Solar Energy is currently one of the leading forms of alternative energy. Solar energy is radiant light and heat from the sun that is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating, photovoltaic cells, solar thermal energy, solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis. Solar energy is most commonly harnessed through solar panels on the roofs of houses and in solar farms. They can provide energy for an entire house, building, and maybe one day cities! With the help of education, solar energy can be utilized by just about anyone!
Solar energy is the most abundant form of energy being that it comes from the utmost powerful source of light and heat in the world, the sun. The total amount of solar energy absorbed by Earth each year is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules per year. This is enough to power the United States for 30,000 years! In 2002, this amounted to more energy in one hour than the world used in an entire year!
Many countries have already set up initiatives to kick start a “green revolution”, starting with the creation of solar farms. The largest solar initiatives are currently in the United States, Spain, India, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Australia, and Germany. As of 2011, the sum of all the energy produced by solar farms in the world was 1.17 gigawatts. Of this total, 582 megawatts was produced in Spain alone and 507 megawatts came from the U.S. alone.
This form of energy can easily and effectively power our cities and towns. However, a major problem that affects the amount of solar energy a place receives depends on its geography and weather climate. For instance, countries and cities located closer to the equator will receive more solar energy than places located farther from the equator. However, the use of photovoltaics that can follow the position of the sun can significantly increase solar energy potential in areas farther from the equator.
Another positive aspect of solar energy is that it makes sense financially. The perception that solar energy is expensive is no longer relevant. Since 2011, the price of solar energy has actually dropped by approximately 30%, making solar energy affordable for most middle income and even some lower income families. The most recent studies on this topic showthat the continued decrease in solar prices is likely to continue, with total installed prices dropping by 5% for rooftop residential systems, and 12% for larger utility-scale solar farms.
It is no surprise that the demand for solar energy is on the rise. The price of solar energy has decreased significantly recently, as policy and market forces have driven more and more homeowners and businesses to go solar. We need to continue to find and utilize alternative sources of clean energy in order to help our planet and combat climate change.