Close to 40% of global energy production is coal based while another 22% is gas based. Thus, about two-thirds of global energy production depends on fossil fuels. For over a century America depended entirely on fossil fuels for its energy needs. The situation has not apparently changed though there is a ray hope that solar power could soon change the global energy sector landscape.
Global leaders concerned
Global leaders concerned about the impending dangers of climate change met in Paris in mid-2015. Many nations have agreed to put in place necessary measures to contain the carbon footprint and turn to cleaner energy. For the first time, even Pope Francis from Vatican issued an encyclical calling upon some 1.2 billion Catholics from around the globe urging them to work towards a fundamental change to protect the earth and its people from the adverse effects of climate change. The pope’s unprecedented action brings into the limelight, the magnitude of the global threat from climate change.
Why solar panels promise great hope
In the first place, solar energy is perennial. Unlike fossil fuels, there is no threat of solar energy getting exhausted. For the well-being of future generations, if not our generation, there is an urgent need to promote more sustainable and renewable energies such as biomass, tidal, hydropower, the wind and of course solar. The main advantage of solar panels is that homes, as well as businesses, can set up the initial infrastructure with great ease and deploy the power generated without any significant impact on the environment, particularly because there is zero emission from producing solar energy. Cost-wise, according to Euro Solar the efficiency of solar panels improves significantly over time, and it will certainly be cost-efficient in the long run.
Sun is everywhere
The Sun is all pervading, although we may not be able to draw on solar energy during cloudy days and the night, and the feedstock is free, and there is little or no transmission loss because solar power can be produced close to where it is needed. There can be thousands of installations or a mega installation catering to a given community, business or city. In other words, solar energy is the safest and cleanest form of energy that human can benefit from it.
Best suited for difficult terrains
One of the biggest advantages with solar panels is that we can install them in virtually any terrain. Many of the constraints that work with other energy sources are almost absent with solar panels.
Thermal power presents multiple hazards
Today, thermal power is the primary source of energy across the worldwide scope. But, this source of energy also brings along various risks from the production of coal to the production, distribution and consumption of energy. Not all nations produce coal which means we need to transfer the coal from the pit heads to the places where to consume it. This movement can be domestic, international or even intercontinental. Unlike chemicals or other materials, coal is directly dumped into a ship and again unloaded at the destination port directly on to open storage points. The environmental impact from this open transportation system is significant and multidimensional. Transitioning from coal to greener energy cannot be achieved overnight. For many of the coal producing nations, it has a tremendous impact on the national economy and thermal power provides the biggest share of energy needs for these countries. Apart from financial and economic factors, these nations will also have a handful of issues to deal with in moving to green energy solutions. Coal mining and distribution is very labour intensive, and therefore nations will be concerned about the impact on its employment numbers. The global coal reserves can also last for several centuries to come. The World over, significant investments have been made in the coal sector, and that would also impact the speed of transitioning from thermal power to other forms of renewable energy.
Notwithstanding the prime spot enjoyed by the heat energy sector globally, solar panels are making giant strides in many developing and developed nations. In the US alone, the solar power industry is expected to grow by a staggering 116% in the year 2016. Thankfully, the cost of photovoltaic cells has been dropping significantly, and that comes as a shot in the arm for the solar power sector. The total solar power generation in India is also expected to cross the 7.5 GW mark during the year 2016. Many other nations have also joined the solar league, and the cumulative effect could soon show on the global energy map.
Across the globe, transmission losses account for about 8% of all power produced. However, in some nations, this loss climbs to high double digit numbers. When translated into monetary terms these are substantial losses to the respective countries. With solar energy, the transmission loss can be contained closer to the zero level because of its ability to produce power closer to where it is needed.
Because of the power thefts, the world loses an astonish $90 billion, and India leads the pack with $16 billion lost. Brazil with $10.5 billion and Russia with $5 billion are behind India. Solar panels, on the other hand, can contain, if not eliminate these power thefts, and thus enhance the operational efficiency of solar energy production.
Clean energy is the need of the hour
Thanks to the Internet, there is greater awareness among nations and individuals on the need to choose cleaner energy to protect our environment. For solar panels, there is bright future lying ahead, and the growth trajectory appears to be stronger than ever. Although the cost of initial installation acts as a deterrent for many, the payback period for these installations is relatively low. However, the fact is that there are no significant recurring expenses to produce solar energy, and there is a strong case for individuals and businesses to adopt solar power for their needs. Challenges before the sector can also include storage and distribution, particularly in inaccessible regions where the sunshine is less and therefore power output may not meet the desired targets.