Solar Power Has Become an Inexpensive Form of Generating Electricity

By Sally Murdoch

Solar power is becoming increasingly affordable across the world

Solar is taking the world by storm, and never has this been more apparent than in late 2016. In 2016, 230,000 Americans worked in the solar industry. By 2020, this number is predicted to swell to more than 420,000 gainfully employed in harnessing and reusing the sun’s energy.

On December 19, financial news giant Bloomberg announced they have new data showing that a large shift in global markets has occurred, declaring solar power to be a comparatively inexpensive form of power. In the article, Bloomberg New Energy Finance author Tom Randall wrote, “Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity…now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects.” (1)

The Importance of Cheap Solar Power to Emerging Nations

Less expensive solar panels are enabling most every nation to compete on a global scale. This is really important to countries like Chile and India where renewable energy infrastructure isn’t well-developed yet, but clearly will ramp up soon. China, the number one installer of solar panels will also benefit from cheaper infrastructure costs. The cheapening of solar energy began in January 2016 at energy auctions, where companies competed for contracts to provide electricity. Companies made contracts to produce electricity for a record low at $64 per megawatt-hour in India. The record was shattered in August when contracts were inked for $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile. Randall wrote, “That’s record-cheap electricity—roughly half the price of competing coal power.”

Shifting to clean energy is more expensive in nations such as U.S., where electricity demand is less, and new solar must compete with existing billion-dollar coal and gas plants. But the shift is happening, and safety in more installations is paramount.

Three Solar Labels to Consider in Installation and Manufacture

With the push on installing less expensive solar panels, safety and labeling through visual communication cannot be overlooked. In fact, the National Electrical Code (NEC) has updated 2017 requirements for panel labeling as well as the circuitry, breaker panels, inverters, AC disconnect panels and more. In 2017, labels will provide the most relevant information to electricians and emergency responders through secure visual communications.

Below are three labels that solar panel installers and manufacturers may consider. The DuraLabel Toro is the printer of choice for each application for its portability between the office and field.

UL 969 Compliant Poly Tape

The DuraLabel UL 969 Compliant Poly Tape is one of the most reliable labeling supplies available for manufacturing. These poly labels are ideal where UL 969-approved labels are called for, such as label name and rating plates, instruction labels, and more. UL 969-compliant poly tapes are protected by a glossy and durable topcoat that resists water, UV light, and mild solvents. A strong, industrial adhesive provides the necessary long-term adhesion to many common surfaces, and numerous colors are available for convenient color coding and organization.

Engineer Grade Reflective Tape

Graphic Products’ Engineer Grade Reflective Tape is perfect for areas requiring increased visibility. The tape is a cost-effective staple around machinery, pathways, non-critical traffic signage, and general outdoor applications for conduit and rapid shutdown labels. This tape comes in a variety of colors for easy organization and color coding.

solar labels
Left: Required for systems that shut down the array as well as all conductors that leave the array. Right: Required for systems that only shut down conductors that leave the array.

Premium Vinyl Tape

PV systems call for high quality labels, and Premium Vinyl Tape fits the bill. Custom order colors available and works on surfaces up to 200°F, this tape is resistant to water, UV light, and most chemicals. The tough yet flexible construction of DuraLabel Premium Vinyl makes it the standard supply for all DuraLabel thermal transfer printers. Industrial-grade material provides outstanding durability, flexibility, and printability in a wide range of label and sign applications. Acrylic adhesive and polished face provide lasting performance.

The Future of Solar

While the future of solar panel applications looks to be bright, it will take time to transfer to renewable energy worldwide. As Bloomberg states, “for populations still relying on expensive kerosene generators, or who have no electricity at all, and for those living in the dangerous smog of thickly populated cities, the shift to renewables and increasingly to solar can’t come soon enough.”

(1) (Source: Randall, T. (2016) World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind. Bloomberg. Technology

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