The Benefits of Solar Energy
-There is only an initial cost and after that the energy gain is basically free. It will be cost-competitive to fossil fuels and nuclear power by 2030, as the cost of solar energy goes down and the scarcity of fossil fuels drives the price of this form of energy up.
-Solar energy does not cause harm to the environment like nuclear power or fossil fuels.
-Solar panels can be used basically anywhere. This is illustrated by the fact that Germany, which has solar conditions similar to Alaska is the world leader in solar power. Also, tapping into the oceans' potential to store solar energy as a battery would allow limitless and constant supplies of solar energy.
-There is an almost unlimited amount of usable energy available because the sun provides more power than we can ever use.
-Solar energy can be harvested quietly unlike wind energy. This becomes important if there are people living in close proximity to solar, wind, coal, or nuclear power plants. Also, unlike wind energy, solar energy is a constant source of clean, renewable energy. The sun will rise and set each day. Wind, however, is variable and cannot be relied on as a major source of energy because it is not predictable and nor is it constant. The world leader in wind energy, Denmark, is only able to rely on wind energy to supply 20% of their total energy needs because it is inconsistent.

Many of these benefits may be expanded upon and emphasized in the future as scientists find ways to create solar energy using less expensive materials and batteries that allow solar energy to be effectively stored for long periods of time.

How Photovoltaic Cells (Solar Cells) Work
Solar cells similar to the cells that power satellites, The International Space Station, and calculators are called photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells make up solar panels and convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells are made of semiconductors most commonly silicon. When light hits a silicone PV cell some of the lights energy is absorbed and transfered to the PV cell. This energy transfer knocks electrons loose allowing free flow. Within the PV cell several electric fields force electrons freed by the light energy to move in a particular direction. This creates a current by placing metal lead on the top and bottom of the PV cell the current is taken and used to power anything from a satellite to a home. More information on the workings of PV cells can be found at How Solar Cells Work
solar cells
solar cells
solar cells
solar cells


Present state of solar energy
Currently solar energy is a very minor player in the U.S. energy market with less than 1% of electricity coming for solar origins. However the news is not entirely bad by the end of 2008 the U.S. had 8,800 mega watts of installed solar energy which was a 16% increase form 2007. Although less than 1% of our energy comes from solar power it must be remembered that the U.S. uses a enormous amount of energy and that 1MW has the potential to power 150 to 250 homes. The U.S. is currently 4th world wide for it's use of solar energy. First is Germany with 34,000 mega watts of solar power produced a year followed in the rankings by Spain and Japan. On a global scale Europe is the leaded in solar energy with over 50,000 mega watts of solar power produced every year. North America Come in second at 9,000 mega watts of solar energy produced and Asia, Oceania and Africa have a combined 267 mega watt yearly production of solar energy.

Current interesting uses for solar energy nationally include the powering emergency phones on most highways. Many outdoor pool heating systems take advantage of solar power to reduce electricity cost. Many small electronics also are power by small solar panels these include calculators, toys, personal electronic fans, and solar battery chargers. NASA uses solar technology on a majority of their equipment, unmanned probes, and satellites. A notable NASA project involving solar power is Helios project.


The Helios Prototype flying wing is shown moments after takeoff, beginning its first test flight on solar power from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.
The Helios Prototype flying wing is shown moments after takeoff, beginning its first test flight on solar power from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.
Helios fuel cell diagram
Helios fuel cell diagram

Helios is a remotely operated wing aircraft developed by NASA. The two primary goals of the project was to sustain flight at near 100,00 feet and to have a nonstop flight time of 24 hours. Helios completed it's first goal in 2001. Unfortunately the Helios project in June of 2003 was set back when and unexpected design flaw and turbulence lead to it accelerating uncontrollably beyond its designed speed, break apart and fall into the ocean. At this point i must make a connection between the Helios wing aircraft and a Toyota Prius. More information can be found on the Helios project at Helios Prototype Solar-Powered Aircraft

Humanitarian Efforts
Solar energy is favored among humanitarians for two simple reasons: there is no upkeep on solar cells and they may be placed anywhere. Much of the empoverished areas of the world do not have the basic necessities of life including clean water and access to medical care. These areas, including India, China, many parts of Africa have a nearly unlimited amount of sunlight year round, making solar energy an ideal source of clean, renewable electricity. With access to solar energy in rural and empoverished areas, it would be less expensive for humanitarians to aid in regenerating independent communities, building them on sustainable energy use practices. Solar energy would make hospitals and emergency medical care a real possibility in AIDS stricken areas in Africa; it would lend itself to the growth of small businesses, it could contribute to cheaper, faster harvesting of crops. Independent economic growth and access to medical care are two major measures of poverty that could be reversed, leading to people living longer, happier lives.

The Political State of Solar Power
The current political state of solar energy has been greatly improved by the recent presidential election. The new administration has been very supportive of alternative energy. In October of President Obama announced an additional $3.4 billion in federal stimulus grants are to be given to modernize America's power grid and to new jobs. President said while at our nations largest solar power plant (Florida Power and Light's) "At this moment, there's something big happening in America when it comes to creating a clean-energy economy," This excerpt taken from from a speck made by President Obama demonstrates a beneficial political climate for not only solar energy but all forms of renewable energy. The full article by Adam C. Smith can be found at President Obama Visits solar energy plant in Arcadia

solar cells
solar cells


Smith, Adam C. "President Obama Visits Solar Energy Plant in Arcadia." St.Petersburg Times28 Oct. 2009. St.Petersburg Times. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. <http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/article1047409.ece>.
"EIA - International Energy Data and Analysis."Energy Information Administration - EIA - Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <__http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/contents.html__>.

Toothman, Jessika, and Scott Aldous. "HowStuffWorks "How Silicon Makes a Solar Cell""Howstuffworks "Science" Web. 23 Apr. 2010. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/solar-cell2.htm>.
"Photovoltaics." U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Home Page. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <__http://www.eere.energy.gov/__>.

"NREL: Science and Technology." National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Home Page. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <__http://www.nrel.gov/science_technology/__>.

Home | SEIA - Solar Energy Industries Association. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <__http://www.seia.org/__>.



Electricity When the Sun is not Out
While their has been much talk about utilizing solar power as an energy alternative, their seems to be little attention regarding how we would obtain electricity at nite or during a cloudy day. In order to get around this batteries will need to be charged and utilized when the sun is not available.

Sharp, the world's largest producer of solar cells, is planning in investing over 5 million dollars in to the creation of a larger lithium battery. One with the capability to be charged by the sun and be able to power an entire house when no daylight is present. These batteries are said to have 40 times the storage capacity then those found today in consumer laptops.

A endeavor such as this is quite encouraging to see. This obstacle needs to overcome in order for solar power to become a practical way to meet our energy needs. Fore more information on Sharp and its investment click here .