The solar power industry has resulted in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs in the last decade alone. Yale University's publication E360 stated that, “Renewable energy jobs grew by 14 percent to 6.5 million employees worldwide last year, led by the solar panel industry” (YaleE360Digest). According to the news in YaleE360, China is the leader employing 2.6 million people followed by Brazil and the U.S. Using solar power creates new job opportunities for people and this positively affects the economy.
According to National Solar Jobs Census’ declaration, “The Solar Foundation's highly anticipated National Solar Jobs Census 2013 found that the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans as of November 2013. This figure includes the addition of 23,682 solar workers over the previous year, representing 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012” (The Solar Foundation states the increase in job creation due to solar power.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, energy consumption will grow by 56 percent between 2010 and 2040. Fossil fuels still supply 80 percent of energy world needs while solar and nuclear energy usage is growing 2.5 percent per year. There is a great need for the world to find an alternate to fossil fuel because it is limited in supply. Using solar energy will help the world to be independent. There will not be worries and horrible wars over energy resources. Most wars are caused by the need to control resources.
Another benefit of solar energy is that during traditional power outages, you will still have power. Depending on where you live, natural disasters might happen (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, blizzards, or earthquakes). These kinds of events might damage power lines. Until these units get repaired, you will experience a power outage. But if you use your own energy, you will not be affected.
Using solar energy reduces dependency on foreign sources for energy. Importing oil was a major cause of the U.S. $535 billion trade deficit in 2012. The report: U.S. Oil Dependence on the Federal Debt written by economy professors for Keybridge Public Policy Economics, points out three important aspects about importing oil from other countries.
Tthe economic growth because the increasing prices will cause leakage out of the country’s income.
It causes increasing trade deficit each passing year because of the increasing consumption and prices.
Petroleum harms the environment through the excavation, transportation and consumption of this energy source.
Potential of Solar Energy
Research shows that the energy in sun light is so powerful that in forty minutes, one year of global energy can be obtained. The web page EngineerandTechinician.com remarks that “The U.S. is lucky in the sense that we have at least 250,000 miles. of land in the Southwest alone that is suitable for building solar power plants. That land receives more than 4500 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) of solar radiation every year” (Engineer and Technician). This potential is great and should be utilized.
Researchers continue to develop ways in which to store the solar energy without causing pollution. For example according to National Geographic, scientific research revealed that pigments in hornet's yellow tissues trap light, while its brown tissues generate electricity. They are continuing to research how hornets use the energy and how we can create a similar system.
Efficiency of Solar Cells
Photovoltaic technology was born in the U.S. when silicon photovoltaic cells were developed in 1954. These first PV cells had 4% efficiency. Technology Review writer Kevin Bullis has stated that “Improving the efficiency of affordable solar cells will be essential for making solar power competitive with fossil fuels” (Bullis). As studies have continued the efficiency of solar panels has improved, but they still have a long way to go to compete with coal and natural gas. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley said that they have developed solar cells that are up to 25% efficient. Increasing efficiency will allow all types of consumers to buy systems to heat water, provide electricity, and even offload home heating systems.
Pollution in Production
The pollution typically associated with the construction of a solar cell results from manufacturing impacts and the transportation of these items to their installation sites. The manufacturing process involves toxic by-products and panels are non-recyclable. Solar power requires big and heavy batteries to store the energy that is produced. Storing used batteries creates environmental problems because these batteries contain toxic materials.
Scientists continue to search for alternatives to batteries. One possibility is “Ceria”. It uses cerium oxide. The prototype that was created by Swiss and US scientists has a quartz window and a small cavity to focus sun light on a ceria-filled cylinder. Syngas (synthetic gas) can be produced by using hydrogen and carbon monoxide. It practically mimics the plant life. The innovative research continues to search for more environmentally friendly options. This would completely remove the impact of manufacturing solar cells because creating Ceria is much more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Newer and more exciting devices are being invented to harness renewable energy – especially solar energy. One such device is a prototype which uses one of the rare earth metals – ceria, otherwise known cerium oxide – utilizing its natural propensity of alternatively exhaling and inhaling oxygen as it heats up or cools down”(Alternative Energy).
Solar energy is clean and renewable, so it helps to protect the environment. The Desertec Foundation is a global civil organization, established by politicians, scientists and economists from Mediterranean countries. In the book, The Desertec, published in February 2009, Professor Dr. Klauss Töpfer , politician and environmental politics expert, wrote, “Concentration on the use of fossil fuels for energy supply is the main threat for the stability of the global climate system” (Töpfer). He is stressing the importance of solar energy usage and finding technologies to harness the solar power.
Traditional power sources (gas, oil, nuclear, coal and wood) cause a lot of severe health and environmental problems. They cause pollution, global warming, or acid rain because they release carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, or mercury into the atmosphere and they create radioactive waste.
A recent example is the rising cost of oil in Greece. Unable to afford the high oil prices, citizens have decimated local trees for wood to meet their heating and cooking needs at the same time causing major air pollution and destroying a finite resource.
Solar power will be the greatest resource available to mankind because of its endless potential of uses. After recovering the initial investment, sun light is free. As prices drop each year, businesses and home owners will start using solar energy more and more. Government supports the users of solar energy and funds the research because it is obvious that using solar energy has great benefits. Traditional power sources cause many environmental and health problems.
Using solar panels and the batteries may seem like an obstacle but on going researches will find more environmentally friendly options. Because it is limitless, our world will not need to worry about limited fossil fuel and higher prices.
Solar energy does not produce any greenhouse gases, air pollution or environmental disasters and it does not contribute to global warming. Solar energy will free us from energy outages, limit foreign imports and reduce wars over resources. Solar power is infinite and our greatest hope for a better world and the future of mankind.