Modern society is energy-hungry. The world needs a constant supply of electricity in order to keep things running. The energy consumption trend over the past few trends has been soaring like crazy. Our energy needs continue to rise and we continue to look for more ways to meet the demand. At the moment, we have a number of options for producing energy. Hydroelectric and nuclear power plants, and coal power plants being the most common. They have a high energy yield. But these solutions are also really harmful to the environment.
Non-renewable energy production methods have been draining our planet of its resources. They also leave huge carbon footprints that are damaging to the climate. In only 10 years, our global climate has undergone a lot of alarming changes. Global warming has been on the rise and sea levels are rising. If things keep on going as they are, our planet will become a very hard place to live in by 2050.
Energy production using renewable sources is our shining ray of hope. And out of all the renewable energy options out there, solar power is by far the most promising. Through proper implementation, solar power can replace other energy production methods. It can power the entire world at a much cheaper cost. And it can slow down the rapid degradation of our environment.
Solar power has a major role to play in the coming decade. We’re going to be taking an in-depth look at this claim.
The Origin of Solar Energy
Solar power technology has been around more than 130 years. In 1883, Charles Fritz experimented with selenium; a semi-conductor. He covered this material with a thin layer of gold. This resulted in the creation of a photocell. When exposed to sunlight, photocells can convert light energy into electricity. Unfortunately, photocells had a very high production cost up until a few years ago. The high production cost made it hard to produce them in large volumes. On the other hand, fossil fuel-powered plants had a very meager initial cost. This led to the latter being favored over photocell technology.
However, the production cost of solar power technology has gone down quite notably. This is thanks to advancements in the technology behind solar power. Modern day solar panels are cheaper to produce. They also have a higher production efficiency. As a result, they are now practical enough to be considered as viable alternatives.
As the barriers surrounding solar power went down, governments started experimenting with them. This led to solar power being brought into the limelight. And now, this technology has become widely available.
What is Solar Power?
Solar power is derived from sunlight. It is classified as an alternative source of energy and is renewable. Renewable meaning that the “fuel” needed to produce this energy cannot be depleted.
The science behind solar power is fascinating and confusing. In laymen’s terms; solar power is sunlight converted into electricity. Light itself is a form of energy. Solar panels have the ability to absorb this energy and produce electricity.
Types of Solar Power
Solar panels are becoming quite common throughout the planet. More and more buildings are beginning to install solar solutions. At the moment, there are three practical forms of solar technology:
- Active solar systems
- Passive solar systems
- Mirror Systems
Active solar systems are installed in buildings and harvest sunlight. They consist of solar panels, electricity converters and batteries. Electricity produced by these systems gets stored in these batteries. And from there, it can be used to meet the energy needs of the buildings. Active systems have come a very long way. Nowadays, there are affordable solutions that can power entire buildings. Making them completely independent of commercial energy.
Passive solar systems are used for producing heat rather than electricity. They offer eco-friendly and cost-effective heating. These solutions can maintain interior temperature and water temperature. By doing so, they can significantly reduce a building’s energy consumption.
Another, slightly primitive, version of solar technology is mirror systems. Mirror systems use large reflective surfaces to amplify and direct sunlight. They concentrate sunlight at a single point in order to amplify its heat. This system is used for producing heat in an eco-friendly manner. Mirror systems are interesting, but their use is fairly limited at the moment.
Why is Solar Power So Great?
The best thing about solar power is that it’s free. As long as we have the sun, we have sunlight. And sunlight is available everywhere on our planet. It is the most widely available fuel source. It is also inexhaustible. All of this means that solar power has zero fuel costs. Its maintenance is really easy as well. Once you have installed solar panels, you don’t need any manpower to operate them. They can be left on their own without any need for monitoring. The only maintenance that they need is frequent cleaning.
When compared to other energy production options, solar technology is superior. It has a low operational cost, and it there’s no problem in sustaining its fuel source. Solar energy is also far cheaper in the long run. The argument that solar technology is far too expensive to be practical is an old one. Solar technology gas becomes really affordable in the past few years. Also, its high initial cost is balanced out by the low maintenance cost. Solar power plants can cover their cost within a year. And once their payback period is complete, they don’t become cost centers.
Domestic solar solutions can even pay for themselves. The excess energy that they produce can be directed to commercial power grids. And the owner of the solar solution can be reimbursed for that energy.
From an environmental point of view, solar technology is a lifesaver. It has no carbon emissions and it operates without producing any sound. Its fuel doesn’t need to be extracted from anywhere either.
The only real downside to solar technology is that it takes a lot of space. A large-scale solar grid can take up a lot of land space. Also, solar energy production can be disrupted easily. bad weather and low sunlight can decrease its efficiency drastically.
The Pros of Solar Power
- Low maintenance technology
- Infinite fuel source
- Extremely cost-effective energy production
- Environmentally friendly
- Noiseless operation
- High resistance to wear and tear
The Cons of Solar Power
- Solar grids cover large land spaces
- Energy production can be disrupted by weather conditions.
If you weigh the pros and cons, it becomes clear that solar technology is a winner. And countries are beginning to realize this. A lot of countries have plans for shifting to solar power as their primary energy source. We can also see solar technology being integrated with already existing technology. In the past few years, solar technology has undergone rapid advancement.
The Positive Impacts of Solar Power
- Solar energy production doesn’t disrupt the environment
- Low operational and maintenance costs make it cheaper. Solar technology can make energy affordable for everyone.
- Solar panels and batteries have long lifespans. It takes a long time before a solar panel ends up in a landfill.
Solar Power Vs Fossil Fuel Power
Fossil fuels are non-renewable and hard to obtain. This makes them expensive and also leaves space for conflict. Fossil fuels are also really harmful to the environment. Burning them produces a lot of carbon emissions. All of this harms the atmosphere. Fossil fuel consumption has a really big hand in the acceleration of global warming.
Like we’ve mentioned above, solar power doesn’t come with any catches. It’s sustainable, globally available, and infinite. A single solar grid with an output of 2MW can lower annual carbon emissions by 2.7 thousand tons. The more solar grids we install, the more we bring down our carbon emissions.
Fossil fuel power production is unsustainable and is destroying our planet. Solar power is sustainable and can actually save our planet.
Solar Power Trends Around The Globe
If we look at the global adoption of solar power, things look really promising. IRENA published information on solar energy generation in 2018. The information showed a positive trend in the adoption of solar technology. In 2018, the world had a global solar energy production of 512GW. And according to trends, Asia is set to increase its solar energy output by 61%.
Globally, solar and wind energy production is growing at a rapid pace. In 2020, another 142GW of solar energy production is expected. At this rate, solar energy production will soon topple nuclear energy production. The global growth of solar energy is being led by Germany, China, USA, and Japan. Various other countries are adopting this technology as well.
The Future of Solar Technology
Its immense potential and declining production are resulting in rapid advancement. Solar technology is being researched and improved. And thanks to this, we can expect to see it everywhere in the near future:
- Solar panels can be integrated into vehicles for on-the-go energy production.
- They can be integrated with various devices in order to power them.
- Semi-transparent panels can replace glass in windows. Buildings can be fitted with windows that produce energy.
We can expect to see a lot happen in the solar technology segment. And very soon, this will become the primary source of energy production in the world.