When we think of solar power we think of an energy source that is free and sustainable, but aside from the obvious drawbacks, such as price and the inability to harness solar energy at night, there are some significant issues that may need to be addressed. Solar energy has made significant strides, yet when we think of solar power, cost usually plays a major role. Currently 49 percent of all the electrical power in the United States is generated by coal, yet solar electricity can be delivered at the same or less cost.
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Traditional flat panel systems are being replaced by thin-film solar material which can decrease overall cost by 20 percent. This thin film has been an innovation breakthrough in the energy industry and one of the major reasons that solar power will overtake coal. Another major concern is the idea that the sun does not shine at night, so how can solar energy be harnessed. MIT scientists have developed a method of storing solar power in a fuel cell for later use. They can do this by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen and storing it, while using solar panels during the day to power homes. In the evening, the hydrogen and oxygen can be combined to create energy while the solar panels are inactive. Another concern is the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced with the consumption of coal. Solar power electricity produces no greenhouse gases or emissions which makes it an energy source of choice. Over a year, one solar power system could save the same amount of carbon dioxide as one car can produce during a year.
Currently, half of the United States uses coal due to its abundance and cheap price. Yet with increased demand, especially in developing economies such as China and India, coal prices continue to rise resulting in solar power becoming cost competitive with coal generated electricity. Shifting to solar power will result in lower electric bills, a cleaner environment; prevent disruptions in service, while making us less vulnerable to terrorist attacks. One of the disadvantages to solar power, and one that definitely needs to be reviewed in depth, is the efficiency under varying environmental factors. One factor in general is haze caused by pollution. Scientists have been attempting to determine how the efficiency and output from solar panels can be affected in urban areas that suffer from high levels of pollution resulting in haze. It was ultimately determined that these effects are substantial and can negatively impact the expected level of output resulting in a failed installation. Overall, this means that the cost of solar power installation would be substantially more than the revenue it could generate. This financial impact could deter companies from investing in solar projects. With the understanding that haze can cause a barrier between the suns energy and the solar power, then it is the solar power that can cure this problem. With the continued advancement within the industry, it is a matter of time before the thin film mentioned earlier can be applied to widows of cars and buildings alike resulting in an inexhaustible energy source that can fuel automobiles resulting in little to no emissions.
If this occurs, then the haze barrier would begin to dissipate resulting in more efficient solar products and more fuel for our cars. Even with solar power being one of the fastest growing energy industries, it may do American little good after the recent tariffs on China was levied. The tariffs that were levied in an attempt to buy time for American solar manufacturers to catch up with China, may actual cause the opposite effect by discouraging domestic investment in American innovation. After China flooded the global market with below-cost solar panels, President Obama enacted tariffs on solar imports. Yet, by this time several domestic solar technologies had already folded and were unable to compete with the Asian market. President Trump has enacted a thirty percent tariff on all solar imports in an attempt to stimulate investment in domestic innovation. These tariffs could potentially eliminate a vast amount of jobs within the United States. The majority of solar jobs within the United States revolve around installation. With rising solar panel prices, the demand of solar units with the country could potential decline resulting in less work for solar installers, which currently is one of the fastest growing jobs with the U.S.
If President Trump continues to place America first, then it may be reasonable to expect that he will promote American solar technology by applying federal funds to assist innovation and promote domestic investment. If the product that China used to flood the world market was below cost and substandard, it leave a reasonable amount of doubt that the product would be the product of choice. This could potentially open the door for American made solar products. If domestic manufacturers rise to the challenge, we may see a solar technology boom in our county. Solar energy is free and sustainable. Applied in the right circumstance and it could improve the quality of our daily lives. Ridding the planet of toxic emissions from cars alone could have a positive effect on the planet and health of the public. It could provide a low cost alternative to fossil fuel consumption without disruption in service. Understandably, there will be complications overcoming obstacles but in the end solar power is worth the effort.
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