Europe is accelerating its use of solar power, in part motivated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. In line with Europe’s pledge to half greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the EU is installing solar panels and roof tiles just about everywhere.
Before the war in Ukraine, solar accounted for 6% of the EU’s energy supply in 2021. But since Russia cut gas supplies in retaliation for EU sanctions, solar has been ramping up fast. New solar is “set to overshoot even our highest deployment projections for 2022,” according to the nonprofit SolarPower Europe. By the end of 2022, SolarPower Europe estimates that the 27 EU countries will have installed enough solar to power more than 30 million homes.
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“The EU generated a record 12% of its electricity from solar this summer, helping to avoid a potential €29 billion in fossil gas imports,” said Hannah Broadbent, head of communications for the climate and energy think tank Ember, as reported by Yahoo News.
This solar power is showing up as enormous photovoltaic plants stretching across fields and lakes. Builders are installing solar-powered water heaters, photovoltaic roof tiles and photovoltaic windows in new buildings. All sorts of establishments are adding solar panels to their roofs, from schools to grocery stores to government buildings. Even farms are using solar-powered technology to shield their crops from extreme weather.
While embracing solar is mostly good news, there are drawbacks. The EU has shifted its dependence from Russia for gas to China for cheap photovoltaic panels. And between supply chain disruptions and political squabbles, it’s always dangerous to put all your eggs in another country’s basket. Also, not everybody loves massive solar installations owned by big companies, which some people think defeats the self-sufficiency purpose of having your own panel on your own roof to generate your own energy.
Meanwhile, less than 3% of U.S. electricity is solar-generated in 2021, with new incentives to follow in European footsteps.
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