Monthly Archives: December 2018

installing solar panel

The Future of Solar Energy: How Far Can It Take Us?

With the rises in population, urbanization, and commercialization that are occurring, the need for viable renewable energy resources is also rising. Depletion of natural resources is quite a considerable threat to the sustenance of life as we know it.  Solar energy is a landmark in the advancement of the technology that lets us harness the energy from the sun, which we receive in the form of radiation and harness to produce useful energy resources such as electricity.

The future of solar energy is becoming increasingly bright, as it is like a whole treasure of renewable energy resources just waiting to be harnessed.

Studies show that the amount of solar radiation that the earth receives in merely an hour from the sun is more than enough to fuel our global energy needs for almost a year. The future is unpredictable but, given the current trends of solar energy usage and many scientific research studies that have been conducted, solar energy seems like the best answer to our energy resource woes. Let us take a look into the future of solar energy.


What Is the Future of Solar Energy?

light bulb

Solar energy is the energy received from the sun’s radiation, which is then harnessed to make it usable. It is expected to play a vital role in the future energy landscape. This is made possible by photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are commonly used in solar panels, calculators, spacecraft, and other energy-consuming items. These PV cells are made of a type of semi-conductor material, which displays the ‘photovoltaic’ effect. When sunlight hits these PV cells, the photons in sunlight activate the electrons in PV cells and knock them out of their atoms, thus causing them to flow freely through the cell and generate electricity.

In addition, there are large-scale solar-thermal power plants that use technology to concentrate the solar energy to form a strong heat source. This heat is used to boil water, which then drives a steam turbine to generate electricity. This method can be used to provide electricity to thousands of people. In addition, generating electricity by harnessing solar energy emits no carbon dioxide (CO2), which further makes it a sustainable and extremely environmentally friendly choice.

Here we have just scraped the surface, but the possibilities for harnessing solar energy to fulfill our regular electricity needs are immense. The future of solar energy looks bright... literally!


What Are Some Benefits of Solar Power?

Electric Posts

Currently, the actual usage of solar electricity is a nominal 2 percent of the total electricity generation in the United States, even though the potential has been available to reach a minimum of 40%. The future of solar energy and how we harness it depends on several factors which can boost the efficiency of solar panels. Solar energy should become one of the mainstream choices for global electricity needs.


Advanced Technology & Changing Materials

Generous government subsidies for solar energy will fuel the global expansion of solar panel production and use. These subsidies can help in funding for research and development. This can also help experts work further toward the improvement of stability and efficiency of solar panels while reducing their cost of production.


Perovskite

There is a possibility that perovskite (a mineral discovered in the 19th century) will replace crystalline silicon in solar cells. Perovskite not only enhances the efficiency of solar cells but also eases the manufacturing process. The only drawback is its durability, which is yet to match the durability of the historically used crystalline silicon, but the future possibilities are very exciting.


Recycle & Recover

The materials that go into making solar panels are the same set of rare-earth elements that are used by manufacturers of laptops, cell phones, electric vehicles, etc. With the global reserves of such materials constantly shrinking, the future of solar energy is also highly dependent on how these tech giants react to the age-long attempts of solar panel manufacturers to use substitutes like iron pyrite or zinc for production of such high-end devices and gadgets. 

One key consideration: Unless these companies focus on improving their processes for recycling metals and recovery systems, powerful and efficient solar panel recycling infrastructure will remain nothing but a distant dream.


Growth in Usage

Solar energy accounts for just one percent of global electricity production, but facts and research states that this number will see an exponential rise to 16% by 2050. Use of rooftop solar panels will increase remarkably with time, but analysts’ state that the game-changing expansion will happen in the utility scale.


Cost-Efficiency

Changing economies, more availability, and reduced costs for the materials used will likely bring down the price of solar panels largely in the near future. Analysts have tentatively forecast a price drop of about 17% is expected between 2018 and 2022. 

Some places in the USA and a few other nations around the world have already been able to achieve grid parity. This means that the cost of harnessing solar energy for electricity is now equal to or lower than purchasing energy from the grid. Even though improvements in solar manufacturing are highly responsible for the price drop across the industry, the steadily increasing number of solar panel installations and financial initiatives to make ends meet are also equally involved in bringing down the cost.


What Are Some Benefits of Solar Power?

