Mar 6, 2020 in Science

Future of Solar Energy

Abstract

The research paper is about the future of the solar energy. There is background information on how solar harvesting started and how long the technology took to be commercialized. There is also an overview of why this type of energy is gaining popularity. The main reasons are because it is renewable, does not pollute the environment, and is cheap and easy to use. There is then a discussion of why some people do not prefer to use solar energy with the main reason being space required to set solar panels. There is a discussion of different technologies that are under research to improve efficiency of solar harvesting. Most of these researchers are at their initial stages, have not obtained ability, and have around ten years before they can be released to the market. Their main aim is to increase efficiency and reduce the size of panels required. In conclusion, the future of solar energy seems to be bright and it might turn out to be the most reliable source of electricity once researchers complete their work.

Introduction

Solar energy is the oldest form of energy that humans have used. Humans have used solar energy to warm their body and dry food for future use. There have been developments that have turned solar energy into electricity. More people have been adopting the use of solar energy as a source of energy in their homes. Governments have also been coming up with policies advocating for a change from oil dependency as a source of electricity to solar energy. The future of solar energy relies on technologies that are under research to improve efficiency in harvesting and converting it into electricity. The research paper will look at the future of solar energy and the research in progress aimed at improving ways of harvesting the energy.

 

Background Information

Photovoltaic is the act of collecting energy from the sun and converting it to electricity. Alexandre Edmond was the first person to notice that some materials produced electrical current after they got exposed to the sun in 1939. However, it was not until 1945 that some scientist discovered a way of turning sunlight into electricity, using solar cells made of silicon. More people started adopting the technology between 1960 and 1970 when wars in petroleum producing countries deterred people from relying on oil. The large-scale solar energy harvest began in California. The Senate of America adopted a bill in 2000 that supported purchase and installation of solar energy generating systems. At this time, the government advocated its use in water warming, heating of swimming pools, and battery backup. The funding was in the budget, but the program was discontinued due to the economic crisis. More funds got allocated to the project due to the energy crisis in the region. The government also wanted to turn to the green source of energy, which is why it invested in wind and solar energy. Today, it contributes to less than 1% of the total energy used in America. However, it has been gaining popularity with the population at a high rate.

Reason Why Solar Energy is Gaining Popularity

There are many reasons why countries and individuals have been starting to use this source of energy. The energy does not pollute the air like fossil fuels. It is for this reason that it is said to be clean energy. It does not emit greenhouse gasses that may lead to the greenhouse effect nor does it require cutting down of trees, which may result in deforestation. It also does not need other fuel to convert it to electricity, hence reducing the menace of transportation and storage of resulting waste. All that one requires to have is a solar panel to trap light. The source is also renewable as it does not have an end and cannot deplete like other sources, for example, oil and firewood. Electricity production remains as long as there is sunlight, which is available to the whole world. It can help reduce dependency on oil and coal as methods of producing electricity that pollute the environment. It can be readily usable in remote areas where there is no electricity connection. One does not need to get connected to a system from a power producing plant. Even though it cannot produce electricity at night and in cloudy days, one may use the battery to store electricity.

Installation of the solar panel is easy and does not need a lot of wiring unlike some other types of power. It also does not require the use of a drilling machine like geothermal and wind energy plants. Every person or business can quickly produce electricity on their own by placing a panel on the rooftop. The price of the panel is reducing as production and competition have been increasing along with the technological advancement in the industry. One can, therefore, alternate the use of this source of energy with another type of electricity to reduce cost. The alternation is necessary due to cloudy seasons and at night. The method has low or no maintenance cost over an extended period of time as solar cells are very durable and do not require routine repairs. There is no moving part in the panel, which is a trait that makes them durable. The initial cost may be high, but one can recover it after 10 to 15 years thanks to reduced electricity cost. The solar panel does not produce any noise as it produces energy like oil using a generator.

Solar energy produces low voltage electricity, hence making it safe for any connection. Electricity has been known to cause a lot of accidents due to short circuiting and poor wiring. However, the type of wiring needed for solar power is not complicated. Most people with minimal power education have done the wiring and have not experienced any accidents. Besides, there is no risk of overvoltage as the electricity is first stored in batteries before it gets to be used by machines. Most people like this source of energy as they get an assurance of safety and they are at a very low risk of electricity-related accidents. However, improvement in efficiency will lead to the production of more electricity by a solar panel.

