Solar Energy: Powering Our Future
Today nearly half of the world’s energy is provided by petroleum. What began as a cheap and abundant way to provide energy, has become expensive, environmentally harmful, and finite. With population explosions and the demands of modern lifestyles, the world’s need for energy production has become far too much for fossil fuels to keep up with. Experts say that the Earth’s stores of petroleum will be depleted by 2050. The need to find a viable source of energy within this generation’s lifetime that can power cars and provide electricity to homes. Some of the alternative energy sources include: wind energy, nuclear energy, and solar energy. Of the three, only solar is capable of producing enough energy to power the world. Solar energy producers fall into two separate categories: thermal solar collectors and photovoltaic panels. Thermal solar energy collectors are “a source of hot water that can be used for heating or for making steam to generate electricity” (Nersesian 2007). They are the simpler of the two types and much more inexpensive. They have many practical applications such as pool warmers and water heaters. Photovoltaic panels convert solar energy directly into electricity. They are large and the technology is still fairly expensive. Solar energy is a viable option to replace fossil fuels because it is the most financially viable long term, is a renewable resource that will not harm the environment, and each system can operate independently.
Of all the different alternative energy options, solar energy producers will save a homeowner the most money long term. With several “states offer[ing] rebates that cover a good chunk of the cost of photovoltaic systems and solar thermal systems,” (Woodside 2006) they are now definitely within reach of middle class families. A family that would like to produce most of their own power for a moderately-sized home will need a system that costs around $50,000. Combined with government rebates, the energy savings will pay for the panels within approximately 10 years. To receive the government rebates, the system must feed excess energy back into the power grid, which is purchased at wholesale rates by the electric company. Install a large enough system and a homeowner can turn a profit selling energy back to the electric company. There are also a multitude of devices available for purchase that run off of solar energy. These cost very little and do not need to be plugged in or powered by batteries. The technology is also helpful with powering equipment that is not easy to get to, like emergency call boxes, and “solar photovoltaic cells can easily provide power to these remote devices, eliminating the need for batteries” (Keen 2009).
One of the most impressive selling points of solar energy is the fact that is completely renewable and green. The world’s current energy producers, fossils fuels, are running out at an alarming rate and pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Earth has an inexhaustible supply of energy in the sun which, to put things in perspective, sends energy “each hour equivalent to the amount of energy used by humans worldwide each year (Anderson 2013). There are power plants capable of producing energy day and night which are “thermal solar power producers capable of storing the heat generated and using it when the sun is not shining” (Red 2012). Replacing existing power plants which produce large amounts of pollutants as byproducts with these zero emission plants would make huge strides for better air quality and a healthier environment. Solar energy panels create no byproducts and once installed require no transportation, making it one of the greenest forms of energy production.
Once a system is installed, the house becomes a self-reliant, energy producing machine. The convenience of being unaffected by power...
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