Solar Energy in the Modern World

Introduction

Energy is a significant requirement for the propulsion of society towards the achievement of desirable change. The overreliance on nonrenewable energy sources such as crude oil has caused pollution, hence the need for renewable sources that are less hazardous to the environment. Solar is one of the sources of energy in the contemporary times. Solar power is obtained from the energy in by the sun’s rays, which are then converted into electrical and thermal energy through photovoltaic (PV) cells. This paper will look at the usage of solar power, its advantages, disadvantages, and the assumptions involved in understanding the concept.

Usage of solar energy

One particular use of energy is heating water, which accounts for 30% of global energy consumption (Miller & Scott 2014). Solar energy provides a reliable solution to the threat since generating thermal energy for heating water becomes convenient and environmental friendly. Consequently, this aspect intensifies the need for massive production of energy from the sun for both residential and industrial use.

The electricity generation from the sun entails the concept of the photoelectric effect. In solar photovoltaic (PV), semiconductors, which are mainly made of silicon, are used to transform light from the sun into electricity (Moseman, 2010). Panels are usually affixed to rooftops for the photoelectric effect to take place and generate power (Chiras, 2010). The installation of PV is based on the power consumption. Hence, different appliances are specified for large-scale, commercial, or residential use. The extraction of solar energy is thus a simple process that turns the light energy from the sun into thermal and electrical energy.

Statistics indicates that 20 days of energy generated by the sun equates all the energy contained in traditional energy source reserves such as coal and crude oil (Irvine et al., 2014). Actually, harnessing 20% of the solar energy world solve the world’s energy problems (Daviss 2007). The world only utilizes less than 1% of the potential solar power, which was only 0.7% of global solar energy demands by the year 2013. An average growth of 40% annual generation of solar power was recorded between 2000 and 2001 (Irvine et al., 2014). This aspect saw the growth from 1.5 GW to 70GW during that period implying its fast growth as the desired source of renewable energy. The installation costs for photovoltaic equipment in the US dropped by $3 per watt indicating a 17.4% decrease between 2009 and 2012 (Irvine et al., 2014).

Advantages of using solar energy

Solar energy is free, thus making it a readily available energy source waiting for the installation of equipment to tap it. The cost incurred when using solar energy mainly encompasses the construction of collectors and apparatus required to modify the sun’s light into energy that can generate electric power. The production costs are thus minimized by the existence of the free sunrays that relatively shine throughout the year. The maintenance costs of solar energy equipment are low since there is no recurrent expenditure after the initial investment.

Solar energy is inexhaustible. The bountiful nature of solar energy makes it a reliable and renewable source of energy. Energy obtained from the sun is infinite, unlike oil whose reserves are likely to dry in the next 40 decades (Solomon, 2008). The production of fuel will continue as long as the sun endures to shine. Therefore, the consistency and continual existence of solar energy enhances its sustainability over other sources of energy, thus making it a preferable fuel source in the contemporary world.

Solar energy does not pollute the environment directly. The energy derived from the sun is clean, and thus it is a non-pollutant source of electricity (National Geographic, 2015). Unlike other sources such as coal, solar energy does not emit hazardous gasses like carbon dioxide and sulfur oxide. With solar energy, pollution caused by transportation of fuel is minimized significantly, thus further cutting costs for its production. In addition, the generation of solar energy does not involve noise pollution, and thus it is environment-friendly.

The ease of installation of solar equipment enhances its edge over other sources of energy. The installation of solar panels is easily done by fixing them on rooftops then connecting to electric systems. The installation is space efficient since only aerial space will be considered as opposed to geothermal energy production that requires ground drilling. Rural dwellers can also install solar panels conveniently due to low technicalities involved; hence, individual homes and businesses can access electrical connectivity regardless of their location.

Disadvantages of solar energy

The major demerit of solar energy is its inability to be produced during nighttime (Pimentel, 2008). Harnessing solar energy is dependent on the availability of the sun. According to Pimentel (2008), this aspect creates the need to store surplus energy created during the day in a bid to sustain power needs at night. Cloudy skies also tend to inhibit the efficient generation of power, thus affecting the creation of enough power for use at nightfall. In this sense, solar power is dependent on both weather and time, hence, its unreliability.

The initial costs incurred during the purchase and installation of solar energy equipment is usually high. Photovoltaic cells, collectors, and panels involve costly industrial production. Governments have provided subsidies, tax reduction, and incentives in a bid to cut the costs, but more innovations are required for the source of energy to be affordable. Solar panels are somehow inefficient in absorbing solar energy. The energy absorbed by the panels is usually around 40%, which means that 60% goes to waste.

The installation area for solar apparatus can become a challenge when high voltage power is required. As compared to homes, industries, and businesses consume more electricity leading to the need for more solar panels. The installation of extra panels requires more space for the sustainability, efficiency, and reliability of solar energy in such settings. Establishing power stations that rely on the sun does not match the output of power created by similar sized modern power plants. For this reason, the production of solar energy is space uneconomical in massive production requirements.

Assumptions

The generation of electricity from the sun is surrounded by assumptions that facilitate the estimation of its efficiency. The production of solar energy is subject to natural factors such as weather conditions, income disparities, government legislation, and the availability of resources.

An assumption that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and population determine the balance of installation of solar power plants has to be made. Due to the costly nature of the purchase and installation of equipment required for the generation of power, the efforts of each have to be considered to foresee the viability of solar power. In this case, equitable distribution of resources with the aim of enhancing the citizens’ ability to install solar panels for the generation of power becomes paramount. The increased power generation could be perceived as a strategy of increasing the GDP in the long-term through the production of goods and services using solar power.

