Future of solar energy
Solar energy breakthrough is round the corner
Is solar energy going to rescue humanity in near future?
The Human Civilization is passing through a cross road. There are concerns, as serious as the basic survival of the race. One of the most threatening factors is the extra ordinary rise in consumption of fossil fuels and the associated impact on environment which is devastating. The frenetic efforts to secure energy sources and transit routes through strategic military buildups are becoming scary especially in view of the large stock pile of nuclear weapons across the world. The limited life of oil reserves and the associated worries of upheavals in Middle East, holding more than 50% of world’s reserves, is further compounding the problem of secured supply of energy to users.
In the midst of such great uncertainties and oil reserves being limited with varying estimates ranging from 60 years to more than 100 years the political and commercial leadership across the world are paying greater attention in achieving success in the most promising alternative energy source, the solar energy. The sector has been a source of hope for humanity for a long time but inhibitive cost of solar panels has denied a commercial breakthrough. The mood and multitude of activities in the sector are giving firm hopes that solar energy is on the threshold of becoming the key source of energy to the world. There has been significant progress and a series of new breakthroughs in recent times and two of them; 3D panels and solar paint are described here in brief.
3D Solar Panels
A team of MIT professors were inspired by nature, as claimed or rather sought the solution from nature regarding the design of solar panels. The shapes of leaves gave them some ideas and they have made a 3D solar panel in instead of the conventional panels which have been flat. The three dimensional design of solar panels has the potential to revolutionize the sector. It is able to harness the solar energy even during the cloudy days in an efficient manner. This gives an opportunity to complement artistic expressions by designing a 3D structure of panel which adds to the overall ambience and aesthetics of the place.
In the battle of reducing the costs of solar panel installation to bring it to the level of viability new frontiers are getting explored which one must say is creativity powered by scientific research at its best. The new kid on the block in the area of solar power is solar paints which can be applied at the covered parts of buildings at a fraction of cost as regards the conventional solar panels. The paint consists of nano sized semi conducting crystals mixed with dyes. Though the current efficiency is around 1% it is not dampening the spirit of the researchers as the improvement of efficiency seems to be an achievable goal.
Here Comes the Sun
The future of solar power is brightening up with the fall in the cost of solar panels and a series of breakthroughs at different stages of developments. This has been best described by Paul Krugman in NYT article “Here Comes the Sun”, dated November 6, 2011. He describes the political reasons behind the lack of required push or rather fair play ground to achieve the much awaited breakthrough. But the days are not far off when solar panels, 3D solar panels or solar paints are visible symbols of modern civilization and development of a country and society.
MIT’s site - www.technologyreview.com/