Solar Energy Facts
Many solar energy discussions focus on its twin paths over the past two plus decades.
The graph at the top of the page, for example, reflects the basic solar insignificance argument. The flat red line at the bottom of the graph represents the solar thermal and solar PV consumption portion of total renewable energy consumption.
Hugging the area around the zero consumption boundary reminds many solar enthusiasts of the value of patience in alternative energy research and development.
Types of Solar Energy
Solar Battery Chargers
Solar Energy Glossary
Solar Powered Vehicles
Renewable Energy Resources
While utility scale solar power struggled in the energy market, solar power's micro path over the past two plus decades reached a more receptive audience.
Two photovoltaic technologies, silicon panels and thin film solar, attracted the attention of consumers seeking portable power for personal electronic devices and distributed power in the form of roof top solar installations.
Recent growth spurts in the PV industry temporarily placed those firms in a more market competitive situation than the thin film firms.
Increased efficiencies in the thin film market promise to extend its applications from the portable power sector to the construction sector.
The concept of solar efficiency, often translated as the ability of a product to convert sunlight into electricity, also explains aggregate solar industry development over the past two plus decades.
Current efficiency levels for monochrystalline solar panels reached the 25% level in the laboratory, Efficiency levels for panels currently on the market range three to seven percent lower.
At the very least, the past twenty plus years of monochrystalline solar panel research and development has seen close to a doubling of its power output.
The cost of solar power, another important industry issue, still challenges the solar industry.
Currently, electricity prices in the United States average between $.11 and $.12 per kWh (source: Electric Power Monthly (January 2010 Edition).
Therefore, in order for solar power to replace GHG emitting electricity sources such as coal, it will be necessary for the cost of solar powered electricity to be competitive with GHG emitting electricity sources from the fossil fuel industry. Taking into account past consumer sentiment of indifference to the externalized costs associated with fossil fueled electricity production suggests that the basic kWh cost of electricity will remain the standard for grid parity comparisons.
While calculating the cost of solar power system can be complicated, generally it starts by establishing the system's labor and material costs, and estimating the amount of energy it produces, which depends largely on the amount of sun that shines on it.
Entrepreneurs continue to innovate in the installation sector. Recent market reports point to new solar panel framing technologies that could reduce installation time, and presumably installation costs, tenfold.
With both panel and installation costs decreasing, industry analysts anticipate the industry reaching the grid parity point, using a hazy five to ten year time range.
Solar proponents often discuss its future in grand, long term language. Just at the introduction of electric lighting accompanied the world's past one hundred years of social and economic, so too will solar power accompany the world's next one hundred years of social and economic development.
While solar power's upfront costs need to be addressed, its promise of free and clean energy, year after year, offers its users both an autonomous and sustainable development path.
The links in the box point to related solar energy articles, with the types of solar energy article offering greater detail of the solar power products in both the solar thermal and solar PV sectors.
© 2005-2012. Patricia A. Michaels