Solar energy – or more importantly, human uses for solar energy as a alternative energy source, has been around for centuries, and in that sense is considered one of the more mature renewable energy sources. However, the game now is for solar energy to provide power in terms of electricity, since the modern world relies on electricity to power all its technology.
Here are some interesting facts about solar energy:
If you think about it, solar energy is available all over the face of the earth when it’s daytime. If we actually had the means to capture all that energy on a surface equal to the Earth’s when sunlight is hitting it, you’re looking at around 173,000TW (terawatts!) of energy. This prodigious energy level world power the Earth 10,000 times over, given today’s total energy use. That’s the reason why many futurists and science fiction writers use the idea of massive solar panels in orbit as future power plants for earth’s needs.
It’s the Granddaddy of renewable energy
To give you an idea of how far along the technology for solar panels and solar-electric energy conversion is, Bell Laboratories built the first silicon solar cell (it wasn’t even a whole panel yet) in 1954. At the time, many people hailed it as the next step in power generation. And although that hasn’t happened yet, the fact that we can use miniature solar panel devices to charge mobile gadgets is a sign that it’s not so much the cost (although it is still relatively expensive), it’s just that it’s difficult to shift to a new major power source.
It’s getting there
Even though solar power hasn’t taken off as our fiction writers and futurists foresaw, the United States is on the way to being the fourth largest solar power system user in the world (if it isn’t already), with about 3,300 megawatts being generated as of 2012.
It’s getting there, in price
The costs of the actual solar panels are already falling to the point where homeowners and businesses can use them as alternatives. However, the other costs make it difficult to switch over. These include permits, zoning, and the sheer fact of hooking up a solar power system to the local energy grid. And if you include inspection costs, you’re looking at costs that start around $2,500 and can be higher. There are government initiatives to make these costs go down, but it’s slow going for the moment.
We don’t need much to power the world
It’s been estimated that all that would be needed is to use four percent of the world’s deserts as solar power plants, and we’d be able to power the whole world. Given how deserts are spread across the globe, then it’s very much possible to have some power plant receiving sunlight at any given time. Given redundancies, you’d probably have to use about eight to twelve percent of the deserts.