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Solar Cells | Green and Alternative Energy Information

Why isn’t the world using more solar energy?

Using more solar energy to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, and improve our energy security and energy independence seems like a very logical solution, especially since the Sun is the most abundant source of energy on our planet. Solar energy can provide us with over 1000 times more energy than we currently need but despite this enormous potential, in 2008 solar power accounted for miserable 0.02% of the world’s total energy supply.

There are several reasons why world isn’t using more solar energy to satisfy its huge energy demand. When talking about solar power technologies we need to know that these technologies are still in the very early phase of development, which explains why solar power still fails to achieve efficiency comparable with fossil fuels. An average solar panel has an efficiency of around 15 percent, which means that large amount of solar energy gets wasted, and ends up like a heat instead being turned into some form of useful energy.

Improving efficiency of solar cells won’t mean much unless science also finds the solution on how to make solar panels cheaper. The only way solar power can really prosper in years to come is by finding highly efficient solar panels that would also be commercially viable. This is by all means a difficult task for science, but several latest researches have given us at least some hope that finding this solution isn’t a mission impossible.

There is also one other issue that solar energy sector will need to resolve, namely the intermittency issue. Solar energy is an intermittent energy source because Sun doesn’t shine all the time which means that solar energy is not continually available throughout the whole day. In order to tackle the intermittency issue solar energy (again) needs science to find some cheap solar energy storage solution. Using molten salts as the storage medium has so far proved to be quite effective, and many energy experts have great expectation of this solar energy storage method.

Solar power will also need to have strong political support, and big funding to become dominant energy source in years to come. Powerful fossil fuel lobbies will no doubt use their huge political influence to slow down the development of solar power technologies as much as possible because they are well aware that once science presents cheap and efficient solar panels, they will lose their last big advantage over solar power, the cost-competitiveness.

The future of solar power depends heavily on science but politics cannot be overlooked because science needs large funds to continue with researches, and these funds can not be obtained without the strong political support. Solar power has currently strong public support which should result in favorable politics toward further development of solar power technologies in years to come. Doing otherwise would mean fewer votes on elections, and this is something politicians will try to avoid at almost any cost.

The correlation of science, adequate funding and strong political support should in years to come turn solar energy into one of the world’s most widely used energy sources.

Posted byNed Haluzan

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Self-healing solar cells

Via MIT

One of the big stories this week about renewable energy came from MIT, where scientists have succeeded in replicating a natural process to increase the durability of solar cells.

Why is that important? Well, the sun’s rays can be highly destructive to many materials. And sunlight leads to a gradual degradation of many of the systems developed to harness it. So the MIT brains had an idea: to imitate the process whereby plants cope with the impact of sunlight.

Plants are always breaking down their light-capturing molecules and reassemble them from scratch, so the basic structures that capture the sun’s energy are, in effect, always brand new. This action all takes place inside tiny capsules called chloroplasts that reside inside every plant cell where photosynthesis happens.

The research was led by Michael Strano, a Charles and Hilda Roddey Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and his team of graduate students and researchers. They have created a new set of self-assembling molecules that can turn sunlight into electricity; the molecules can be repeatedly broken down and then reassembled quickly, just by adding or removing an additional solution.

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