Solar Energy is renewable energy composed of radiant light and heat from the Sun that is harnessed using various technologies to generate power. Solar energy is availed to supply the electricity in areas where they don’t have access to energy grids, it is used to distil water in areas where there is limited clean water, and to power satellites in space.
But where did all of this start? Around 450 BC a man named Anaxagoras suggested that Sun is a star, the ultimate source of daylight for humans on Earth. Since then a lot of people researched and worked on Sun’s energy and its potential of being the future of the power generation industry.
The history of solar power is quite interesting in its own right. From 1839, when the photovoltaic effect was first discovered, it was the French physicist Edmond Becquerel who discovered the photovoltaic effect while experimenting with a cell made of metal electrodes in a conducting solution.
Albert Einstein had an important role in bringing people’s attention towards it when he published his paper on the photovoltaic effect in 1905. Then came a big leap in the story when three scientists Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson designed a more practical solar cell out of silicon. The ones that we use in panels today, their base comes from the work of Bell Labs in 1954 by these three geniuses.
As the space tech developed the solar panels were in demand for use in various parts, the Nimbus became the first satellite launched by NASA in 1964 which could run entirely on the photovoltaic panel.
Recently in 2016, The U.S hit 1 million solar installations. It took 40 years for the Industry to reach this incredible milestone. Since then we have seen tremendous growth in the solar power generation industry and it still is growing year by year. In 2019, 1% of global energy came from Solar technologies.
Advantages of Solar Energy
♦ The most important advantage of solar energy is it’s being a truly renewable source of energy. It is available every day in all areas of the world. We cannot run out of solar energy as compared to resources like fossil fuels.
♦ It would reduce electricity bill expenses. If a major part of household electricity demand is met by solar energy then surely there would be a drop in the monthly electricity bills.
♦ Whether it is the generation of electricity by the use of Photovoltaics or generation of heat by solar thermal energy, solar energy can be used for diverse purposes.
♦ Solar Energy systems don’t usually require lots of maintenance. Most reliable solar panels offer a warranty of 20-25 years. So, if you manage the initial cost of installation, you can expect a very low maintenance cost.
♦ As we know the technology in the solar power industry is constantly improving and with the innovations in the field of solar technologies, we can expect a potential increase in the effectiveness of solar panels in the upcoming years.
♦ It is the cleanest form of energy as there is 0% emission of Carbon dioxide and at the time when the world is facing global environmental issues, a clean form of energy can contribute more to heal Earth.
♦ There is no doubt that soon enough we will witness rising energy cost. A solar up-gradation to the house can offer autonomy over the use of traditional energy sources and prevent securing further losses.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
♦ The initial cost of Installation is moderately high. This includes paying for Solar panels, batteries, inverters, wiring, and complete installation.
♦ The efficiency of solar energy can drop on cloudy and rainy days. Point to be noted solar energy cannot be collected during night time.
♦ Solar Energy storage is expensive. Either we can use the solar energy right away or store them in large batteries for use during the night time or on days when an ample amount of sunlight isn’t available. These storage batteries have a fairly high cost.
♦ The more the panels, the more the sunlight is collected, and the more electricity is produced. However, this also means that they would require a large space. In a lot of cases in it was noticed that the rooftops aren’t big enough to fit the number of solar panels desired.
♦ The Solar industry serves at very specific geographical locations, if an issue occurs in the solar panel setup in a rural area then they face a problem contacting customer service to get it fixed.
♦ The setup can’t be moved easily. If there is a need to relocate the solar panels then the system has to be re-fitted to the new location, which increases the chances of damaging the panels.
Pushpak Narendra Umale
G.H. Raisoni College of Engineering