Here are some of the most important reasons to keep developing solar power:

  • Solar energy comes from a natural source and is both sustainable and renewable, which means we will never run out of it
  • Solar panels require minimal maintenance once you have installed the panels and the panels are working at maximum efficiency
  • Only nominal maintenance work is required each year, which means lower costs overall
  • Zero emissions add to the benefits of solar power generation and makes it a sustainable and environment-friendly option
  • While PV cells convert sunlight to usable energy, there is absolutely no noise from the PV panel
  • Constant advancements in solar energy harnessing technology are gradually reducing the cost of production
  • The efficiency of solar panels is steadily improving, making the future of solar energy even more cost-effective


Future Solar Products and Uses

solar panel

 

Revamped Solar Panels

Solar panels as we know and commonly see them now might not be quite the same a few years down the line. Researchers and scientists are coming up with new alterations and up gradations all the time aimed to enhance and improve their efficiency. Michigan State University-based researchers have developed a prototype for transparent (or clear) solar panels that can be used in various places like buildings, commercial spaces, vehicles, and even cell phones.

The scope of application might be immense for clear solar panels. But since this technology is still in its infancy, the efficiency is a mere 5% compared to the 15% efficiency of traditional solar panels we have today. It might take a few more years to increase the efficiency of these panels, and then they may really become the game-changer in taking solar energy into the mainstream.


Solar Shingles

Solar shingles are a recently developed type of black- and blue-colored panels that might take the industry by storm. These look like the usual roof shingles we often see, but they are equipped with solar cells. When connected in a series, these cells generate a similar amount of electricity to a same-sized, conventional solar panel. Many companies and technology giants are penetrating the solar shingle market with an expectation of taking this technology to people sceptical about installing huge, clunky solar panels on their roofs.

Transparent solar panels and solar shingles are advancements in this field that could change the landscape of the solar panel market globally and make it mainstream.


Microgrids

Microgrids (another name for "decentralized electricity production setup") are also a part of the future of solar energy. These are effective in powering up a limited area like a village or a neighborhood. This makes microgrids an ideal medium to bring expansion on a global scale and ensure the power and utility of solar energy spreads to developing countries where harnessing energy to produce electricity is of the utmost importance. Such places, which were otherwise off the grid due to the expenses, can readily be a part of this expansion. That is the most exciting thing microgrids have to offer.


Conclusion

house

The use of solar panels and PV cells is steadily increasing in both urban and rural regions globally. We have just scratched the surface of the benefits and necessity of harnessing solar energy, and it is only a matter of time before solar energy can be used to power up the world.

With the raging battle against worsening climate change, the need for a renewable source of energy is huge and pressing. Solar energy can be a saving grace and play a major role in the mitigation of climate change all around the world. It is clean, environment friendly, efficient, highly sustainable, and renewable. With more advancements in research to come in this industry, a solar-powered world might be right around the corner.

coal tower

Pros & Cons of Nuclear Energy

No matter how many years go by since the 1940s, we have all remained somewhat apprehensive about the stability of nuclear energy, and sadly this fear has only been fueled by a few catastrophic events that have occurred: Chernobyl (1986), 3 Mile Island (1987), and Fukushima (2011), but these events did not result in the death of anywhere near as many people who have died in coal and oil related disasters. However, it's still important to know the pros and cons of nuclear energy so you can better understand why it's so desirable despite the dangers associated with it.

The world's demand for more energy only continues to grow and we have to find the technology that will rise to the occasion. However, we would ideally do so in the best interest of our environment. Despite our unpleasant run-ins with nuclear power, it is one of the most environmentally friendly sources of power and it is in our best interest as a growing population to find alternative sources of power that don’t harm our planet. This article will compare some relevant pros and cons of nuclear energy as an alternative source of power.

WHAT IS NUCLEAR ENERGY?

Nuclear energy is the product of a phenomenon called Nuclear Fission. Fission occurs when splitting the atom of a nucleus. Because of this occurrence, it releases a large amount of energy. Despite the fear and anxiety still left by nuclear energy it is understandable that people are hesitant to accept it as anything but destruction.


The reason it is still being considered as an alternative source to fossil fuels, is ultimately that the process results in far less damage to the environment overall in comparison. There are many pros and cons of nuclear energy, what it can do, and how it compares to other forms of generating power. But this article will not be expanding on the scientific attributes of this form of energy and its production process.

nuclear fission

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF NUCLEAR ENERGY

Nuclear energy produces around 10% of the world's power and we could produce several times that amount of nuclear energy at will. It is the cleanest form of energy we know of at present, and it offers much lower emissions including carbon dioxide. In addition, it takes a rather small amount of uranium to output a massive amount of power and the average nuclear reactor lasts around 40 to 60 years, but the lifetime of a nuclear reactor is contingent on the how much power it is intended to produce and the quality of its function. Let's move on to the pros and cons of nuclear energy for this article.
 

Pros of Nuclear Energy

source of nuclear energy

Listed below are some positive attributes of nuclear energy and what it offers in terms of clean energy, reliability, quality, and cost.


