The sun is the most powerful source of energy for the Earth. Since time immemorial, humans have benefited from the solar energy. The sun supports plant life that in turn supports animal life. It has been used to dry food, make fire, and heat up different objects. Because of the sunrise and sunsets, early civilizations were able to invent the calendar and measure time. Modern man’s lifestyles have become complicated as he advanced technologies to use the Earth’s resources. So much so that as non-renewable sources of energy become more and more depleted, scientists, economists and consumers are desperately looking into solar energy once again.
To date, there are advantages and disadvantages of the use of solar energy. There are many advantages of solar energy use. Solar energy saves money. For most parts of the planet earth, the sun will shine. Solar energy comes from the sun that is universally free. No one person or corporation owns it. In a practical sense, it is free. Unlike fossil fuels, solar fuel is available for using without causing any destruction on the earth’s surface as mining and oil drilling has done. Installation of the solar power system takes money but when initial investments have been paid for, power becomes literally free.
Solar power is clean energy. It does not produce carbon dioxide that is usually a by-product of coal-fired power plants. Getting a million homes to use solar energy would tremendously reduce conventional energy consumption thereby reducing Carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 4. 2 million tons per annum. This amount is also equivalent to taking 850,000 cars from the city’s highways. With getting carbon dioxide emissions from 850,000 cars will bring cascading positive effect to the environment. Buildings degraded by pollution will have better chances to recover and building maintenance will be cheaper.
Green zones in cities would have better chances to survive. Communities living in urban areas would have better quality of air to breath in that directly translates to better health and wellness. “Solar energy uses fewer natural resources than conventional energy sources. Using energy from sunlight can replace the use of stored energy in natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal.
Energy industry researchers estimate that the amount of land required for photovoltaic (PV) cells to produce enough electricity to meet all U. S. power needs is less than 60,000 square kilometers, or roughly 20 percent of the area of Arizona.? ” (Montanagreenpower. com, 2007) Another advantage of solar energy is it renewable characteristic. Although the Earth’s resources seems to be overflowing, modern man needs to make sure that next generations would have enough Earth resources to use and live on. Renewable energy sources are crucial because they will be able to help man save non-renewable resources. Oil, for example takes million of years to create naturally.
If man pumps out oil faster than it could renew itself in the oilwells, then generations living well over ahead of the millennium man’s time will be living with lower quality of lives. Given the law of supply and demand and as populations increase and lifestyles turn more towards technological inventions, the cost of non-renewable sources of energy will certainly be higher. As reserves are slowly depleted, less people will be able to afford to buy petroleum and much less petroleum run products. To save from buying fuel for their basic needs, communities will start looking for alternative sources such as solar power. Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity.
These cells are usually made out of silicon which is commonly found in sand. When sunlight hits a solar cell it frees electrons from silicon atoms, and these electrons flow away. Since electricity is really the flow of electrons from one location to another, each solar cell produces a small amount of electricity. Solar energy is now used in a variety of ways. Calculators and watches often run on solar cells, and bigger solar cells have been used to provide power for solar cars. ” (Lansing State Journal, 1997)
A disadvantage of the solar power concept is its initial cost. Since there are less consumers demanding this kind of technology, economically, the costs are still high. Communities are still pondering and trying out the technology that can be slow. There is also the limitation that modern technology has yet to overcome in engineering the solar cells. Big machines that need big amount of electricity cannot be served by solar power yet. Though solar cells development has never ceased, manufacture of these cells are still expensive.
Other disadvantages include the need for solar panels to take up a large space to harvest the sun’s radiation more and get a better level of efficiency. Solar panels’ efficiency is based mainly on how they are located towards the sun. Clouds and pollution is a prime issue. There are cities that are densely populated and have high rate of polluted air that this polluted air literally blocks the sun out. Smog in heavy doses can practically do this. Typically, solar energy technology will be of no use to areas that have less daylight.
The sun’s energy cannot be harvested during the night and therefore would be relying heavily on energy storage. Compared to collecting sun energy in space, sun energy collected here on earth is of sub standards. If a satellite collector could be sent to space nearer the sun then it may be The main disadvantage of solar energy comes from the mindset of consumers. Because of the expensive investment of the technology, average consumers would rather tap into the instant convenience of the fossil fuel energy systems. Less people would think of investing, especially if payback is yet years to go.
Government would engage in the idea but needs to maintain a certain kind of lifestyle for their constituents. A country like China for example is way towards development and building. Their development cannot wait for solar power technology to become mature. As advantage and disadvantages of solar energy use try to outweigh each other, the problems of dwindling non-renewable energy resource and the issues of global warming continue to heaten up.
Man must learn from history’s lessons. “In the 1970s a situation of energy abundance and falling prices ? urned into one of shortages and escalating prices, greatly raising ? energy policy’s salience. This short-run crisis opened a political opportunity to take a longer term look at energy sources and government support for them, as the crisis strained public confidence in ? the existing system. In short, the energy crisis was an opportunity to ? revise the existing problem frame and institutionalize a new set of ? ideas to guide that frame. The crisis did give rise to new energy policy ? institutions, and those institutions to some extent centralized energy ? olicy making and gave a new institutional home to advocates of ? solar energy. ” (Laird, 2001)
The hazards of global warming are not enough to rally alternative fuel advocacy. Would another global energy crisis wake up leaders and consumers? The sun has been there even before the planet earth was inhabited by men. Cavemen evolved into intelligent homo sapiens through the sun’s help. The sun is answer to the growing needs of the human race. It’s just a matter of time and effort for this alternative source of energy to be tapped and be able to save the Earth from more of man’s destructive activities.
But with more information and advocacy on solar power energy, there is hope for solar communities to truly benefit from this natural and renewable resource such as this US Army’s solar community dream. “The US Army and Actus Lend Lease have plans to build the world’s largest solar-powered sustainable community on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The construction of 5,388 new homes, renovation/restoration of 2,506 residences and the creation of 10 community centers will cost US $2. 2 billion dollars and will produce seven megawatts of photovoltaic paneling, providing approximately 30% of the community’s electrical needs. ” (Dunn, 2006)