For a while there was some controversy about whether or not solar energy was actually going to solve our energy problems. The theory was that, with enough solar panels, we could generate enough power to completely eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. However, as time has gone on, we’ve seen that theory repeatedly tested and proven false. The reason behind this is that the amount of solar energy hitting the surface of the Earth is relatively small, and far from enough to power our energy needs. This means that we either need to find a way to collect more solar energy, or find an alternative energy source.
The Small Amount of Solar Energy Reaching The Surface
To put things in perspective, the total amount of solar energy that is reaching the surface of the Earth is only about 30 petawatts (3×10^15 watts). Compare that to the 1.7 zettawatts (1.7×10^18 watts) that the world’s power plants generated in 2011, and you can begin to see that we are severely depriving ourselves of energy.
This is largely because the amount of solar energy that is reaching the surface is heavily influenced by the amount of energy we are wasting. To put it another way, the more energy we are wasting, the less energy there is to be had from the sun. And as we know, we can’t generate power profitably if we are losing money hand over fist.
Why So Little Is Going To Solve Our Energy Problems
As we’ve established, the amount of solar energy that is reaching the surface of the Earth is relatively small. This is mainly because a large amount of that energy is either being wasted, or traveling to areas where it is not absorbed. The first is due to the fact that we live in a largely uncontrolled, and wasteful world. Despite the fact that we have advanced technologies that can monitor and control a lot of things, most people don’t seem to care how much energy they are using, or how much damage they are doing to the environment. The second reason has to do with where the energy is going. It is primarily being absorbed by clouds, space, and Earth’s oceans, and only a small amount is being used on the surface. This is mainly because our atmosphere is made up of nitrogen and oxygen, both of which are efficient at absorbing the Sun’s energy. In fact, a lot of solar energy is actually being reflected from the atmosphere and back to space, rather than being usable on the surface.
Where Do We Get The Energy We Need?
Despite the fact that solar energy is not a viable source of power for us at this time, the fact remains that we still need energy. This is where our problem lies. We need a way to produce the energy we need, without causing all the damage that is inherent in our current methods of production. Inevitably, we are going to have to give up some of what is essentially a “free” source of energy if we want to find a solution. The good thing is that we have a number of alternative sources of energy that we can try out. If one of them works out, great. However, if not, we can always try out another.
In any case, alternative sources of energy are something to look forward to. They represent the hope, and indeed the promise, of a better energy future. Even though solar energy seems to be inching closer to becoming a viable source of power for us, the fact remains that it is not quite there yet. The key, as always, is to be patient.