Monday, February 23, 2009

What’s Wrong with the Unpopularity of Solar Energy?

Our sun produces 350,000,000 terawatts of power. A full exposure to this energy for only 15 minutes is enough to meet the world’s energy requirement. This energy cannot be compared against energy that is generated by fossil fuel and nuclear, which is only amounted to mere 10,800,000 terawatts. Of course, energy from fossil fuel is also non renewable.

In general, utility companies contribute 1.3 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the environment for every 1 kw of electrical power generated from burning fossil fuels. This CO2 is dumped to the atmosphere everyday. In fact, a typical home is accountable for approximately 22,000 pounds of CO2 annually.

On the other hand, harnessing the energy from sun’s rays is clean and safe. There is no emission and it can be extremely economical in the future. Unfortunately, right now only 0.1% of power in United States is generated by using solar energy. If solar energy is that good, why do only few people use it?

Article in Wall Street Journal dated August 2008 mentioned that several groups backed by certain political groups are against the installation of transmission lines for solar power. Furthermore, the power grid in the United States was designed more than 100 years ago. It is now badly congested in many regions. Therefore, it is not easy to deliver solar power to customers. A cost efficient plan needs to be developed to transfer energy from one location to another.

Another problem is the cost. Right now solar power requires a lot of initial investments. A home value normally will increase when it uses solar power, but the initial cost deters many people to install solar panels.

The government should encourage its citizens by placing rewards to avoid using fossil fuel. For instance, a 30% tax cut to projected cost previously awarded will be attractive for many if other federal credits are included to promote more investments. Global warming issues are everywhere and become a recurrent subject in different talk shows. This is good to keep reminding people on the importance of solar energy and other renewable energy sources. The unstable fuel prices can be another good reason to encourage the use of alternative energy sources.

Unfortunately, transmitting solar energy effectively to homes is still very difficult to achieve unless the obstacles are solved. Even if the obstacles can be removed today, it is estimated that 10 years are still needed to convert 20% of homes into solar energy users. In this case, individual homes with solar panels is still considered as the most feasible alternative.
The good news is that technology develops rapidly these days. Solar power with nano technology is currently being developed and should be available in the next five years. Solar cell design is also developed continuously and a cost effective method to harness solar energy is getting closer to become a reality.

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