Capital costs for the initial set up of solar power stations and the production are assumed to be subsidized by the various governments in the form of incentives and reduction of taxes. A consistent tax rate is expected to apply to various federal governments where 8% duty is to be imposed for the manufacture of solar energy equipment. For instance, “The Hawaii Department of Taxation issued temporary administrative rules in November 2012 for photovoltaic systems installed on or after January 1, 2013” (Energy.gov, 2015, par. 1).

Similarly, national government taxes are expected to be lower for the realization of an economy powered by solar energy. Policy changes regarding energy production in the future will elicit uncertainties that pose a threat to the estimations of solar power production. In this regard, assumptions about the consistency of government policies enhance foreseeing the sustainability of solar energy with respect to financial projections.

The location of the solar power plants is significant for the understanding of the concept of solar power generation. Local conditions have a bearing on the viability of solar power projects since aspects of weather influence the production of solar fuels (Kruger 2006). The assumption here is that geographically scattered regions have the same weather conditions relatively. In the US, the cities of Chicago, Miami, and Boston could be perceived to have similar geographical features except for solar insolation difference. The history of the three mentioned cities concerning power consumption over the past three decades could be used to gauge the sustainability of solar power in the future.

Conclusion

Solar energy is generated through photovoltaic processes that involve the sun’s energy. Its free occurrence, non-polluting nature, inexhaustibility, and renewability features have made it a commonly preferred source of energy. Its detriments range from the inefficiency of solar panels, location, time, and purchase and installation costs, which are the main drawbacks towards the heightened use of solar power. In order to comprehend the various aspects that surround solar energy assumption such as uniformity of tax across states need to be made. Therefore, technological innovations aimed at curbing the shortcomings of solar power seem to be the answer for a solar-powered society around the globe.

Annotated Bibliography

Chiras, D. (2010). Solar Electricity Basics: A Green Energy Guide. Gabriola Island, BC Canada: New Society Publishers.

Chiras approaches the issues of solar energy from an environmental conservation perspective. The book identifies solar energy as one of the best renewable sources that would sustain an environment free from pollution. He describes a range of photovoltaic units that suit different purposes and how to cut electricity bills using solar energy.

Daviss, B. (2007). Solar power: The future’s bright. New Scientist. Web.

In this article, Daviss approaches the issues of solar energy from a very optimistic perspective. He emphasized on the reclamation of idle land into solar power plants to sustain the energy needs of the modern economies. However, he acknowledges that numerous challenges pose threats to the realization of the solar power ambitions. Technological advancements and subsidizing the production costs are some of the issues he points out that need to be addressed for sustainable solar energy production.

Energy.gov: Solar and Wind Energy Credit (Corporate). (2015). Web.

The State of Hawaii published this article to communicate the taxation changes concerning solar power equipment. Maximum tax credits are clearly outlined after a review of the 1976 Energy Tax Credit Act. The target of the publication is to enhance awareness about the benefits of using green energy and loosening legal barriers on taxation.

Irvine, S., Peter, L., Frei, H., Schüth, F., Zhao, T., Candelise, C.,…Clayton, A. (2014). Materials Challenges: Inorganic Photovoltaic Solar Energy (RSC Energy and Environment Series). London, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry.

This book focusses on the material challenges encountered in Photovoltaic systems. Issues like initial cost and efficiency of the PV systems are the main agenda in the book whereby different assumptions should be made in a bid to project the long-term sustainability of the renewable energy.

Kruger, P. (2006). Alternative Energy Resources: The Quest for Sustainable Energy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

This book focuses on the future alternatives to energy. Kruger envisions a sustainable future by predicting the in the coming 50 years and the traditional combustion mechanisms will be abandoned. He foresees a future where alternative fuels like hydrogen would replace petrol, thus resulting in a sustainable future.

Miller, T., & Spoolman, S. (2014). Living in the Environment. Boston, MA: Cengage.

The two authors in association with the National Geographic Society create awareness about the need for a green environment free from pollution. The book lays down the primary problems facing the environment. The authors drive their points through photos indicating the impact that nonrenewable sources have on the environment.

Moseman, A. (2010). How Solar Power Could Become Cheaper Than Coal. Discover. Web.

Moseman wrote this article in the Discover Magazine to unmask the underlying issues concerning the installation and efficiency of photovoltaic cells. He comments about the debate between the thick and the thin solar cells by concluding that the thinner solar cells are more efficient in energy generation.

National Geographic: Solar Energy. (2015). Web.

The National Geographic highlights on solar energy by publishing necessary information on the creation of solar energy and its implications when utilized fully. Statistics indicating the growth of solar energy demands imply that the popularization of the clean power source would satisfy energy needs in a large magnitude.

Pimentel, A. (2008). Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems: Benefits and Risks. New York, NY: Springer.

The author addresses the need for the move towards alternative renewable sources of energy such as solar energy. He bases his arguments on the notion that oil and natural gas reserves are in the verge of being depleted in the next five decades. He clearly indicates the benefits and detriments that tag along the production and consumption of solar power.

Solomon, S. (2008). For National Security, Get Off Oil. Scientific American. Web.

Solomon advocates the shift from the exhaustible energy sources such as crude oil towards embracing solar power. He asserts that the vulnerability of the infrastructure based on oil is responsible for national security challenges. Therefore, he recommends the use of solar energy that is inexhaustible, unlike crude oil, not only for the promotion of environmental sustainability, but also for harmonious coexistence.