Did you know that the Solar Energy potential of the earth is about 50, 000 Exajoules annually – which is currently hundred times more than the total world energy consumption! Yes, with the help of science and technology, we can harness the exceptional energy of the powerful sun, to make an efficient, inexhaustible, independent, versatile and sustainable source of renewables, which also has various associated long-term benefits as well.
Solar Energy- The Popular Harnessing Techniques
Regions with plenty of sunshine can harness the Solar Energy with the help of popular active techniques like Solar Photo Voltaic Cells (or Solar Panels) and Solar Water (Thermal) Heating. The Solar Photo Voltaic Cells (SPV Cells) are made of semiconductors like mono or polycrystalline silicon. When the rays of the sun hit the surface of these SPV Cells with the help of mirrors and lenses, the loose electrons from the cells are put to work and their flow through the cell, generates electricity. On a commercial scale, Solar Thermal Power Plants are installed wherein the sun’s energy is first concentrated to bring water to boil. Next, the steam generated is further used to drive a turbine to generate electricity, much like hydroelectricity generation.
How it is both healthy and environmentally friendly?
Let’s make hay while the sun shines! Quite literally, the sun’s energy is indefinitely renewable and is estimated to be one of the world’s cheapest source of energy. More importantly, it is unquestionably one of the ‘cleanest’ sources of energy.
- Unlike coal or thermal electricity, solar power generation does not emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases which can cause global warming.
- It uses little or no water in its production. It only uses a minimal amount of steam, which remains unpolluted and reusable.
- It also does not produces noxious chemicals and gases in the environment like nitrogen oxides, mercury, lead and other toxic materials which can affect human beings, soil and wildlife.
- Solar Energy doesn’t cause noise pollution.
- They count on less associated safety risks and have a lower environmental footprint.
Availability, Growth and Scope in Australia
Currently, Australia produces only about 2.5% of electricity via solar energy (standing at 8th Rank on a global scale). Australia receives about 4kWh/m2 at an average of solar radiation per day (exceeding that of Russia, Europe and half of North America), during the winter months. Hence, with the accurate calculations applied, Solar Energy in the upcoming years can replace ~50% of the current total household energy requirements of the country.
Some of the things that need to be considered before installing Solar Power Stations:
- Installations and Time Lag charges can be high- thus; initial costs (unless the subsidy is provided) may be equivalent to conventional sources.
- It can be installed in only those areas that receive ample amount of sunlight.
- During the night, the solar energy is stored in batteries. Unless safe disposal practices (end-of-cycle recycling) are applied, such batteries and none silicon solar cells can be a load to the landfills.
- Efficiency is 14-25% lower than other sources of energy.
- The power output of solar power stations is relatively much lower than the conventional modes when compare the area required.
With the Australian’s Government Solar Credit Program (alongside the Renewable Energy Target 2020), one can acquire rebates of more than A$ 50, 000 at an average. The Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) is designed to provide at least 45, 000 GW- hours (20% of total electricity generated) of clean energy to Australia till 2020. The Council of Sydney has also planned to provide 100% renewable energy by 2030. Euro Solar Group is working in Australia to create awareness for solar energy. This is due to concerns about damaged ozone layer in Australia. You can learn more about their products and causes by visiting here.
The development and installation of mega solar energy power plants require three crucial things – abundant insolation, large flat land area and tailored transmission lines. The construction of a small 1MW solar energy power plant would require an area of about 25, 000 m2. The area should also be flat and not obstructed by mountains or other large structures that can block the sunlight. Transmission of electricity from solar power plants requires high voltage transmission lines, and the receiver shouldn’t be too far from the source.
Moreover, and quite usually, solar energy cells produce excessive electricity than that is required. Selling of this extra energy from the grid can help you earn big revenues. Also, reliable solar installations are virtually maintenance free for at least 20-25 years. Due to innovation in technology, government support, environment friendliness and popular demand, the cost of solar panel installations is taking a steep descent and will continue to drop further. Thus, with relatively straightforward and hassle-free technology and enough initial patience, harnessing solar energy is undoubtedly fruitful, economical and has the capacity to meet fifteen times the current global world energy requirements.