This method is very useful in tropical areas which receive intense sun rays. People in these regions can fully depend on it as the source of energy. It is mostly used for lighting and running simple electronics in homes. The electronics include radios, television, milking machines, and chaff cutters among others. It is also used for warming during the cold season and warming the chicken at an early stage. They are also useful for heating shower water both at the home level and in boarding institutions like schools and hospitals. Swimming pool water also benefits from the solar energy technology through warming. Any activity that requires a relatively small voltage of electricity can use solar panel. Some hotels and resting places that need more energy also double the use of solar panels as the shading and resting place. They set then in such a way that people can stay under them as they take their meals. This trick is space economical as the hotel does not require extra space to place the panels.

Companies and individuals who are aim at reaching sustainable development have been turning to a green and renewable source of energy. There is a campaign for clients to buy goods from companies that are environmentally conscious. Electronic industries have also been increasing their production of solar-related bulbs and other electricity materials that use little energy. In future, a country that uses solar energy for lighting and other activities will attract more customers and will be more competitive in the market.

Factors Reducing Its Popularity

Despite the advantages, many people, especially the rich, have not thought of adopting this technology. The technology requires large panels in case they need a lot of energy. The only place available to set them is on top of the roof, which may not always be enough. The amount of electricity produced is high when the panel is directly facing the sun. The production will lower with the change of sun position in case the mirror gets fixed. Others opt to buy more than one solar panel and set them in different directions, which is expensive.

Solar Energy Technologies under Research

Institutions, organizations, individuals, business people, and scientists have invested a lot in the solar technology with the aim of reducing the cost and coming up with more efficient electricity converters. Most of the technology are under research and have 10 to 15 years before they can be ready for usage and marketing.

Perovskite Solar Cells

The solar cell is a device that is used to turn sun energy into electricity. Solar cells currently on the market are made of silicon, which has an efficiency of 15-20% in energy conversion. They are also relatively costly to produce and install. This efficiency has made scientists and private sectors to dedicate themselves to coming up with more efficient and cheaper methods of harvesting solar energy. Some researches are aimed at improving silicon cells efficiency, while others are entirely different. One technology has been researching perovskite, which is a brown, yellow, and black mineral that is mainly made of calcium titanate. The study started in 2009 when it achieved efficiency of less than 5% for the first time. Efficiency has improved since then and is one of the promising projects in the solar harvesting industry. It is far from the market and it is not clear when it will be ready.

Researchers say that processing of this mineral is cheaper as compared to silicon. They say it gets produced at normal temperature using a simple method unlike silicon, which requires a complicated process and has to be made using very high temperature. This competitive process means that resulting panels will be sold at a lower cost than silicon made mirrors. The current efficiency is the same as that of silicon made panels as it is at 20% and there is still room for improvement, meaning it can become even better. Another technology-related research concerns layering it on top of the used silicon cell so that efficiency of the two minerals can be improved. Silicon captures sun rays at a lower wavelength than the perovskite, making a combination of the two more effective than their separate use. Combining the two will also reduce market competition between the two products as there are also researches aimed at improving silicon efficiency.

Another advantage that perovskite has over silicon is that solar cells can be made in any color and can also be transparent. This aspect means that they will be used alongside other purposes unlike silicon. For example, they can double as house windows; hence, the owner will not have to worry about space. A large part of some buildings is made of glass and people can take advantage of the technology and collect maximum energy. That can also be used as advertisement boards since they can get produced in different colors. One of the challenging issues about current solar panels concerns a place to set them. A technology that can allow the use of the mirror in more than one way will help to reduce the space problem.

The research has not been without challenges. The research has been using a less than a centimeter square panel as compared to bigger market panels. Larger panels always came out with a defect when they were tried to produce. The researching company reported that they were able to create a larger panel without defect by dissolving a particular gas into them. The cells are also not as durable as silicon. They demean within days or weeks. The product also contains lead, which can get into the air, hence requiring to be sealed to avoid exposure to water and air.

Wireless Transmission of Power from Space

It is a project under the name ‘space solar panel system’ which is under investigation by JAXA, a space agency in Japan. The project is aimed at studying energy transmission from solar panels orbiting in space by 2030. There has been already a lot of research on transmitting power in a wireless way, but its efficiency has only allowed transmission within a five hundred meter radius. The experiment used microwave unit to transmit 10kW. Lighting was used to confirm successful transmission. This forms the basis for a sophisticated research as the researchers try to transport energy wirelessly over a very long distance. They intend to place an orbiting solar battery at a distance of 36,000 km above the earth. The technology will help to solve energy and environmental issues. Carbon dioxide emission is tiny as it is equivalent to one for nuclear power. Radiation is small compared to fossil fuels. China, India, and Japan are countries that have been heavily investing in this technology. The initial cost is very high as it involves a series of researches. Placing batteries in space is also not very costly. However, the long-term cost may be cheaper than any other source of energy. All that one will require is a power receiver. The technology is expected to be the most efficient method of collecting solar energy. It is not clear when the technology will be ready for the market. It will emerge successfully, considering the amount of time and resources dedicated to it. It can be researched faster if more countries and scientists join the research. Many people will benefit from this as it can be useful in all areas, including remote sections. It is not clear if there are side effects associated with the method.

