With the growing concern about the adverse effect of climate change and global warming, solar energy is becoming an alternative source of environment-friendly energy. Solar-produced electricity makes life sustainable for everyone once its usage becomes widespread. Continuous research on other modes to utilize solar energy would ultimately lower its cost as the cost of production decreases.
The expenditure to install a solar panel system has remarkably decreased. In Magnolia, Texas, for example, the cost of setting up a large infrastructure of home use would total $100,000 in 2008 but at present it would only cost $77,000, Greg Hare narrated when he decided to energize his ranch with sun-power (Galbraith pars. 1-2). By mid-2008, said investment bank analyst Piper Jaffray, solar panel prices dropped by 40 percent as the supply of an essential component increased (Galbraith par. 4). As a result, more and more people and organizations would prefer to use this energy in the household and business needs. Global use of solar energy will greatly decrease the greenhouse gases emitted by traditional sources of energy.
As scientists have discovered, climate change causes the North Pole glaciers to melt and increases the sea level. This threatens the extinction of some animal species (e.g. polar bears) and submersion of several cities and islands as water level rises. A number of landmasses will become uninhabitable. Moreover, climate change creates abnormal weather and climate patterns that cause flooding, landslides and tidal waves. Thousands of people had died due to these occurrences. With the use of solar panels and energy, greenhouse gases would be drastically reduced and lessen the abnormal effects made upon the environment and weather. In the long run, death of people will be averted, thus, making life sustainable. The continued subsidy granted by the government also makes living sustainable, both for homeowners and business organizations.
The use of heat from the sun has been utilized by man for various uses since time immemorial (Gal par. 1). Some of earliest devices that use sun are solar cookers, water desalination and internal heating of houses (Gal par. 1). Greeks and Romans recognize the potential of the sun by orienting their houses towards it (History of solar par. 2).
In 1839, French physicist Antoine-Cesar Becquerel noticed that an electric current is produced when a light shone unto an electrode soaked in a conductive solution (History par. 1). The first active solar motor inventor, Auguste Mouchout, gave his prognosis that fossil fuels would ultimately run out (History of solar par. 3). His sun-powered steam engine was developed in 1861, however, costs so high that it was set aside (History of solar par. 4). Later, European scientists continued research through the 19th century and created a huge cone-shaped collector capable of boiling ammonia that could run locomotion and refrigeration (History of solar par. 5). Encyclopedia Britannica recorded that the first authentic solar cell was made by Charles Fritts (1883) utilizing selenium-coated junctions and a thin layer of gold (Bellis par. 2).
John Ericsson, born in Sweden, initiated the effort to harness power from the sun by building the “parabolic trough collector” which design functions even after a century later (History of solar par. 6). Albert Einstein likewise conducted a study on photoelectric effect that won him a Nobel Prize in physics in 1921 (History of solar par. 7). Fifty years earlier, William Grylls Adams found out that selenium emits electron when exposed to light and produces electricity (History of solar par. 8). A silicon-based solar cell was built by Russell Ohl in 1941 but had a low energy conversion which is below one percent (Bellis par. 3). Gerald Pearson, Daryl Chapin and Calvin Fuller (Bell Laboratories scientists, now AT&T labs) designed the first silicon solar cell that can emit measurable electricity, an event The New York Times bannered as the new era for unlimited energy (History of solar par. 9). This 1954 solar cell has 6 percent energy conversion efficiency when placed under direct sunlight (Bellis par. 4). Using a number of razorblade-size silicon chips exposed to sunlight, free electrons were captured and transformed into current (Bellis par. 5). This prototype solar panel research was funded by Bell that led to the Bell Solar Battery and run by Americus (Georgia), a telecommunication carrier in October 1955 (Bellis par. 5).
Solar cell or photovoltaic cell transforms light energy into electrical energy through photovoltaic effect (“solar cell” par. 1). This conversion of energy has no mechanical moving parts or chemical reaction involved (“solar cell” pars. 1-2). The cell uses an amorphous (noncrystalline) or polycrystalline to crystalline (single crystal) silicon forms (“solar cell” par. 1). Arranging solar cells into arrays can function similar to a power station capable of supplying electrical power to business, industrial and residential needs (“solar cell” par. 2).
A smaller version that can be used for personal home use is called a solar panel (“solar cell” par. 2). Installed atop rooftops that can be exposed to sunlight, solar panels can provide electric power to remote areas where power stations cannot supply (“solar cell” par. 2). Solar cells are also used in space stations, communications and weather satellites, electronic toys, calculators, and portable radios (“solar cell” par. 2).
The US government has made a valuable contribution to the development of solar power in the country by providing tax credits to manufacturers (Lorenz, Pinner, and Seitz 2). Thus, despite the high cost of production, manufacturers are able to sustain production at a competitive level (Lorenz, Pinner, and Seitz 2). As time passes, the cost of installing solar panel infrastructure decreases by 20 percent with every twice the increase in capacity while conventional sources of energy (e.g. natural gas) continually rise (Lorenz, Pinner, and Seitz 2).
The state governments likewise participate in making solar energy accessible to people. California and Colorado passed laws in 2008 that acquisition of panels can be paid on installments while the municipality pays the initial upfront cost (Galbraith par. 23). In 2009, 12 more states will be following the initiative of California and Colorado (Galbraith par. 23).
When the price of oil doubled after the Arab Oil Embargo, world leaders desperately sought for alternative energy and thus reduce dependence upon oil (History of solar 11). Thus, the US government poured huge amount of money on solar energy building upon the earlier research and product made by Bell Laboratories in 1953 (History of solar 11).
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Gal, Jonathan. A History of Solar Panels. PRLog Free Press Release. 2009. Web.
Galbraith, Kate. More Sun for Less: Solar Panels Drop in Price. Energy & Environment. The New York Times. 2009. Web.
History. Catching some rays. n.d. 2009. Web.
History of Solar. 2008. Southface. Web.
Lorenz, Peter, Dickon Pinner, and Thomas Seitz. The economics of solar power. 2008. Web.
“Solar cell.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web.