Solar Energy

Green Energy:

  • Solar Power is Inexhaustible
    • Solar energy is primarily collected in one of two ways: photovoltaic solar cells and solar thermal
    • A photovoltaic cell is basically a semi-conductor connected to two electrical contacts. Photons from the sun are absorbed into the semi-conductor (usually a silicon alloy) and knock loose a few electrons. The electrons then travel through the semi-conductor creating an electrical current.
    • Solar thermal is a system of giant mirrors that reflect and concentrate the sun's rays to heat a fluid, which produces steam to power a turbine that creates electricity.
    • Until the sun stops burning, which NASA estimates to be in another 6.5 billion years, we will have solar energy. This means that unlike other sources of electricity, like coal or natural gas, we will not run out of solar energy
  • “Free Energy”
    • The start up costs for a solar panel might be a bit high still, but with the ever-decreasing costs, return on capital investments takes much less time
    • With minimal maintenance costs, government grants, and stimulus money, a solar panels lifespan of 25 years with 80% or higher rated power is more than enough time to recoup any capital investments and much more
  • Environmentally friendly
    • Unlike most other sources of electricity, solar energy does not harm the environment
    • Solar power is a renewable source of energy that can be gathered practically anywhere in the world. Solar power plants don't produce any air, water, or noise pollution and doesn't emit any greenhouse gases
    • It is true that their manufacturing process create some toxic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, but these toxins are only produced during manufacturing
      • Once the panels are complete and installed, they produce no toxins
      • When compared to any other form of non-renewable energy we currently use, the greenhouse gases created by solar panels are minuscule

Canadian Perspective:

  • Energy provided
    • By the end of 2016 2520 MW of power was being produced by solar energy
      • This represents almost 2% of Canada’s electricity demand
    • The Canadian government has plans to produce 20% of Canada’s electricity demand from wind by 2040
  • Job creation
    • Estimated 8,100 jobs in the industry by end of 2014
    • By the end of 2014, renewable energy employments worldwide were higher than those from oil and gas
    • If the $1.3 billion investment that goes into the oil industry, went into renewable energy initiatives, there would be 18,000-20,000 jobs created compared to 3,000 jobs from the oil industry

Technology Advancement:

  • Solar panels have been around since the 1800s, but their efficiency had been too low for them to be a viable energy source. In the 1800s their efficiency was around 1%, by the 1960s they had reached approximately 8%, now most of the publicly available panels are near 20% efficiency. There are even some solar panels that reach 45-50% efficiency, but they are not viable due to their high prices (only used for special situations, like the space station). The search for better materials and construction to raise their efficiency is constantly occurring. Below are a few technological advancements being currently developed
  • Technion Israel Institute of Technology
    • Researchers at Technion Israel Institute of Technology have made a break through in solar cells, by capturing energy currently lost by solar cells
    • They created a photoluminescence material that absorbs radiation from the sun, and converts the heat and light from the sun into an “ideal” radiation. That illuminates the photovoltaic cell and enables a higher conversion efficiency
    • This has boosted their conversion rates to near 50%
  • Solar Shingles by Elon Musk
    • Many advances to solar panels are targeting the big industrial operations. Elon Musk’s view is to create solar shingles, which can make solar energy accessible for every home owner
    • Currently solar panels are installed on top of existing roofs, but the issue with this is that the shingles lifespan is usually shorter than the solar panels, making reinstallation an extra cost and a deterrent for most people
    • The solar shingles would deal with this issue as the home owners would only need to make one purchase and installation
  • Solar batteries: innovation in solar storage
    • The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium ion battery product launched in 2015. It is a solar plus storage solution which allows for off-grid and storage of solar energy
    • Tesla offers two storage products, the Powerwall for residential use and the Powerpack for commercial use
    • This provides an alternative to home owners, to store their solar energy and only sell it back to the grid when they want
  • Wearable Solar
    • Wearable solar devices such as watches and other gadgets have been around for a while now, but recently an innovation has taken place which allows for tiny solar panels which can be stitched into fabrics
    • This leads to applications such as blinds having solar panels and producing energy for the household
    • This is one of the most promising advances as the applications are now endless