Photovoltaics: The Benefits Of Solar Energy Essay, Research Paper
Photovoltaics: The Benefits of Solar Energy There are many different energy sources that have been proposed, but most alternative energy sources are unpopular because they are not very cost efficient. Many businesses don t feel compelled to change to alternative energy because the initial costs would be greater than the long-term savings as a result of the change to alternative energy. Solar power research is working to solve the problem of cost inefficiency, though, and soon solar power could be made affordable to all citizens as well as businesses. Today, although still not widely accepted, solar energy provides a large portion of energy for the government and modernized businesses. The Federal Energy Management Program, for example, reports in Photovoltaics (an undated, unsigned article) that the National Park Service currently has 455 solar energy systems powering equipment for monitoring and sampling. The article also lists several other possibilities for photovoltaics. Among these are water-supply disinfection, remote monitoring equipment, communications equipment, security systems, emergency power during crises, and many more. (http://www.eren.doe.gov/femp/techassist/photovoltaics.html)Photovoltaics (more commonly known as Solar Energy) is a very promising form of renewable energy. By converting sunlight into electricity researchers have discovered an unlimited source of electrical energy. In 1954 Bell Laboratories developed the first usable photovoltaic cells, and due to the increased interest in space photovoltaic cells were becoming more widely used to power satellites. Photovoltaics was brought to the forefront of the alternative energy discussion in the 1970 s when oil supplies to the United States were reduced. Today researchers are developing solar cells that have better performance, cost less, and that are more reliable. By making them more affordable homeowners as well as industry people will be more inclined to change to solar energy. This will improve the environment by reducing pollution from power plants that are relied upon to produce the energy for both the private sector and industry.Cecil R. Phillips clearly explains some of the barriers to the integration of solar energy systems (which are still relevant today) in a public hearing transcript from March 29, 30, and 31, 1970 on the Federal Non-nuclear Energy Research and Development Program, published by the Environmental Protection Agency. He testifies that public attitudes play a large part in the reluctance to changing energy sources, and the NAACP is largely responsible, due to a statement issued to the public, which is against alternative energy sources. He also says that the government must convince the public that the United States can make the change to alternative energy (namely, solar energy) without causing massive job loss. Phillips goes further in his discussion of obstacles to the implementation of solar energy programs. He attributes photovoltaics lack of popularity to the common citizen s lack of knowledge. Here Phillips also challenges the government to inform the people of the benefits and possibilities of photovoltaics.Ellen Winchester, a representative of the Sierra Club testifies in the same hearing that President Jimmy Carter recognized the potential of solar power. Winchester states that President Carter believed, and vocalized his belief, that solar power was the best choice for an alternative to conventional power sources (i.e. coal, oil, nuclear, etc.). Winchester also says that the Sierra Club shares the President s belief that solar power is the power source of the future, and they are committed to making solar power the common energy source for the United States and the rest of the world.The advantages of making the switch to solar power are clear to environmentally minded people, but may not be so obvious to more commercially minded individuals. First and foremost, there is the obvious decrease in pollution of the environment. By eliminating the burning of coal and oil and the nuclear waste the air, water and earth will be cleaner. According to an unsigned, undated article on the United States Department of Energy s web site dedicated to photovoltaics the ozone layer would also be safer. Diesel and kerosene (used in light and power generators), when burned, emit greenhouse gasses which cause ozone layer depletion (http://www.eren.doe.gov/pv/whyuse.html). Use of solar energy allows for the elimination of this pollution.
Solar energy systems can be installed in remote areas decreasing the dependence on power plants and power lines. They can be installed inside the roof of a house to be unobtrusive, and they can provide enough electricity to power the house on which the system is installed. Not only do these solar energy systems provide electricity, but they can also provide heat and a water heater. By running water over the back of the solar panels which are being heated by the sunlight they are collecting. The increase of solar power system production will also lead to an influx of jobs because the construction of these systems requires labor, and contractors. For those commercially minded people there is an incentive as well. The solar energy systems require little maintenance and the cost is low. When power line costs, transformer costs, and fewer required permits are taken into account the cost is much lower than installing a conventional power system. Since photovoltaic systems are usually place close to the object they are designated to power, only very short power lines are required. On all power lines there is a step-down transformer that converts the power from high voltage to useable levels, but with the photovoltaic systems there is no transformer necessary because the power output from the panels is of a useable level. Permits also cost the power user money, and with the solar energy systems there are far fewer permits that are required. The environment and financial benefits of the photovoltaic systems have been demonstrated in several different ways, yet people are still reluctant to change.If the information were better advertised and more readily available to the public there would be an increase in the number of solar energy systems that were constructed. Until doing the research for this paper I was virtually unaware of the many different applications of photovoltaic cells. The Lord House in Coastal, Maine, Georgetown University in Washington, DC, the Amtrak Station in Normal, Illinois, and the Sunelco Office in Hamilton, Montana are just a few of the different types of building applications of solar power systems.The Lord House is located in Coastal, Maine. Their house measures 250m2 and its solar panels provide heat, hot water, and electricity. The south roof (seen in the photograph) is comprised of solar thermal collectors and large-area photovoltaic modules to form a glass plane. The Lords house actually produces an excess amount of electricity, which is routed to the utility grid. This allows them electricity credit from the Power Company, which they use during the night and low-light periods.Georgetown University is located in Washington, DC. With the help of United States Department of Energy funding the university was able to build its Intercultural Center. It has a 337-kWp photovoltaic array in its south roof (seen in photograph) which provides up to 50 percent of the building s electricity.The Normal, Illinois Amtrak station is another example of photovoltaic systems implemented in the United States. This station has a 2.4-kW photovoltaic array on its roof, which provides electricity for two vending machines, lighting for the ticket booth area and lobby, and emergency lighting. The station also maximizes the natural light, which reduces the need for more electrical lighting.The office of the Sun Electric Company (Sunelco, Inc.) operates out of Hamilton, Montana. A 2.4-kWp photovoltaic system is operational year-round, backed up by a 24-volt battery bank, as well as the utility grid only for low battery voltage. The system powers small fluorescent lights and all computers for the staff of 10 (all unsigned articles and pictures taken from: http://www.nrel.gov/ncpv/documents/seb/).By informing the American public we will be able to convince them that solar power is indeed the power source of the future. If we do not make the information more readily available, however, the public will continue to resist the change to more efficient, more environmentally safe alternative power. Many photovoltaic systems are now in place throughout the United States, and many people are benefiting from the technological wonder of photovoltaics, but we must see to it that more people are convinced that making the switch is an environmentally sound decision, as well as an economically sound decision.