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Solar Energy: A Viable Alternative

Updated on October 14, 2012
Solar energy is indeed a viable alternative
Solar energy is indeed a viable alternative | Source

The practice of harnessing solar energy for heat and light has been around since ancient times in one form or another. The current technology of solar energy is in a position to make a significant contribution to the global energy crisis which exists as a result of dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.

Photovoltaic panels, more popularly known as solar panels can capture solar energy and convert it for heating water or producing electricity. Solar energy is becoming more affordable as well as being a clean and efficient source of energy, thus eliminating pollution. Furthermore the cost of harnessing solar energy is in the initial outlay for the fitting of the necessary equipment. One this is installed, solar power is free, efficient and effective for the user.

The total amount of energy from the sun reaching the surface of the earth is of great magnitude. In one year, for example, it is double the amount that could be obtained from a combination of all of the planet's other resources of gas,oil, coal and uranium which are all non-renewable.

Active techniques of harnessing solar power includes the use of pumps and fans along with photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into a usable energy form. It is worth noting that the photovoltaic panels used for harnessing solar power are becoming less expensive and hence more affordable for the average home-owner than they were in the past

This is partly because the panels are becoming more efficient with the most recent technology so they are smaller and less expensive to manufacture. The generation of energy by solar means has very positive implications for the environment as well as it produces no emissions into the atmosphere as it merely harnesses the power of sunlight which is already there anyway.

It is also becoming more practical as time goes on to place these solar panels on the roofs of people's houses and they are an easy system for home-owners to use to meet their hot water, heating and/or energy needs.As time goes on these solar panels are also becoming more efficient at producing energy even in adverse weather conditions i.e. when it is cloudy or overcast.

As with wind energy, there is the option in some countries of selling surplus electricity generated from a solar system of energy production back to the traditional electricity supplier.

As solar energy becomes an increasingly efficient system of meeting our electricity needs, more companies and industries are using it as it becomes more economically viable to do so.

In many countries (such as Japan, the United States and Germany)there are grants available as a financial incentive to home-owners and business to convert to solar energy. These grants can subsidize the cost of purchasing and installing a solar-powered system and afterwards the system is free to run and maintain.

The technology of solar energy is continuing to advance and alongside this more people are availing of this free, efficient and environmentally-friendly means of heating and producing electricity for our homes and businesses.

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    • Kate Mc Bride profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate McBride 

      6 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thank you DS Duby. Your feedback is much appreciated. Hope you like the wind energy hub too. Your votes are also welcome. Cheers,

      Kate

    • DS Duby profile image

      DS Duby 

      6 years ago from United States, Illinois

      I love the topics of alternative power sources and you have certainly done the subject justice. This was a very informative hub, I'm looking forward to reading your article on wind energy next. voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate McBride 

      6 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thanks for your positive feedback and for adding more information from your experience.

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 

      6 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      The idea of Solar Power is great, I have been very close to the industry for 5 years. Batteries are the problem of course, the bigger problem is yield from the P V Panels. at 23 or 24% the electricity is expensive. Without subsidy the industry will go away and the subsidies are being reduced because the states are all broke. Federal Government although it talks a good game is still subsidizing coal dramatically more than alternative energies. Can we spell Unions. Your Hub is great I am a supporter

    • Kate Mc Bride profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate McBride 

      6 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      The information you have added is much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to comment with your knowledge and insight.

    • techhound profile image

      techhound 

      6 years ago

      If you are on the grid already, then you don't actually need to hook up to batteries as in most districts, electric utility companies are required to buy back excess energy that is produced by your system. I agree that panels are not as effective yet as they can be but that is rapidly changing. One big problem before was that one inverter (solar creates DC power and most appliances and homes need AC power thus an inverter is introduced as part of the system) was used for the entire panel and if that inverter failed the whole system failed. Nowadays, they have mini inverters that are placed on each panel subsection so if one goes out the others will continue to work.

      As for the batteries if they are needed (in a place not connected to the grid), you have to look at the difference between the toxicity of the battery as compared to the toxicity of producing oil. You'll find that those batteries' toxicity is minor in comparison. Now this is not to say that we are simply ready to jump to renewable energy sources such as solar completely. But remember technologies become better through their use. Manufacturers find ways to improve much faster when they are in market then when they are in the testing phase.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate McBride 

      6 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thank you for adding so much more information here and your points about batteries and storage are well-made and useful.

    • MikeNV profile image

      MikeNV 

      6 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Does Solar Energy work? Absolutely Is it economically viable? Not yet. And here is the real problem. In addition to the inefficiency of panels (I know because I'm doing a lot of research on how many panels are needed to fully power and recharge an RV completely off grid) the real problem is STORAGE.

      Storage = Battery Technology and no one seems to be talking about this in relation to Solar Power. Can you imagine the MASSIVE amount of batteries required to store the energy? Most battery technologies are highly toxic to the environment. Those that are not are extremely expensive and manufactured with rare earth metals.

      So what is really needed is affordable environmental storage technologies. No use developing panels if you still can not store the energy. Unfortunately the Government is doing very little to subsidize and develop battery technology. The private sector is not going to do it until there are large profits. So solar languishes.

      China is the only Government dumping money into Battery Technology. And it's primarily because their air is so polluted.

      Other than that valid points in your brief. Voting up.

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