There is no doubt that the use of solar power around the world is continuing to gain momentum and is starting to make a real difference in energy consumption. It is a proven renewable energy source and there are even more ways in which the power of the sun is being harnessed and turned into usable energy.
Solar hot water, photovoltaic panels and concentrating solar power are merely the stepping off point in which solar power is being developed and improved. More and more innovative ideas are being developed and trialled to make better use of the sun. Although heat and sunlight can be used in a number of different ways, the challenge has always be to find ways of using it without experiencing too much waste and this is where the inefficiencies lead to problems such as cost.
The creation of solar energy farms has seen an increase in the amount of commercial solar power being produced. While there are huge benefits that can be taken from these enormous facilities they are also surrounded by negatives and down sides.
The first of the opposition that is often voiced when a new solar power facility is announced is the impact it will have on the surrounding environment. Although the actual creation of the electricity is clean, the materials used to capture the sun and their manufacture is not. Similarly, the sheer size of many of these facilities means that there is inevitably going to be some impact on the surrounding landscape, not to mention the wildlife that inhabit the area.
Out of necessity, a commercial size solar energy generating power plant is very large no matter whether the solar power is produced by photovoltaic panels or CSP troughs or heliostats. This comes down to the inefficiencies in the conversion process and is only one of the areas where improvement is still being sought. As ways are found to increase the intensity of the heat that is being captured it may be possible to produce the same amount of energy in a smaller defined area.
One of the ways that the demand for electricity on a commercial level can be greatly reduced, and possibly one of the most underutilized opportunities, is with personal solar power. Every home and business in the country has the potential to generate its own power supply through solar panels being installed on the roof. Even if each home were to store one or two solar panels on the roof, the power saving that could be made across the entire grid would be significant.
Government assistance in the form of subsidies and other incentives could have been a significant boost to this sort of idea had it gotten off the ground with any real purpose. Unfortunately homeowners have not been given a great enough incentive to shell out the cost of the solar panels which, to some, are quite prohibitive. It is still an area that could be better exploited to further reduce the demands that are placed on the older coal-fired power plants.
Solar Power In the Next 50 Years
One of the more positive stories to have been released more recently has been a report by the International Energy Agency that has projected that solar generators could produce the majority of the power in the world within the next 50 years.
The projection is that there will be an increase in the electricity being produced around the world but most of it will be produced by solar-electric technologies such as photovoltaic and concentrating solar power.
This is a significant announcement by the IEA because the previous projection that the agency made was that PV and solar thermal power plants would produce around 21 percent of the world’s power needs by 2060. The fact that this has been revised upwards to over 50 percent is a serious change.
Add Value To Your Property
One of the ways of helping out, plus adding value to your property, is to install a solar power system in your home. It is the way of the future and placing solar panels on the roof means that the energy costs for the household are going to be significantly reduced. This is a pretty big selling point for someone looking to buy the house down the track. On a yearly basis, the electricity produced by solar energy can represent savings in the hundreds.
Apart from the monetary savings that can be offered to the buyer, the environmental benefits can also provide a big incentive too. When a buyer is trying to make a decision on whether or not to purchase the home, the fact that it has solar power installed could be a deciding factor.
Now To Improve Efficiency
As mentioned earlier, one of the big challenges for solar panel manufacturers and solar energy producers is to find ways to improve existing technologies. There is no question that solar energy is going to be an important part of the world’s energy production in the future, improving the efficiency of the way it is captured will mean that it will cost far less. There are a few companies around who have taken on the challenge and are coming up with ways of improving the existing solar panels to make them ultra-efficient.
The field of photonics is the science of detecting, generating and amplifying light, among other things. The area of silicon photonics is where it is expected that the way light is used is going to experience tremendous improvement and this could see a big leap forward for the solar power industry.