Solar Power: The Future of Energy

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    Nov 15, 2012
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Solar power: Energy for all
The Sun is seemingly the eternal source of energy. Solar energy in the form of light and heat is being harnessed ever since life evolved on planet earth. Nature's biggest factory, the plant kingdom, uses solar energy along with other ingredients to produce food for sustaining most life forms. The ever increasing energy demand of the human civilization and the ill-effects of the use of current sources of energy (mostly fossil fuel) have forced the scientists and technologists to look towards the Sun as the most potent renewable energy source. There are many advantages with solar power. Solar power is the only source of energy which is distributed more or less uniformly on the Earth surface in contrast to fossil fuels, wind and tidal energy sources that can be harnessed  only in certain parts of the earth. However, those countries nearer to the equator can have an edge over others in terms of abundance of sunlight.

Why  solar power?
With the population of the world growing past seven billion, the current energy demands are the highest ever in the human history. The world currently depends mostly on non-renewable energy sources such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. Consumption of  fossil fuels has had its own fallouts on the environment and economy of many nations of the world. This has forced many countries to look seriously consider  alternative sources of energy and solar energy seems to be the only option for now, though other sources like wind energy and tidal energy are the others considered in certain areas. The fact is,  the energy emitted by the Sun is so abundant that if we captured all of it for just one hour, it would be enough to meet the energy demand of the entire earth for one year (estimated as per world energy consumption level in the year 2002)!  If it is approximated in quantity,  the total solar energy absorbed by  the Earth's atmosphere, oceans and land masses is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) per year. The only and the biggest limitation to harness the Sun is  economic feasibility of solar technologies. Currently,  methods - such as solar heating, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal electricity and solar architecture - employed to harness solar power are far inefficient compared to the potential of solar power. Still a significant amount of  refinement is  required in solar technologies, besides offering cost effective solutions. For most countries, solar technologies are still highly unaffordable. The International Energy Agency, strongly advocates investment in the development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies that will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global. Hence IEA believes that the additional costs of the incentives for early deployment should be considered learning investments; they must be wisely spent and need to be widely shared.

Solar power  to power  the world
Though initial development of solar power technologies was recorded as early as 1860s, the increasing availability, economy and utility of coal and petroleum led to stagnation of solar power technology development during later times. But the results of indiscriminate and extensive use fossil fuels have been disastrous. The latest of all threats is that of climate change. Energy production and utilization is the main source of greenhouse gases emissions and global warming. The solution lies in adopting clean, sustainable alternate energy systems like solar power. This calls for change in policy environment world over that will encourage investment in solar power sector to make it more affordable. There may be many hindrances as of now for solar power to become the  prime energy source. But it is not going to be far and long before solar power becomes the most affordable and clean source of energy for all, provided the global community decides to work towards it.

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