Solar Energy

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Introduction

There are a lot of different ways to create energy, but because of the limited capabilities, it is important to use sustainable energy. Our earth gets more and more abuse, because of the globalisation, flying by plane, using cars etc., on the other hand the globalisation can help us to get new systems for using new ways for getting energy and to get all the materials for it. But the global warming and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere brings extreme weather events and rising sea levels (Curtis, Fred: Climate, Peak Oil, and Globalization: Contradictions of Natural Capital), just to name some of the consequences.

The other problem are the limited capabilities. Oil is getting low and also it is getting more expensive. The oil price already rose from $20 per barrel in 2001 to $70 per barrel in 2006 (Curtis, Fred: Climate, Peak Oil, and Globalization: Contradictions of Natural Capital). In the future oil will become a product of luxury. In the future we will either run out of oil or it it will be too expensive for everybody, so that only rich people can use it. Also because of the ecologically harmful power stations electricity will be getting more expensive, and eventually run out (http://www.handelsblatt.com/ (14.11.2009)). So either we will run out of the capabilities, we will have to pay high prices for it or we will harm our world even more.

Especially because of the globalisation, the transportation and the high standard of living we will use more and more electricity capabilities. That is why it is important to think about other ways to produce energy. One form of sustainable energy is the sun. Solar energy is one of the sustainable methods. There are also more techniques like wind power or using water for getting energy. The following paragraph will be written about solar energy; what it is, how it works and what the advantages and disadvantages are. In the beginning I briefly will describe in short form the technical way of this system, afterwards there will be a short term, then briefly talk about some other forms of sustainable energy systems. Following I will move on to the advantages and the disadvantages of using solar energy. And at the end there will be written a conclusion this way of using sustainable energy.

In the 18th century the solar cell was invented by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, a successful naturalist, who came up with the solar cell, similar to the one which is used today. In the 19th century Augustin Mouchot was the first person who used the convex mirror. This was the first step to refining this technique. It was also the first time that the energy of the sun was used for electricity (http://www.ht-handelsagentur.de (14.11.2009)).

Solar energy means the energy which is produced by atomic fusion. We now know that the energy of the sun does not decrease, it stays constant (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). Parts of the energy get reflected and other components of the energy get absorbed and are changed into heat energy. And the remainder gets through down to the earth. How much of the sun energy reaches the earth depends on the humidity, the cloudiness and the length of the way the sunbeams needs to put back. The energy of the sun is five thousand times more then the energy mankind needs (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). This already is one good reason to use the energy of the sun.

Instead of using energy from the sun, the alternative exists to use wind power or energy from water – using the tides, wave energy or the energy of rivers. However, these requirements are not yet being met throughout the world. Energy from the sun is sufficient all over the world and even in the very north of Europe or in the south of America, the sun could deliver enough energy to meet human energy demands if we were to effectively use it.

Depending on the season and the sunset times, in Europe there are between 200 and 1000 W/m² of energy available from the sun. One way to save the energy is through the use of a collector: the energy from the sun’s rays are gathered in a collector and then travel to a heat transfer system, and from there to the end-user, or alternatively stored for future use. A simple analogy of this process is the garden hose. In summertime the sun can heat up the water in the garden hose to a temperature of 60° C, even in the north of Europe. This demonstrates how the sun’s energy could be used for heating water - for swimming baths or showers at home. These technologies need effective heat insulation so that energy is not lost during the night or on cooler days (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007).

Another system is the solar cell - an electrical component which converts the sun’s rays into electrical energy. An example of this technology is a solar-powered calculator, as commonly used throughout the world.

There are further technical details regarding how these technologies work, however for the time being I would like to focus on my main topic: the benefits of using solar energy.

Globalisation = more energy

As previously stated, the world population has increasing energy demands, and more resources are needed to provide this energy. At the current rate of population growth, by 2050 there will be an estimated 9 billion people on earth (Geitmann, Sven: Erneuerbare Energien und alternative Kraftstoffe, Kremmen 2004), all needing energy. The amount of energy required per person is also increasing, as people seek greater independence, freedom and mobility – all factors which result in globalisation. For example the world’s fleet of cars actually grows faster than the human population does, and industrialisation continues to march on. However it is worth noting that energy consumption in industrial countries is disproportionate to that of developing nations. The industrial countries consume more than half of the world’s energy resources, despite constituting just one-seventh of the world population. For example, the USA accounts for 5% of the world population however they consume 26% the crude oil produced worldwide (Geitmann, Sven: Erneuerbare Energien und alternative Kraftstoffe, Kremmen 2004). And because of the progression of industrialisation in the less developed countries, combined with the fact that energy expenditure in the industrial nations is not regressing, new ways of creating energy must be developed.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Disadvantages

Individual countries have the potential capacity to use sustainable energy, the disadvantage however is that sustainable energies are still more expensive than the conventional ways of generating energy – oil, gas, etc., despite recent increases in the price of electricity (in Germany). This is due to the high build costs of the technology, and despite the costs involved in, for example, decommissioning a coal power station and replacing it with a solar farm, the long term financial rewards and environmental benefits make it arguably a viable solution. The disposal of by-products is also cheaper and more eco-friendly than for example, radioactive waste (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). So the system for getting solar energy is not perfectly mature yet and it is still very expensive. Because of this, the costs of production are still very high. In Germany people how buy electricity from wind stations pay 6-8 cent per kilowatts. From solar energy it is about 20 cent per kilowatts ((www.solarenergysystems.eu (16.01.2010)).

