Solar power has long been considered one the of the best options available for sustainable energy. The sun is such a powerful source of energy, and it spreads so much of it over the surface of the Earth, that it is hard to ignore the potential of using this energy for the needs of the world. Solar power has long been more of hope than a reality. Solar panels of the past were expensive and did not produce energy efficiently enough to compete with the prices other energy sources. The question is if technology can produce cheap, efficient sources of solar power to compete with current energy sources.
Solar Power Today
Solar power accounts for only 0.5 percent of all electricity produced today. Despite this low overall total, solar power production technology has seen a huge amount of innovation over the last several decades. It has reached a point to where individual home owners are fitting panels on their homes or property to help them reduce their energy bills. In fact, 2012 may have been the year the economics of solar power shifted. More systems have started to be installed, lowering the costs of solar panels throughout the market.
Today’s solar power is made in two ways. It is produced directly through photovoltaic methods, or it is produced indirectly using concentrated solar power. Photovoltaic systems create energy by using sunlight to create electric current. These systems, using panels, are probably what most people think of when they think of solar power plants. Concentrating Solar Power systems use lenses or mirrors to create a beam of light that is used as a heat source in a traditional power plant.
The Future of Solar Power
The sun provides the Earth with a huge amount of energy. The future of solar power, then, rests not in the potential of solar power but in how technology is applied in making use of the available resources. It must become more efficient and become cheaper. Space is also a problem. Solar plants take up much more space than traditional power plants.
The future of solar energy lies largely in the construction of buildings. Many experts agree that most, if not all, future buildings will have panels installed on their roofs. Because they are becoming easier to install, it’s also possible that many existing buildings will have panels installed on them too. Perhaps the most encouraging sign is that many of the world’s top scientific and engineering minds have been hard at work trying to develop alternative energy solutions. As fossil fuels become more scarce, the economics of solar energy and other renewable energies become more feasible.
How to Help
The only way solar power will become a true alternative is for the market to adopt it. As more ordinary citizens buy solar technologies, the more the prices will come down. For people interested in helping spread the news of the promise of solar energy, social media offers a great opportunity. Everyone can get involved. Buying panels, donating to research, voting for measures that favor renewable sources or majoring in science or engineering are great ways to help.