Sunday, April 08, 2007

5 Reasons Solar Power Works

When most people think about solar power powering everybody’s everyday needs (say that 10 times fast), they are imagining centuries in to the future. Many people believe solar power is unreasonable; it could be cloudy, it doesn’t produce enough energy, etc. But they’re wrong. Here are five reasons why:

1. It never runs out
Solar power is essentially infinite, so it never runs out, unlike fossil fuels. The amount of solar energy intercepted by the Earth every minute is greater than the amount of energy the world uses in fossil fuels each year.

2. It’s pollution free during use
Converting solar energy into usable energy gives off no pollution.

3. It can (but doesn’t have to) be used locally
Not only can solar power can be produced and used locally, saving transportation costs and emissions, but also it can be used nationally if an area with little power needs more power (see #4).

4. It can be stored and used later
When the sun’s not out, stored energy can be used. Storing energy is more expensive, but still just as useful.

5. When combined with other technologies, solar power could be even more useful.

From Time:
In the developing world, LEDs paired with solar panels could provide a cheap, sustainable light source that doesn't need a traditional power grid.

From CNN:Solar-powered sensors monitor traffic flow

Combined with other technology, solar power could be used for small but important jobs. Solar powered cars (see picture) are even a possibility, even if their use would be limited.

In reality, solar power may not provide enough energy for ALL of our energy needs. But it could provide be a large percentage energy source. Coupled with nuclear power, wind power and water power, we could stop global warming. And as an added bonus, the U.S. with lose its dependency on foreign oil.

More Alternative Energy Series:
Nuclear Power: Energy of the Future or As Bad As Fossil Fuels
The Temporary Solution: Coal

Coming soon...Wind Power

More Alternative Energy Series:

Top 5 Reasons Geothermal Energy Works
What's So Special About Hydropower / Hydroelectricity?
Another Look at Nuclear Power: Nuclear Waste
The Wind Power and Solar Power Combination

5 Reasons Solar Power Works
Nuclear Power: Energy of the Future or As Bad As Fossil Fuels
The Temporary Solution: Coal
How Corn Ethanol is Bad


Vinay said... has a list of 250 or so benefits do doing power systems like solar. I helped edit it and, although it's heavy going and technical, it's about the most important book ever written on power economics.

A few other choice benefits:

6> You buy as much capacity as you need, and the upgrade can be matched exactly to your needs.

That means you don't have to build power stations in $200 million dollar lumps, with all the risk and borrowing that implies.

7> You can accurately forecast how much your power will cost in future: it will be no more than the price you're paying for your panels.

Which is really important because if your power comes from natural gas or oil, your power bills can go up 500% in a decade, as oil did from 1993 to 2003. So for some applications, having a maximum power price makes sense: you want security about your power bills. Makes more sense in the context of large power utilities than individuals. See Shimon Awerbuch's work on the subject.

8> The power produced by a combination of Solar and Wind almost exactly matches the power demand of many cities.

What this means is that at the peak of our demand for electricity - middle of a baking hot afternoon in mid summer, say - solar is at it's peak productivity. And, when the sun isn't shining, it's usually windy (solar and wind are kinda-sorta "countercyclical" to each other.)

So a carefully designed solar power installation can spend not a single dollar more for overcapacity, meaning there's minimized price uncertainty and cost of borrowing: low risk, high reliability and you buy what you need and no more.

Oddly enough, that's just about like grid power, only without the price volatility and carbon emission of the mains. And you don't need to pay to maintain a national grid in all cases...

There's a lot to this. Small is Profitable is really an amazing work and I wish it was more widely known. I'm proud to have had a small role in making it the book it is today.

Simmons said...

Those are other benefits too.

Solar Power said...

I believe that usage of solar power has great future. It seems unbelivable, but some time ago people also didn't believe they could fly and now they can! So one day, nobody will surprise of using solar power.

Simmons said...


We can always hope

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Felixdomain said...

I totally agree with your points of view. The sun is a gigantic power plant which produces billions of kw/h every second, and it has all the energy we would ever need.

So the problem is the cost, and efficiency of the tools we use today to capture its energy. But I think with the rapid evolution in technology we will see some extraordinary developments in the solar power field in the nearest future. Maybe in just a couple of years. And we most certainly need it.

I am against the oil companies power and abuse of the environment of the earth. Excuse my bad english. - Ray J., Norway Mobilhuset

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