Getting More Energy from the Sun

The current solar panel has efficiency of 20%. That means there is a heat loss of 80%. There is little energy that gets collocated during a cloudy day and no amount is collected during the day. A German scientist has been inventing a method of getting more energy from the sun even during the night and in areas with low light intensity. He has been using a sun energy generator model which is spherical in shape and goes by the name ‘Betr. Ray’. The technology applies geometry principles of spherical forms and tracking system for a dual axis. It helps to increase solar panel efficiency and contributes to the reduction of size. In this model, a smaller plane works better than a big mirror. The innovative device is revolving continuously and is appropriate for tilted planes, building walls, and any other place that is exposed to the sun. The technology is also applicable to car charging stations that use electricity. The researcher says that it has been able to reduce the surface area of cells by 1%, which maintains efficiency of a silicon cell. The system emits minimal carbon because its production needs less expensive semiconductors and other housing materials.

Reducing the size of solar panel and increasing its efficiency are significant steps towards coming up with a perfect method of solar energy conversion to electricity. Once this technology is complete, people will not need to worry about cloudy days or nights even though the amount of energy produced at those times might be lower. It will also help to minimize the required space, meaning one will not need to deform the aesthetic value of the house roofing. The technology is at its initial stage and might take more than twenty years to emerge in the market.

Bacteria-Powered Solar Panel

Scientists have joined bio-solar cells to produce a bio-solar panel. This connection has enabled them to create electricity. They have produced wattage of 5.59, which is higher than all existing small bio-solar cells. Once the technology is ready for use in the market, it is expected to be a stable supply of wireless power systems that are small and wireless sensors, which are located in remote areas where it is not easy to replace batteries. The research will help scientists understand the process of transferring extracellular electron in photosynthetic activities in a few numbers of microorganisms and a good control of the microenvironment. It will create a platform for more studies on a bio-solar cell. This study is the most recent one that uses cyan bacteria, which is readily available in every part of the world, including terrestrial life. The technology will provide a renewable, sustainable, and clean source of energy. Efficiency of the technology is very low at this stage as compared to the traditional solar panel, but it is expected to improve with more research on the bacteria.

Another group of scientists has been studying how to use photosynthetic catalysts and enzymes to convert light into electricity. The researchers have combined the photosystem and electrodes to carry out the process. They further say that use of enzymes to produce photo-bioelectrocatalysis cells to be utilized in the conversion is their biggest challenge. For a start, they test the enzymes glucose used in the photosynthesis process. They wire the native proteins eclectically using a mediator made of chemical electrons. The process of oxidizing glucose acts as a form of fuel since the photo-irradiation produces electric power.

Combination of Hydro and Solar Electricity Production

California is in the course of building the largest solar energy generation unit in the Mojave Desert. Its developers have been using the technology named solar thermal energy. The complete project utilizes 350 hundred thousand panels to trap light, which creates electricity. It then directs the power to water boilers. The boiling water produces steam that turns turbines to create electricity. The project is expected to provide power for over 140,000 homes. This process produces green and renewable energy, which does not emit any gas to the environment. The process is also cost-effective as panel installation is only done once, while water and solar are renewable. It is more efficient and produces a lot of electricity as compared to any one of the methods alone.

Alternative Places for Putting the Panels

Space is a problem when it comes to putting solar panels, especially if one requires producing a significant amount of electricity, and some companies use floating of solar on a water surface. The system by the name hydrelio makes it possible to place some panels on water reserves like lakes, dam reservoirs for hydroelectric purposes, irrigation canals, and other water bodies. This method is more applicable to companies that work near water bodies, which try to save on space and avoid water wastage. It does not require any supporting materials as it has with buoyancy materials. The technology is mostly in use by companies in Japan, India, and Germany.

Conclusion

The future of solar energy seems to be bright. More people have been turning to the use of solar energy more than other methods. They have been considering benefits associated with its use. The technology is cheap and easy to install. It is also cost-effective and most people can afford it. The source of energy does not pollute the environment as it does not emit any gas. There are a lot of companies and scientists that are committed to improving the efficiency of harvesting the energy. Most of these researches are at their initial stage and are far from being released to the market. Once they are complete, solar energy may be one of the most reliable sources of electricity in future.

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