While solar energy has been receiving plenty of attention on a global scale, a significant limiting factor for a proliferation of this inexhaustible source of energy is the upfront cost of photovoltaic cells. The scientific community across the globe is actively engaged in making photovoltaic cells more affordable and also identifying other methods to convert solar power into electrical energy that we can use. Although federal governments in many nations are encouraging the use of solar energy in place of conventional sources of energy through different types of incentives, the upfront investment needed keeps many potential users away from this option.
Fossil fuels and climate change
The ability to tap more solar energy for productive use can usher in far-reaching impact not only for the individuals but also for the global economy. Many times in the past, the oil economy largely controlled by the Middle East nations have throttled the world economy through cartels. Apart from the economic impact, carbon emission from fossil fuels has reached levels that pose a significant threat to our environment, and global leaders are already seized of the urgency of the situation. Climate change has already started delivering its negative impact right on our doorsteps, and that is a strong message to contain carbon emission on priority to avoid significant suffering for generations to come.
Solar energy comes into focus during the current decade
Throughout the current decade, solar energy has come into limelight and Germany has recently achieved the distinction of being the only nation to run entirely on alternative energy including solar for at least one day. This is a stellar achievement since Germany not only managed to shut off all alternative energy sources for that particular day but also had some surplus of renewables left to be exported to neighbouring nations.
Tesla Motors, the USA making commendable progress in tapping solar energy
In the United States, Tesla Motors headed by Elon Musk has been making significant contributions towards the proliferation of solar energy and its use. The company has successfully developed solar shingles that would double up as roofing material, and solar panels are significantly altering the economic equations in roofing costs. Australia with the largest amount of annual sunshine can gainfully adopt this technology, sooner, than later. Australian home owners looking for roof replacement and new roofs can save substantially, particularly since Elon Musk has stated that solar energy from the company’s solar shingles would be a bonus when the roofing cost is factored in.
Researchers are actively engaged in making the current photovoltaic systems more efficient
Researchers around the globe, and particularly so, in the United States of America are actively involved in finding means of improving the efficiency of the present photovoltaic cells and also exploring alternatives to photovoltaic systems. In most photovoltaic systems today, it is the amount of light falling on the panels that matter. Heat is a deterrent in optimising output from the solar panels, and therefore, scientists have already devised methods to cool the panels while exposed to light. Prof. Jan Kleissl of UC San Diego environmental engineering is researching methods and technologies to predict the amount of power that can be harnessed from the sun.
More studies in the United States of America and Australia
In a recent publication in Renewable Energy journal, Prof Kleissl’s work we mentioned above, along with that of Mat Lave, his PhD student, explains why strategizing solar installations is important based on the building location and its relation to the sun. For instance, Prof. Kleissl with his students have succeeded in improving the solar map for California allowing photovoltaic installers, homeowners, and utilities to predict better, the amount of energy they can obtain from their solar systems. Professor Kleissl says in the report that a significant result of the work carried out in California is the advantage for coastal areas to install solar panels facing some ten degrees west of south. He adds that the measure, apart from optimising energy production, can improve the correlation of solar power generation with load. Compared to panels facing south, the panels that face the south-west gets to ‘see’ the sun for longer durations at a better angle which in turn leads to the generation of more energy during peak demand period (3-5 pm) making it economically more viable. Eurosolar in Australia is part of the global green revolution, not just among green energy solutions, but across all power technologies.
In Australia, effective marketing campaigns by EuroSolar outfitting a large number of rooftops with solar panels. Bright conditions in Australia prevailing during annual peak load periods also mean that the solar panels can produce maximum power. During the summer time, energy production reaches its peak and could climb to about ten times more than it is during other occasions.
This margin also has the potential to impact the economics benefitting solar energy when electricity rates become more variable in the future. Installation of south-west facing panels will also attract greater incentives as has been demonstrated by the maps created by Prof. Kleissl and his team.