Another point is the fabrication of the system for solar energy. Also this creates CO²-emission. For building this system, water, chemicals and of course energy is required. One solar system needs to create energy for 2 - 4 years to bring back the used resources ((www.solarenergysystems.eu (16.01.2010)).

And not only the system for producing solar energy, also the system for storing the energy is not perfectly mature. Especially in winter-times and at night electricity and energy is required. This is the time with the least sunbeams come down to earth ((www.solarenergysystems.eu (16.01.2010)). So the energy of the sun needs to get stored very well so people have enough energy even in long winters. Again another point where the technique need to get advanced.

Advantages

An advantage of using sustainable energy is the independence it offers countries in terms of energy importations. If Germany produced enough sustainable energy for heating they would negate the need to import oil from Russia or Norway (http://www.agenda21-treffpunkt.de/archiv/09/daten/g2641.htm). This would avoid conflicts of feed stock and would enable them to save their own supplies. Essentially, widespread sustainable energy could reduce conflicts of resources and effectively make a contribution towards peace on earth.

Also, with sophisticated technologies, sustainable energy could even aid the advancement of poorer countries. With working and reliable electricity, these parts of the planet could enjoy an improved economy, would have better ways of communication and could establish better school systems. So sustainable energy can also become an important part of poverty reduction. It is also important to mention that feed stock is unequally distributed but not in the same way that fossil fuels are (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007).

Typically, sustainable energy is based on local energy sources, meaning that it plays a part in contributing to the regional value. This could not only create more jobs, but also allow for more future economic planning. So as well as being positive regionally, good energy technologies could also be positive for the export market (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007).

In conclusion, sustainable energy brings many benefits, however there are still several obstacles to overcome before this type of energy is established. It will probably still take some time and a lot of money until we will get the perfect technology for creating energy by solar.

Progress today and tomorrow

The following text will move on with the development of sustainable energy today and tomorrow.

Technologies for using sustainable energies are getting encouraged and the politicians and a lot of people invest in this kind of technology. In 2006 about 5.8 billion Euros were invested, already 23 % more than in 2005 (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). Also some countries pass renewable energy laws. In Spain all new buildings are committed to build solar collectors for creating their own warm water. Especially because of the higher oil prices, the politicians try to support people in using sustainable energy (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). It is hard for poor countries to support their land with money. They just don‘t have the possibility to subsidise their population.

Germany, the USA and China are the three countries with the most systems for sustainable energy. China already is the country with the most solar systems for warm water. In comparison with Germany where most of the sustainable energies come from windmill-powered plants (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). How the progress will go on in the future is a question of the world climate policy and of the price of other fossil fuels; oil etc (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). But even oil companies like „Shell“ estimate a considerable increase of using sustainable energy in the second half of this century (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). The „International Energy Agency“ (IEA) mentioned two years ago that already in 2010 there will be barley enough oil for the whole world.

The IEA is a company for research, development, market launch and application from energy technologies. Because of the oil crisis 1974, sixteen countries align with each other to override the crisis (http://www.iea.org/ (30.12.2009)).

The „International Energy Agency“ thinks if there will be a cost cutting for the technology of sustainable energy more people would build it and use it. In their opinion it is also important to really have the will to decrease the CO2-emission (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). In 2007 in Germany the emissions were 861 Million tone, at least 56 Million tone less than 2001 (http://www.iwr.de/ {30.12.2009}). One point of the decreasing CO2--emission is probably because in Germany already big and influential energy companies have invested in the sustainable energy systems. „E.ON“ wants to build offshore wind-mill plants for 500 MW until 2011 (Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007). „EnBW“ will create the first energy system from waves. The commissioning date will be 2010 / 2011. By then they plan to get electricity for at least 120 households (http://www.enbw.com/ (30.12.2009)). A small number but at least a beginning into the right direction.

Conclusion

So companies, the politicians and most of the people know the problem and know how important it is to use sustainable energy. The need of supporting and developing sustainable energy systems is known world-wide. But there are still big and important countries like India where most of the people live in unsustainable areas. So it is the job of all the other countries to clarify the importance of sustainable living. It is also important that he politics really assure their population of living sustainable and using renewable energy. They shouldn't support the big oil companies; the countries should invest in alternative energy systems and should also make it lucrative for the population. They could for example support building companies who work with sustainable materials. Even if there are so many opportunities to encourage our world, there is still a lot of work to do, for every one of us.

References

  • Curtis, Fred: Climate, Peak Oil, and Globalization: Contradictions of Natural Capital.
  • Geitmann, Sven: Erneuerbare Energien und alternative Kraftstoffe, Kremmen 2004.
  • Hennicke, Peter: Erneuerbare Energien, München 2007.
  • Morrison, Craig;: Zukunftsenergien, Hannover 2005.

Links

Creative Commons Author: Lina Samoske. This article was published under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. How to cite the article: Lina Samoske. (25. 09. 2021). Solar Energy. VCSEWiki. Retrieved 03:27 25. 09. 2021) from: <https://vcsewiki.czp.cuni.cz/w/index.php?title=Solar_Energy&oldid=5492>.