innovative procedure for computing the economics of a domestic PV sector was undertaken in [43]. The authors applied this procedure to create the economic feasibility of several PV sectors in Ireland. In [44], the authors examined the factors of investment risk in the PV production in Italy by a scenario analysis, risk analysis, and sensitivity analysis. They declare that PV industries will definitely have prospects in Italy; however, eliminating the normalization limits, simplification of the mechanisms as well as extra funds are main features for more dissemination of PV. Lastly, in [45], the authors described a mechanism for assessing the prospect of PV systems in urban setting with regards to the difference of the key economic factors and financial inducements.

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