Solar Energy: What Is It, and Could It Be Useful in the Future?

Solar energy is one of the most promising and sought-after energy sources around the world. The ability of the sun to sustain life on Earth proves that solar energy is a never-ending source of power that can be used to drive all kinds of devices, such as phones, tablets and laptops. In addition to being useful now, solar energy could also be used in the future to combat climate change. Here’s a short overview of solar energy and its future potential.

Key Facts About Solar Energy

Solar energy is the energy that comes from the Sun. As a source of energy, the Sun is immensely powerful. For example, the photons it emits are capable of converting into electricity the most efficient photovoltaic cells currently available on the market, such as the ones used in solar panels. In the last decade, the efficiency of solar cells has increased by 25%, while the cost for solar panels has decreased by 70%.

Since the inception of the modern day, mankind has been trying to harness the power of the sun. While early generations primarily used the energy to heat and cool their homes, technologies such as photovoltaics and solar cells have made it possible to do much more. Solar energy, specifically photovoltaic (PV) solar energy, is one of the most promising energy sources currently available. The ability of the sun to sustain life on Earth proves that solar energy is a never-ending source of power that can be used to drive all kinds of devices. According to the International Photovoltaic Association (IPVA), photovoltaics currently represent the largest market share in the solar energy industry, with approximately 74% of installations worldwide in 2017.

While photovoltaics currently account for the largest share of solar installations, solar thermal energy systems (STE) have also seen significant growth in recent years. STE is the use of heat drawn from the Sun to produce usable electrical energy. The two most common types of STE are solar hot-tubs and solar power plants. A STE system consists of a solar collector (tower, dish, or any other structure designed to collect and channel the Sun’s rays), a heat transfer fluid (typically but not limited to liquid hydrogen or water), a thermal engine, and a means of converting the thermal energy into electrical energy (typically referred to as the power plant). A small solar hot-tubs system uses water as the transfer fluid and a water-cooled engine to convert chemical energy into electricity. A typical solar power plant, on the other hand, uses steam as the transfer fluid and a steam engine to generate electricity. Solar energy can also be used to produce valuable and sustainable chemicals, such as ethylene and ethanol. These chemicals can then be used to make a variety of products, including plastic materials, asphalt and cement, among others.

Why Should We Care About Solar Energy?

Man has been trying to harness the power of the Sun ever since he first figured out how to create a fire. The ability to produce heat and light from the Sun is undeniably useful, especially in today’s world, where we spend more than a third of our time indoors. The majority of the energy that we use each day comes from natural sources, such as fossil fuels and nuclear power, which are limited in supply and emit numerous toxins into the air when burnt. Solar energy is an ideal alternative, as it is unlimited in supply and emits no toxins into the air when burnt.

While it is great to have alternative energy sources that are sustainable and clean, solar energy is still in its infancy. Its market penetration is relatively low, and most people are not yet aware of its existence or how they can use it. This presents a significant opportunity for businesses that sell and service solar products, such as energy storage systems, inverters, etc.

The Potential For Solar Energy

Solar energy has enormous potential to solve many of the world’s energy problems. According to the IPVA, over the next decade the global market for solar energy is expected to grow by an impressive 50%. The ability of the sun to sustain life on Earth proves that solar energy is a never-ending source of power that can be used to drive all kinds of devices. The technologies that make up solar energy, such as photovoltasics and solar thermal energy, are also the foundation for other renewable energy sources, such as wind, nuclear and waterpower. In addition to being useful now, solar energy could also be used in the future to combat climate change. Solar energy is ideal for regions that have plenty of sunshine, such as the southern and western parts of the U.S., Australia, and parts of southern Europe. Due to its broad geographical availability and sustainability, it is not a surprise that many countries have set goals and made plans to become more energy independent and secure.

Energy Independence

More and more countries are realizing the importance of becoming more independent of energy sources that are limited in supply and potentially expensive, such as oil and natural gas. Those countries that are already energy independent purchase their energy needs from a diverse range of reliable suppliers, which helps to lower their energy costs and protects them from energy interruptions. In 2017, there were roughly 150 independent power producers operating in more than 40 countries, which helps to ensure energy security and provides a back-up source in case of problems.

Independence from fossil fuels will help to reduce the impact that these energy sources have on the environment, as well. Oil and natural gas are known to contribute to climate change, albeit unintentionally. These hydrocarbon fuels are also essential for the manufacturing of almost all electronics and machines. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels will help to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our climate. While we should not underestimate the importance of fossil fuels in our lives and in the functioning of our modern world, we simply must find a way to reduce our dependence on them.

Secure Energy

It is well known that the energy market is prone to swings in demand and supply. This is mainly due to the fact that traditional forms of energy, such as oil and natural gas, are not especially tasty or easy to transport, which can cause supply chains to become disrupted. Not all regions of the world are particularly stable, either, which makes having reliable and steady sources of energy even more vital.

In regions where energy supply is threatened by conflict or instability, energy security is of paramount importance. Countries and businesses that can establish a reliable source of energy that is clean and sustainable will be viewed as valuable additions to international trade and investment, as well as vital sources of much needed employment and growth.

Sustainable Production

A major concern in recent years has been the sustainability of energy production, both in terms of environmental impact and cost-effectiveness. The world’s leading solar energy companies have created products and services that are highly efficient and require minimal upkeep, which helps to make them more sustainable. Those that produce and use these products understand the need to keep costs down and ensure that their production is sustainable and green.

The Importance Of R&D

Sustainability in the solar energy industry is extremely important, and the leading solar companies understand this. This is why they are heavily invested in research and development, as new technologies and innovations emerge that allow for more efficient and sustainable solar energy systems and products. In the next decade, we will see many new, innovative and sustainable products and services emerge from the solar energy industry, which will help to make our world a better place.

In addition to the benefits that solar energy provide, such as sustainable production and securing independence from fossil fuels, it is also essential that we look at the positive impact that the development of sustainable and affordable solar energy could have on future generations. Energy is vital to our day-to-day lives, as we use it to power our electronics, keep our homes warm in winter and cool in summer, allow us to cook our food and travel to where we want to be. As we have seen with the development and use of photovoltaics and solar thermal energy in the last century, energy technologies that are sustainable and affordable have the potential to improve the quality of life for future generations. This is a wonderful thing.

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