Solar Energy And What I Really Need to Know
With existing EU rules and the phasing out of fossil fuels to operate and generate electricity. It is becoming increasing difficult to fund or find cheaper ways to generate electricity. The newest Nuclear Power station is Hinckley Point. The Hinckley Point expansion project has already been hit political and financial issues. The completion of theHinckley Point expansion project is expected over shoot its current 2025 completion date by at least five more years. A viable energy option needs to be considered in the mean time.
Back to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have been used as an energy source as long as man has learned to generate power. Fossil fuels has been around for over 200 years or more. When man started using fossil fuels as an energy sources, no one thought about the consequences. As fossil fuels power stations are becoming more and more scarce. This can also be blamed on EU Rules and the Paris Climate Accord taking a more pro-active affect. This hasn’t stopped the ever increasing shortage in fossil fuels. The fossil fuels storage has already begun affect our daily live and various industries. We are already seeing some of these affects already, fossil fuel prices are raising and electricity is becoming more expensive. Further evidence of of fossil fuel crisis, prices at the fuel pump and are fluctuating at an alarming rate.
Although fossil fuels are more scarce, the need for fossil fuels will still be here and will not decrease any time soon. To solve this shortage of fossil fuels, we will need to look for other possibilities to meet our energy demands. So with solar energy and what I really need to know before I start looking in to purchasing them in the near future.
Why Solar Power?
Fortunately, alternative energy sources are growing in interest. For instance, locations with high water falls are experimenting on building a hydro-electric power plant, which turns out to be successful. Other locations with high wind speed make use of a power wind mills that can convert wind power into electricity. Also thermal and tidal powers are good alternatives.
Solar energy is also one of the energy sources that is gaining in interest. Solar energy has steadily been growing. Today solar energy is widely used in the UK and other countries, and the advantages for using solar power are growing exponentially. Our solar energy source, the sun, its life span is estimated to be another 4.5 billion years. It is fair to say that this energy source is almost endless.
Rate of Energy from the Sun
The Sun’s radiation reaches a certain unit of area in space in the region of the Earth’s orbit and is estimated to be at 1,400 watts per square meter. Out of this, photovoltaic cells (also known as solar cells) can capture 19 to 56 watts per square meter (for 15% efficiency) or an equivalent of 0.45 to 1.35 kilowatt per hour (kWh) in an annual day and night average.
Therefore, if there would be more area that will be covered by several solar panels, these panels can produce slightly more energy in the form of electricity than what is currently available from oil, gas, and other sources of energy combined (assuming 8% solar cell efficiency).
Conversion of Solar Energy
There are two ways of conversion of solar energy. First is the direct solar energy which involves only one conversion into a usable form. For instance: Sunlight hits the solar cell, converting it into electricity. Sunlight hits the absorber surface of a solar thermal collector, converting into thermal energy which can be used to heat homes during cold season.
The second is the indirect solar energy which involves more than one conversion to reach a usable form. For instance: Plants use photosynthesis to transform solar energy to chemical energy, which can be burned later as fuel to generate electricity (also known as bio-fuel technology). Hydroelectric dams and wind turbines are indirectly supplied by solar energy through its interaction with the Earth’s atmosphere.
Pros and Cons of Solar Energy
Just like any other types of energy resources, solar energy has its ins and outs.
Recently the UK Government has scraped incentives for home owners to install Solar panels on their homes. According to Moneywise, if you already had (solar) panels installed before 31 March 2014, you will be guaranteed a rate of 14.9p per kWh for the next 20 years. And every kWh your system generates that you don’t use in your home will earn you 4.64p, meaning a typical home with a 4kWp system could make a combined saving of around £770 a year. As the UK Government has drastically the FiT (Feed in Tariffs) and will continue to these tariffs. It will make it harder to pay off the panels within the 25 year life time of your solar panels before they need replacing. Will solar panels cut your energy costs? YES they will, but you will not be able to benefit from the Feed in Tariffs as much as you would have done, had you installed them before 2014.
The Pro’s and Cons of Solar Panels
- Solar facilities can be run with little extra input or maintenance.
- It is abundant. As mentioned earlier, most of the inhabited areas here on Earth can be reached by sunlight.
- Although it is abundant, non-tropical locations can receive little sunlight. Thus, power that will be produced in these locations is a minimum.
- Only during daytime thus not available during night time.
- Photovoltaic cell technologies generate direct current (DC) power which needs to be converted to alternating current (AC) power used in distribution grids.
- Free Installation costs: There are some company’s offering customers who cannot afford the upfront costs for solar panel systems. So the option is to have panels installed free in return for ‘renting’ out your roof space. Sainsbury’s and British Gas will lease your roof for 25 years and in exchange install and maintain the solar panels on it. In theory this is appealing because you won’t need to find any cash up front. However, you will totally loose out on the Feed In Tariff scheme. The company who fitted your panels would benefit from any income related FiT’s (Feed in Tariffs).
Once massive development of the use of solar energy is materialised, expect that every household or industry in the world will now be powered by solar energy. It is not just a dream, it will be a dream come true.
New house builds in the UK are now required to be economically viable and have Solar panels fitted, in the hope they can reduce the load on the current energy grid. Anything which can help reduce energy our bills by a vast amount of money for each calendar year. Will always be great incentive and increase the need for Solar panels. I just hope the costs of installing them also comes down too.
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