Renewable energy has become something of a hot topic in the last few years. National campaigns designed to raise awareness about worldwide issues like global warming have had the secondary effect of calling attention to society’s reliance on fossil fuels. Emissions created by burning fuels like coal and gasoline have become a taboo. In light of society’s new green-minded approach, researchers and organizations studying the evolution and implementation of clean, renewable energy sources have likewise seen a surge in funding.
Center stage in this global drama, hydroelectric power is perhaps the most enduring form of sustainable energy. Erecting, manning and operating new dams are quite costly, so with advances and government incentives, wind-generated power has made a bid to take a starring role. Perhaps the least used supporting cast member is solar energy, and for good reason. Until a few years ago, the conversation ratio from typical photovoltaic solar panels was dismally low. However, a host of new government incentives in countries around the world, combined with more efficient technology, has led to a steady rise in solar power usage, including in the United States.
In a bid to gradually start weaning the world off of fossil fuels, the United States has joined other countries such as China, Japan and India in helping to foster the growth of the solar energy market. Speculation about the motives of these countries varies from person to person, but there are several very real, very clear reasons for a shift to solar power.
When people think of raw inexhaustible power, sunlight is seldom one of the first thoughts to come to mind. The simple truth, however, is that over the surface of the Earth, the sun provides enough raw energy in one hour to power the entire planet for a year. Granted, nearly 30% of this 174-petawatt powerhouse is immediately reflected back out into space. Another sizable portion is absorbed by ground and water surfaces, and still more is taken in by foliage. Even so, the potential for sustainability speaks volumes for itself; in one year, before reductions, the Earth will receive more raw energy from the sun than it will harvest from all fossil fuels, from their inceptions till the day they run dry, combined.
We have the technology
When they were first discovered in the late 19th century, PV panels had a less than 1% conversion ratio from sunlight to electricity. Today, that number has risen to a staggering 40% and continues to rise with new research.
A united effort
Worldwide, countries are cooperating in their efforts to lower the production and installation costs associated with solar power. Government incentives and financial breaks have led solar power to the point where it threatens to overtake wind as the new up-and-comer in sustainable energy.
No slowing down
For the last decade, solar energy has only been gaining momentum. As technology improves, more and more businesses are turning to solar energy as a viable, self-sustaining alternative to coal, gas and oil. Every day, more people are turning their heads up and seeing the future of truly limitless, free energy.
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