Less Pollution​


In no capacity does nuclear energy production burn chemicals in the process of producing nuclear energy, so there is no release of harsh gases into the air. In fact, the fluffy clouds that are given off by the stacks of a nuclear plant is only vaporized water. Those "stacks" are large cooling towers filled with water intended for keeping the nuclear reactor(s) from overheating. For the sake of this brief on the pros and cons of nuclear energy, we will also come back to this in our cons list. Nuclear energy is still the most environmentally friendly form of alternative fuel and electricity.


More Reliable than Other Forms of Clean Energy

Solar and Wind energy both rely on weather to produce power. Not to say it is impractical, but to produce large amounts of power constantly it is not exactly ideal. A nuclear power plant can run constantly, uninterrupted, making power for up to about a year. It also maintains a shelf life once produced and can even be stored for much longer than fossil fuels. Nuclear power also does not require the use of any kind of fossil fuels to be produced. Therefore, it is unaffected by the uncontrollably fluctuating costs of gas and oil.


More Electricity for Less Money

Although building new plants can be costly at first, there is a discussion of upgrading existing plants to improve volume instead of building entirely new ones. Regardless, once they are running smoothly, they are inexpensive. That is without mentioning the amount of power they produce will minimal resource. These plants produce electricity with nuclear reactors which is cheaper than coal, gas, or any other fossil fuels.

Uranium is also much cheaper than one would expect, but this does not additionally calculate the cost and expenses of the hauling and safe disposal of various kinds of radioactive material. There is no particular procedure for the disposal of the radioactive material nuclear fission creates as a byproduct.

Cons of Nuclear Energy

hydrogen bomb

Listed below are some negative attributes of nuclear energy and how it affects the environment, weaponry and warfare, disaster, and radioactive filth.


The Nuclear Elephant in the Room


The biggest concern with nuclear energy is the disposing of the used fuel remains which are radioactive and possibly dangerous. Although highly dangerous in mass quantities, which a typical plant produces around 20 metric tons of used nuclear fuel per year. This used fuel takes hundreds of years to decompose to a state that is safe enough for humans to coexist.


This is one quality other sources of fuel do not deal with. This point of Nuclear Power production evokes thoughts of the 1970s through the 1980s when plants were dumping their waste into the ocean and other bodies of water. None of those things take place in our modern world and there are now laws in place to protect against illegal dumping of toxic waste.


 

Use of Nuclear Energy as a Weapon


Nuclear power generation is far from the process of making nuclear weapons, but it poses a threat if exposed to the wrong person or group. In the wrong hands this technology can cause the entire world a whole mess of trouble. Recalling Hiroshima, imagine the potential of that on a worldwide scale. Well, that's what people imagine when they think of "weapons of mass destruction," but those with access to this technology are known and monitored. Interest in this kind of power grows every day, especially as the possibilities evolve from science and energy to weaponry.



Non-Renewable Radioactive Fuel


Uranium can not be re-used, therefore nuclear energy is not a renewable source. But there has been a discussion of the other possibilities uranium may offer to convert it into energy. If not handled properly, even the designated drops of waste can end catastrophically. It quickly contaminates its surroundings and spreads as it ages. Nuclear disasters like the accident at Chernobyl in 1986, leave the environment surrounding the plants uninhabitable by human life. The high levels of radiation have been unsafe for several years and it likely won’t change anytime soon. The damage left behind both in the people and places is still overwhelming to this day.

CONCLUSION

nuclear power

We hope this article has helped you better understand the pros and cons of nuclear energy, and here we offer our final thoughts.

Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy Compared

Good arguments can be made for both the pros and cons of nuclear energy as an alternative source of power. Although it has so many safe benefits, the negative results are dangerous and not so for the human death toll, but the environmental impact. But when you consider the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that fill our atmosphere, coal, oil fires and accidents happen more often than someone it hurt in a nuclear power workplace environment.

The nuclear industry is firm with their safety in the workplace, and catastrophic incidents are rare, but when an accident can be as devastating as a nuclear meltdown, it causes the public to worry. The shocks of the past remain at the forefront of the public's’ mind and it immediately turns them off to anything related to nuclear energy.

Don't Give into Fear

Despite the negative impacts, overall nuclear energy is technically the least threatening of all forms of energy. With every other fossil fuel dissolving our atmosphere, nuclear energy may be the only way to dismiss the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the production of nuclear energy, but if we were to fully explore the benefits of having nuclear energy, we would need to create a plan to manage the disposal of used fuel.

Until then no one will truly be ready to trust in any kind of casual use of nuclear power, we desperately need as I world continues to grow. Perhaps finding more ways to combat this issue would evolve as we further experiment within the parameters we have at present, but as much as some may not want to admit it, we are getting close to the point of needing to put the wheels of large-scale nuclear fission in motion.