Solar Power in a nutshellBY SOL PANDIELLA-MCLEOD
The Sun is the earth’s most cost effective power source. In just one hour, the Earth receives more accumulated energy from the Sun than the entire population of the world could use in one year. Yet solar power currently provides only 0.04% of the worlds energy.
So why aren’t we relying on solar power as our main source of energy? Is it because it’s a new technology? Well, no actually Solar energy was discovered in 1838 by a gentleman called Edmund Becquerel. The first design was patented in 1860 and it wasn’t until 1956 that the first commercial solar cell was publicly available at a pricey cost of $300 per watt!
So why is it taking so long to become the preferred energy source? Here are the main reasons:
- The amount of energy that is gathered from a solar panel is relatively lower per square meter than energy created through the use of coal or gas. For example if electricity is worth $0.10 per KWH solar energy is worth less than $0.06 KWH. Solar energy is also dependent on weather and varies from location to location depending on where you are on the Earth.
- Solar energy technology is relatively more expensive compared to coal-fired power plants. The cost involved in installing solar panels to an average home can take more than 3 years to recuperate the costs that you would use in standard energy. Most people would rather pay less now, rather than invest in something that pays off in years to come.
- The price of oil is maintained at artificially low prices by government subsidies and other groups, in order to discourage the proliferation of alternative energies.
- Most of us just can’t afford to put in the initial investment that will eventually pay off years down the track.
The good news is that some governments are offering assistance to help increase the use of solar power in homes and businesses across the world. And the other warped-optimistic view is that as we continue to deplete the Earth’s resources we will have no choice but to rely on the golden rays of our sun to power homes, transportation and our cities.
Some interesting facts about solar power:
- In 1990 an aircraft flew 4000km across the USA using only solar power.
- To power the average sized home completely with solar power you’d need a solar panel 7.3x3meters. this would provide 2000watts of electricity. Each month this solar panel would:
- Prevent 130kg of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere when the coal is burned to create electricity.
- Save 400litres of water that would be used to mine and process the coal.
- Replace the power generated by 70kg of coal.
- Germany has nearly half the world's installed solar cell capacity due to Feed-in tariffs. In 2006 the country installed 100,000 new solar power systems.
- Solar power installations have increased from just 21 megawatts in 1985, to 2,826 megawatts in 2007.
- Manufacturing solar cells produces 90% less pollutants than conventional fossil fuel technologies
- The solar industry creates 200 to 400 jobs in research, development, manufacturing and installation for every 10 megawatts of solar power generated annually.
Sol’s love of the earth undoubtedly started during one of the countless camping trips with her nature loving family. Catching tadpoles, racing long-necked turtles in the creeks in Bingara and baking sweet potatoes in open fires.
Inspired by David Suzuki’s last lecture in 2010, she has over several long and sleepless months, created this site, which she hopes will also inspire people to live healthier lives and create a healthier Earth for the generations to come.
She now lives in Sydney with her soul mate and their two amazing little people who remind her every day that life is awesome!