January 26, 2009

Solar Energy: Reshaping Future of Energy

Imagine Solar PV panels installed at the roof of your house in a matter of a year; thousands of pounds of CO2 offset and saving of and thousands of dollars saved at the same time. According to the experts there would be a challenging need of around 30 TW (Tera watts) by 2050 to maintain economic growth and ever increasing energy needs of expanding economies like China and India. A large Chunk of this 30 TW will have to come from non carbon source. To accommodate such an explosive growth a source of energy is there which is limitless yet zero carbon emission. For this reason scientists are looking towards the solution SUN. More energy reaches our planet in one hour through the sun than the energy consumed by the planet every year. According to Cal Tech Materials Chemists Nat Lewis no less than 600 TW of useable energy is available world wide.

Ground breaking research and development has been done not only to enhance and achieve maximum efficiency but to address another major issue which is the cost. In 1955 Hoffman Electronics-Semiconductor Division created a commercial solar cell with 2 % efficiency at a cost of $25/cell or $1785/watt. With the extensive research and development the efficiency increased to record breaking 42.8 the cost has gone down as well is becoming affordable. As of 2005, photovoltaic electricity generation costs ranged from 0.60$/kWh in the regions of high solar irradiation.

According to Frank von Hippel and Robert H. Williams the flow of solar Energy through the Earth’s natural system is about 10 thousand times greater than the flow of fossil fuel energy through man’s machines. The global economies with all its ever increasing demands of meeting energy needs, should shift towards solar economy is inevitable. With some economic constraints involved which can be easily removed by reshaping global policies? .I will continue the post to discuss the constraints and possible solutions.