These days, everyone is talking about the environment. One of the questions that people have is about the viability of solar energy to power all of the various things that we need to get through our modern lives. Electricity is currently provided by various forms of power generation including coal, wind, nuclear and lots of other methods. But the majority of the methods used are not clean methods nor are they renewable.
Using fossil fuels for power generation isn’t going to last forever. That’s why there is such an interest in solar energy. In this article, we are going to look at whether or not solar energy is renewable and the viability of solar power in the future.
What Does Renewable Actually Mean?
A renewable energy source means that it replenishes naturally within a reasonable length of time – called the human timescale. Fossil fuels also replenish naturally, but they take millions and millions of years. That means that when we deplete our fossil fuels, we will not have other ones coming soon to replace them. We will simply have to stop using. But solar energy is different.
The sun is expected to burn for billions of years more and that means that using the sun’s rays to power our planet is renewable. We can use an almost unlimited amount and it will replenish itself naturally every single day. In fact, building enough solar panels to actually use enough of the sun’s energy to where it would run out is simply impossible. We are using a great deal of oil and coal right now as energy sources, but that will only last as long as there is oil and coal within the earth.
The Non-Renewable Energy You Currently Use
One of the terms you should understand is that dependable renewable energy may be different than renewable energy itself. For example, if you live in a house that is powered by wind energy, then you can be certain at some point that the wind is going to blow. However, it could be several weeks in between times when you have enough wind to generate energy. That means that on this small scale, wind energy is not dependable renewable energy.
Sunlight on the other hand is more dependable. There are days when you have cloud cover, but the sun doesn’t actually stop shining except in very unique cases such as eclipses. Even non-dependable renewable energy could be used by creating a wind energy grid that covered the majority of the planet because the wind is usually blowing somewhere, and by creating energy storage devices to feed power to the grid when the renewable energy sources are not providing it.
Is Solar Energy Considered “Green”?
Another thing that people want to know is how green solar energy is. What does it mean to be green? Basically, in order for something to be considered “green,” it cannot have a detrimental impact on the environment. For example, using fossil fuels as our primary energy source has released a great deal of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and experts are concerned about what is called the greenhouse gas effect, believing that there is evidence that the long-term side effects of greenhouse gases will be harmful to our environment.
But solar energy does not have the same problem. It doesn’t matter whether we capture solar energy or not. We are never going to reach a point where we are capturing so much solar energy via solar panels that it is not getting to our bodies where it is needed as well. Solar energy is one of the greenest sources out there.
How Convenient is Solar Energy?
Finally, let’s discuss the convenience of solar energy. In the past, solar energy was not a viable source of energy because the resources required to make and maintain solar panels were outweighing the actual benefit that you got from them. They were not able to produce enough energy to make up for their manufacturing. But these days, solar panels are better than never and they can be made extremely small such as to power our portable devices like our smart phones or laptops. In the future, it is very likely that our phones themselves will be able to draw on solar energy and keep themselves charged constantly.
As far as the energy grid, we would still need a lot of solar panels in order to replace the energy currently being generated by fossil fuels. This is possible, especially if the technology keeps advancing as fast as it has. But until there is some legislation that requires people to install solar panels or until it starts becoming a standard in manufacturing, solar energy is not that convenient. It is much more expensive to install enough solar panels in your home than it is to simply connect to your local electricity grid.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of reasons that we need to start using renewable energy like solar energy. Not only are fossil fuels eventually going to run out, and building our entire infrastructure on fossil fuels will be problematic at that point, but almost every expert after agrees that burning fossil fuels is extremely detrimental to our environment and could cause serious problems to the human populations of the future.
But switching to solar energy has its problems as well. We have only barely reached the point where the benefits of manufacturing solar panels and systems outweigh the costs of that manufacturing. But it is still up to governments and individuals to use those solar panels. There is also a great deal of lobbying done by the energy industry because if people start generating their own power, they stop paying into the electricity company, and that makes those in the energy industry extremely nervous.