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‘Vast market opportunities’ in solar arising from digitalisation, report finds

Digitalisation in solar and across the wider European energy market could create “vast” market opportunities and entirely new business models, a new report has found.

European solar trade body SolarPower Europe presented a new and extended version of its ‘Digitalisation & Solar’ report during this week’s Digital Solar & Storage Event in Munich, Germany, outlining several ways in which increased digitalisation could benefit the technology.

It found that digitalisation in the sector held the potential to both increase self-consumption and optimise grid feed-in of solar-generated electricity, in turn enhancing the profitability of the solar installations.

And wider deployment of smart grid technologies could also provide solar with a boost, ending the so-called ‘fit and forget’ model of installing solar with little thought to its ongoing operation.

The report pays specific mention to technologies like blockchain and the use of cryptocurrencies in energy transactions, pointing towards their use in projects like Brooklyn’s microgrid that has been enabled by LO3’s blockchain transaction platform.

Solar is also forecast to play a major role in the adoption of grid-connected microgrids – particularly in industrial sites and municipalities. Such microgrids use sophisticated software platforms to source greater quantities of renewable energy, provide back-up power generation and, in turn, reduce overall energy costs.

Greater digitalisation would also enable network operators to better match demand with supply, enabling greater deployment of solar - and other renewables - on grids. 

Meanwhile the report also surmised the role tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook might play in the future energy market given early moves into the area through projects like Nest as well as their increasing interest in home management software suites.

Sonia Dunlop, digitalisation and solar task force coordinator and the report’s lead author, said the study was a “testimony to the vast market opportunities arising from digitalisation”.

“With big data analytics, the internet of things and blockchain, we have seen the emergence of entirely new solar business models. By embracing digitalisation we can reduce costs, improve performance and increase profitability," she said.