Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The origin, potential and importance of solar energy

Solar energy is the result of Sun's radiation, a radiant energy in form of heat and light emitted by the Sun. Solar energy is extremely important for all life on this planet because without it our planet wouldn't be able to support life. Solar energy isn't the same term as solar power, these two terms are in fact different because term solar power refers to conversion of sunlight into electricity.

The potential of solar energy is almost limitless. The International Energy Agency announced in 2011 that solar energy technologies have the potential to provide a third of the world’s energy by 2060, given that the world leaders commit to limiting climate change. Of course, the total solar energy potential is much bigger and only a small fraction of totally available solar energy would be enough to satisfy global energy demand.

The main reason why solar energy still hasn't become the most important energy source on our planet is because solar power technologies still lack cost-parity with fossil fuels. The good news is that solar energy industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. However, even despite this rapid growth, solar energy industry will still require time to achieve technological maturity meaning that fossil fuels will likely remain top energy sources for foreseeable future.

Solar energy is the most abundant form of renewable energy available on our planet. Wind energy is also a form of solar energy, and only geothermal and tidal are renewable energy sources that do not derive their energy from the Sun. This means that harnessing solar energy has enormous future potential, not only in electricity generation and heating but also for many other industrial processes as well as for the development of solar powered vehicles.

Solar energy is almost limitless source of energy but this doesn't make it a perfect source of energy. This isn't only because solar sector still lacks cost parity with fossil fuels but also because of intermittency issue. The intermittency of solar energy means that solar energy isn't available all the time (at night) and requires efficient energy storage solution to ensure continuous reliability of delivery.

Using more solar energy instead of staying with fossil fuels would do wonders for our environment, it would slow the impact of climate change, reduce air pollution, and give many animals and plants species enough time to adapt to changes in climate, thus preventing future biodiversity loss.

Solar energy also has the ability to improve our future energy security by reducing the need for expensive foreign fuel import. It can also provide new jobs and offer interesting career options for many young people.

Solar energy is there, free to use, as nobody owns the sun. Improving economics of solar power technologies is the only thing that stands between us and clean energy future.