In the last couple of years, the price of solar panels has dropped significantly, making this renewable energy option more accessible to average Joes and Janes. The question is: Is solar energy a resourse that can be excluded from the global economic calculation of resources?
The short answer is: It depends. The long answer is: It depends on how you define “solar energy” and “exclude.” Let’s take a look.
What Is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is the energy that comes from the Sun. The Sun is a massive star that gives off light and energy sufficient to sustain life on Earth. While the Sun is undoubtedly the source of all life on our planet, the energy it produces is not limited to Earth. In fact, solar light powers much of our technology and industry. Computers, TVs, and even some portable devices, like tablets and cell phones, all depend on solar power to operate.
For centuries, scientists have believed that the Earth receives all the energy it needs for sustenance from the Sun. In recent years, advancements in technology have allowed us to discover that the truth is a little more complicated. While the Sun does provide a lot of our resources, not all of it is usable. Certain wavelengths of light (i.e., colors) are more useful than others when it comes to generating electricity. For example, longer wavelengths (i.e., red color) are better for cooking food than shorter ones (i.e., blue color). This is why light reflected off a surface like the Sun is often referred to as “solar radiation.”
Can We Really Exclude It?
The short answer is: Not likely. While the price of solar panels has dropped significantly in the last few years, the cost of producing other forms of energy (i.e., fossil fuels) hasn’t. In fact, the cost of generating electricity from fossil fuels has increased by about 300% in the last ten years.
Even when taking into consideration inflation and the current cost of gasoline, the price of solar energy still pales in comparison. For example, it costs about a penny to generate one watt of electricity through solar energy compared to $0.30 to $0.70 per kilowatt hour (kWh) to generate electricity from fossil fuels. Plus, when you compare solar energy to other energy sources, like nuclear power and wind energy, it is clear that it is a more cost-effective option. For instance, wind power is generally considered to be the most expensive option and nuclear power is usually plagued by safety concerns. When it comes to cost-effectiveness, solar energy usually beats out both of these options.
When Does It Become Excludable?
The long answer is: When sunlight becomes more plentiful and less expensive. As it gets dark earlier and later, the need for electricity rises. During the day, when the Sun is out, we don’t need as much electricity. This is why during the day, the price of electricity tends to be lower than at night. Solar energy may become economically viable at some point in the future when the price of electricity produced by fossil fuels increases and the need for electricity becomes greater at night. At that point, the energy that comes from the Sun could be considered a resourse, similar to fossil fuels or water. However, until then, solar energy will always be considered a non-renewable resource.
When Does It Become Ressource?
The term “ressource” has two common uses. The first is when a country is running low on a particular resource and needs to import more of it. For example, we are currently experiencing an energy crisis due to the diminishing amount of oil that is available. Currently, many countries are seeking to reduce their dependence on oil by looking towards alternative energy sources. In the near future, we might see countries relying completely on alternative energy resources to fuel their country.
This is why we should be cautious when using the term “ressource” – it isn’t always positive. When a country is low on a certain resource, they usually aren’t able to generate as much electricity or fuel as they need. This can lead to supply shortages and increased prices.
Where Do We Draw The Line?
There are many different ways to define “solar energy.” Some people may include only the energy that comes from direct illumination by the Sun. Other people may include energy produced by the reflection of sunlight off a surface like the ocean or a lake. Still others may include the energy that comes from any source that is based on solar power, like solar ovens or water heaters. It is important to note that, depending on how you define it, solar energy may or may not be considered a resource.
When it comes to economics, many textbooks will tell you that resources are non-renewable if they are limited in supply. If there is no limit to how much we can extract from a certain resource, it is considered a renewable resource. When we consider that there are limits to how much solar energy we can collect, it becomes a bit less clear what to call it. While it is certain that the Sun will never run out of energy, it is also true that we can only collect so much of it. At some point, the supply will start to outweigh the demand and the cost of extracting more will become greater than the benefit.
It is important to note that just because we can’t exclude a resource does not mean that we have to include it in our calculations. It simply means that we need to start thinking about it in terms of cost and benefit. If the cost of solar energy is too much right now (i.e., compared to other energy sources), it probably isn’t a good idea to count it in our calculations. However, if the price is right – as it will be in the future – then perhaps we should start including it in our calculations.
Many scientific articles and government reports have been written regarding the future of solar energy. If you want to learn more, you can start with these articles: