In The News
The LA Times has been a major proponent of solar energy. It has covered the solar industry extensively, from the development of the modern solar cell to the growing concerns about air pollution. The paper has supported renewable energy sources like solar and promoted energy efficiency measures as solutions to climate change. In 2017, the media organisation even started a green energy fund to support journalistic, original content on climate change and sustainable energy.
Recently, the LA Times published an Op-Ed on how the solar energy industry can better work with environmental non-profits to support climate change solutions. The Op-Ed was written by Mark Jacobsen, the organisation’s senior director of environment and energy policy. He outlined the significant contributions that solar energy can make to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving the planet. According to Jacobsen, these benefits should make all parties – from advocates to governments – interested in implementing solar energy. However, he also noted that solar energy isn’t a silver bullet and that it comes with its own set of challenges.
In the editorial, the LA Times applauded the energy generation and storage technology that solar cells create, but it also raised concerns about the growing costs and uncertainties of solar power. The media organisation also cited research that suggests buildings and infrastructure will need to be retrofitted to accommodate for the additional power generated by solar cells. The editorial also pointed out that the benefits of solar energy aren’t always clear, especially when considering the intermittency of solar power generation. This could lead to unexpected spikes in electricity bills and frequent outages.
The Energy Benefits
When it comes to sustainable energy, the benefits are countless. Not only is the electricity generated by sustainable energy sources free from pollution, but the process of extracting it is also often eco-friendly. Renewable energy generation and storage methods, like solar power, are among the most popular solutions to climate change. They’re also some of the most efficient and effective ways of generating electricity. When the sun isn’t shining, many renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, can still generate electricity because they have stored energy in one form or another. This means they can continue to power devices like home appliances and small businesses even when the sun isn’t out. This scenario usually occurs during cloudy weather or at night, when solar power generation is at its peak. In most cases, the electricity generated during these times is lower in price than that generated by conventional sources.
According to the US Department of Energy, using alternative energy sources helps to reduce air pollution by keeping power plants from emitting harmful gases. These gases, commonly referred to as GHG, contribute to climate change. When generated by an air polluting power plant, these gases are considered harmful because they can stay in the atmosphere for many years before eventually breaking down. When an electricity generator uses a clean energy source like solar, the gases are much less harmful because they don’t stay in the atmosphere for as long. If the world switched to renewable energy sources like solar, many air quality disorders, including asthma and bronchitis, would likely decline. This, in turn, could have a positive impact on human health.
The ability to generate electricity when needed is another benefit of solar energy. The amount of power generated by solar cells varies based on the amount of light and the temperature. However, under good conditions, solar cells can generate enough electricity to meet the average home’s needs. In some cases, home owners and small businesses are able to generate enough power to serve as an alternative to the grid. In the US alone, there are over 1.5 million commercial rooftops that could provide low-cost, clean energy to homes and businesses. In 2017 alone, this market was valued at over US$16 billion and is expected to grow to over $26 billion by 2027.
Costs And Uncertainties
One of the major concerns that the LA Times raises about solar power is the cost. Based on the price of conventional power sources, energy analysts have estimated that installing solar power could end up costing you thousands. The main reason for this is that the cost of the equipment, installation, and the energy itself is generally higher than that of conventional power sources. Add to this the fact that, in most cases, solar power never-endingly rises in price as more and more is purchased and the appeal of rooftop solar becomes clear.
There are also some significant uncertainties when it comes to solar energy. One of the biggest is storage. When the energy is generated, it needs to be stored somewhere. This could be in the form of batteries, supercapacitors, or even compressed air. The more energy that is stored, the less expensive and more reliable it becomes. When the energy is being generated during off-peak hours, it can be stored and used at a later date when needed. In the case of solar power, this is almost always at night or during cloudy weather. Although this reduces the amount of energy generated, it also offers the opportunity to store it and use it at a later date. This, in turn, can lead to less expensive power bills. Even when the sun is shining, the heat that it generates can make storing energy more difficult and expensive. This is where air cooling comes in. Buildings that are directly exposed to the sun can become uncomfortably hot during the day. This is why they usually have air conditioning or, in the case of larger buildings, an internal temperature gradient allows for the controlled exchange of air. When the sun starts to set and the heat becomes unmanageable, it’s time to turn up the air conditioning and draw in some cooler air. This, in turn, can improve both comfort and energy efficiency.
Despite these challenges, solar energy enjoys a level of popularity that would make any energy expert proud. In fact, throughout 2017, solar energy grew its share in the overall power generation market from 2.5% to 3%, according to GTM Research. This growth is due in part to its popularity as a solution to climate change and the ever-increasing need for cheaper, cleaner energy. As the world becomes more aware of the environmental impact of GHG and the need to reduce its impact, more and more people are looking towards solar energy. Its popularity is growing so rapidly that it’s predicted that by 2022, 14% of the world’s energy will come from solar.
Solar power isn’t a perfect solution, and it doesn’t solve all of the worlds energy problems. However, with more and more people looking towards sustainable energy solutions, the benefits that solar energy provides should not be overlooked. If anything, the growing popularity of solar energy highlights the need for more research and development in the area. With the right R&D and more people generating power on their rooftops, solar energy may just become the solution to our energy needs.