Essay on Why Is Solar Energy a Viable Alternative Energy Resource

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Introduction

The usage of non-renewable energy has affected the world greatly over the past 20 years and the prospect of solar energy has risen to great heights hence the question of 'Can it replace non-renewable energy sources' is posed. 'Global temperature has risen six-tenths of a degree in those 20 years. Population has increased by 1.7 billion people. Sea levels have risen 3 inches and extreme weather in the U.S. has increased by 30 percent. In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost 4.9 trillion tons of ice.' (Associated Press, 2014). This proves how the human population needs to find a new source of clean energy before it's too late and the extreme weather (due to global warming) makes the Earth's conditions too extreme for the human population to live. The U.N. agrees with this point in their 17 sustainable development goals with Goal No.7 being 'Affordable and Clean Energy'.

The solar panel and its usage in China:

A solar panel is a device that absorbs the sun's rays and converts them into energy. It can be described as an array of photovoltaic cells which absorb sunlight. I have found that solar energy is most widely used in China and 'Researchers from Harvard, Tsinghua University in Beijing, Nankai University in Tianjin, and Renmin University of China in Beijing have found that solar energy could provide 43.2% of China's electricity demands in 2060 at less than two-and-a-half U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour.' (Burrows, 2021)

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However the question of 'what does this mean for the current situation?' is posed. In my opinion, this potential for solar energy could result in the elimination of non-renewable energy sources- as China is one of the world's largest users of non-renewable energy users (particularly using fossil fuels) and 'according to the energy company BP, in 2018 China accounted for 24% of global energy consumption' and 'by 2040, China will still be at the top of the list, and will account for 22% of global consumption.' Furthermore, if China will account for a large part of the world's energy consumption (as their main source of income is from the industrial sector), it needs to be from renewable energy because otherwise the world will still be emitting a large amount of greenhouse gases and global warming will still occur.

Solar Energy in Buildings:

Buildings are a large source of emissions at the moment and generate nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions [and] of these total emissions, building operations are responsible for 28%'. It is clear that we (the human population) need to make buildings greener and the only way to do this is by introducing renewable energy sources to supply building operations (lights, heating, etc.). In many countries, solar energy is a viable option as it allows for energy to be produced with 0% carbon emissions and therefore if we do this on a large scale it would bring down our carbon footprint on a massive scale. However, there are limitations to solar energy which would make solar panels in buildings redundant.

Solar Energy Limitations

Available Sunlight- When you think of solar energy there is one thing that comes to mind - sun. Because photovoltaic cells absorb sunlight, solar energy is only efficient in sunny countries and in countries without sun, it will not generate enough energy. However, many other renewable energy sources would suit these countries e.g. wind energy, tidal energy, or even Hydro-Electric Power(HEP).

Cost- In addition, there is a reasonably high cost of nearly £4800 per 4kW system. This means that not everybody will be able to afford solar energy.

African Solar Farms:

Africa is a continent with long daylight hours and therefore it is an ideal place to put Solar Panels. 'South Africa is already one of the world's top 10 producers of solar power and Rwanda is home to East Africa's first solar plant, which opened in 2014. Large plants are being planned for Ghana and Uganda.' (Ceurstemont, 2016). Therefore, with a large abundance of solar plants in this continent we can expect this to be able to power a large part of the world as Africa only accounts for 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions in contrast to 23% in China [and] 19% in the US. (Czechowski, 2020). This shows that Africa may be able to generate more renewable energy than they emit giving them a negative carbon footprint. This could also mean that they could account for part of China's energy consumption giving them less renewable energy to produce.

Solar Panels in cars:

Cars produce many air pollutants e.g. carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide when petrol and diesel are burnt however there is one main fossil fuel produced which is the waste product of CO2. The USA is the second largest emissions producer worldwide and 'about 26% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2020 was for transporting people and goods from one place to another.' (EIA, 2021). Therefore, to reduce our carbon footprint we need to find a way of reducing transport emissions. Cars are used by a large part of the population and if we make cars green I believe that our carbon footprint will reduce greatly. A popular idea is electric cars which need to be charged. But what if cars could charge themselves? Sonomotor's recent development 'Sion' does this through the use of solar power. It (nanomotors, n.d.) '248 solar cells seamlessly integrated into the body of the car can add 112 km, on average (up to 245 km) per week, of driving range to the car's battery, through the power of the sun. This creates full self-sufficiency on short distances.' By integrating solar energy with electric cars we can create a 0% emissions car which would allow for the human population to drive without worry of causing global warming. In addition, you could just leave your car in the sun for some time if no charging ports are available. However, this is not fully efficient at this time and they don't generate enough electricity for a car to function solely of solar energy. However, Audi has announced that they are looking into integrating solar panels into their cars so that they efficiently generate electricity.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I think that we can replace all non-renewable energy sources with solar power but not on its own. Solar power can be used in many different ways to generate electricity for example, in cars and buildings. However, it is not as developed as other renewable energy sources, and therefore for it to be an efficient energy source better technology needs to be developed. Furthermore, solar energy has one large limitation which is the fact that it needs abundant sunlight to produce a decent amount of energy and this is only available in some countries. Finally, I believe that in the next 20 years, solar energy will become efficient enough to be able to generate a significant amount of energy to power multiple countries. By installing solar farms in sunlight-rich areas e.g. Antarctica and South Africa we will have generated enough energy to power countries like China and the US which are leading emission producers. In addition, the introduction of solar energy is not as disruptive as other renewable energy sources e.g. wind energy which requires turbines, and HEP which requires dams, and therefore it will be easier to integrate into our daily lives.

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