Increasing Solar Power Adoption

The Challenge

Solar Energy

“Use of solar energy is near a solution”. This was the headline in the New York Times on April 4th, 1931. It turned out to be a premonition of the best kind. Eighty years later electricity using solar energy is being supplied to many areas of the world. As our non-renewable resources are set to decline in the years to come, it is important for us to move towards renewable sources of energy like solar.

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Increasing Solar Power Adoption

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is energy derived from the sun. The energy can be used directly to heat and light homes or it can be converted into electricity using solar energy technologies like solar panels. There are many benefits to adopting solar energy as our main source of power  Solar energy can be easily deployed by both home and business users as it does not require any huge set up like wind or geothermal power. It works well in remote locations where running power lines would be difficult and creates many new jobs, boosting economies. In addition to these benefits, there is one standout: the reduction of societies’ carbon footprint, which contributes to the fight against climate change. With global adoption of solar energy as a power source, we can save the planet from the increasing effects of global warming and provide clean renewable energy to billions of people around the world.

Benefits of Solar

Solar energy can help minimize the cost of utility bills and increase the value of homes. Use of solar energy has the potential to save up to 20% of household energy costs. Solar panels can also add up to $20,000 to the value of a house.

Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized, the renewable energy industry is more labor intensive. Solar panels need humans to install them; wind farms need technicians for maintenance. In 2016, the solar industry employed more than 260,000 people, including jobs in solar installation, manufacturing, and sales, a 25% increase over 2015. An NREL study also found that renewable energy could comfortably provide up to 80 percent of US electricity by 2050, allowing for many jobs to be created in the solar field.  This means that, on average, more jobs will be generated from the solar industry than from the fossil fuel industry if solar use is adopted worldwide.

The air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plants is linked with breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death, and a host of other serious problems. One Harvard University study estimated the lifecycle costs and public health effects of coal to be an estimated $74.6 billion every year. Adopting solar energy could reduce these health issues and the costs associated with them.

What We Are Doing

Global platforms are empowering leaders to broker partnerships to achieve universal access to sustainable energy. They are regularly taking stock of where we are in the quest to adopt renewable resources globally and help government leaders and other decision-makers stay on track to achieving this goal.

Organizations are also using solar power to bring electricity to developing nations as well as offering solar power to agricultural producers that allows them to produce crops and greatly decrease the amount of pollution they create. Individuals can even help forward the solar movement by enrolling in a free access program that will install solar in their homes to provide electricity.

To maintain and create the technology needed to harness solar energy, organizations are funding the next generations of solar professionals. In addition to international training programs aimed towards men and women in developing countries, nonprofits are offering scholarships and grants to those who wish to pursue a career in the solar field.

The clean energy transition is a historic environmental and economic opportunity for growth. But, this is just the beginning of the rise of renewable energy and there is still much to be done.

What Needs to be Done

Solar panels are extremely efficient, but they can be much more efficient. Most rooftop panels are less than 18% efficient, which means they turn that amount of light from the sun into electricity. The efficiency of solar panels has improved, but they have a long way to go before they are competitive with coal and natural gas. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley said they have developed solar cells that are up to 25% efficient. With continued research, we should be able to increase that number significantly.

Another issue we face is the compatibility of solar technology with the infrastructures we have in place. According to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, only a quarter of commercial and residential rooftops are suitable for solar panels. We need to promote community solar projects to drive the initiative of shared solar energy and make more buildings solar compatible.

A solution to furthering the use of clean energy while research and infrastructure change is taking place is to combine solar with other available renewable technologies – hydro, wind, tidal and geothermal. These all provide either consistent power or vary on different rhythms to the sun. Costa Rica, for example, uses a powerful mix of all these technologies so that it rarely turns on its diesel generation plants.

A Bright Opportunity

If the international community works to put these programs in motion, we can achieve a world powered by renewable energy by 2050. Global adoption of solar power can ensure our world is clean and livable and almost free from pollution for years to come. By changing the way we power our world, we might just save it.

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