What to Expect in the Near Future
As long as there have human beings, we have looked to the stars for inspiration, and our own star, the sun, has been central to what makes this an inhabitable planet.
Scientists have sought to replicate the nuclear fusion that powers the intensity of our nearby star. And while research continues into that possibility, the more immediate, limitless resource, is the daily energy output of the sun as it is received here on earth–through solar power technologies.
Harnessing solar power has been around for centuries, but some really exciting possibilities are happening right now…or just around the corner.
Smaller Scale Solar
Energy researchers have been able to increase the efficiency of solar materials and the transfer of energy, but in some ways, the size of solar panels is also crucial to advancement–since it makes solar work nearly anywhere.
Now, small-scale solar panels allow people to:
- Power street lights, collecting light all day and giving back that light at night
- Power cell phones, even satellite phones, in the most remote parts of the world
- Collect the power for electric car plug-in stations
None of these or other advances would be possible, without solar cells getting smaller and more efficient.
But with that improvement there also comes all kinds of benefits for other applications– residential and commercial installations of solar energy applications have also grown, increasing competition in the solar market, reducing costs of installation and ownership, and creating jobs and investment opportunities in the solar energy market.
Batteries that Store Solar
Solar farms have been able to link to the solar grid for decades, and onsite solar panels have reduced the utility costs of thousands of businesses. The greater challenge has been storage–batteries for storing excess energy collected just haven’t kept up with the technology.
As the batteries in cell phones, electric cars, and other devices improve, solar power also benefits.
Battery storage allows solar power to:
- Collect energy during the day to power houses and businesses at night
- Collect energy during sunny times to power during a rainy season or during shorter daylight hours
- Collect excess energy during low-usage times for more availability during peak usage
Battery storage already meets these needs to some extent, but improving the efficiency and outcomes will increase the potential usage and cost-effectiveness.
Powering the Developing World
Large sections of the world already do not have access to consistent energy resources. In other parts of the world, blackouts and brownouts are very common.
Transporting fossil fuels such as coal or oil to some parts of the globe brings additional challenges, particularly if such resources have to be regularly imported (due to lack of local fossil fuel resources).
The sun, however, heats the entire planet, and solar power can be installed virtually anywhere.
As solar technology continues to improve, the one-time installation costs and low maintenance costs associated with solar powering the developing world is emerging as a better option.
Bonus: Will There Ever be Solar Powered Cars?
If the movies were to be believed, hoverboards, space vacations and solar-powered cars were just around the corner.
Vehicles require a great deal of energy and aren’t particularly aerodynamically designed. However, we may see solar-powered buses and cars in the near future–it just may be a while before they become common.
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This articles was originally posted at: https://www.energyprofessionals.com/energy-alert/the-future-of-solar-power/ on