Solar Energy and the Environment

The attributes of solar energy technologies (e.g., modularity, flexibility, low operating costs) differ considerably from those for traditional, fossil fuel-based energy technologies. Solar energy technologies can provide cost-effective and environmentally beneficial alternatives to conventional power systems. Some of the benefits that make solar energy systems attractive follow (e.g., Dincer, 2000 and McGowan, 1990):

• Relatively independent of rising oil and other fossil fuel costs.

• Implementation is relatively straightforward.

• Normally minimize environmental degradation and widespread use would reduce pollution levels.

• Market demand is expected to increase significantly.

There are three main points that make solar technology sustainable:

• Their comparable environmental impact is minor and the variety of solar technologies provides a flexible array of options.

• They cannot be depleted. If used appropriately, solar energy resources are reliable and sustainable.

• They favor system decentralization which enhances the flexibility of the system, and small-scale equipment reduces the initial design time allowing more adaptation and growth.

Solar energy resources do have some characteristics that lead to problems, but they are often solvable technical and economic challenges: generally diffuse, not fully accessible, sometimes intermittent, and regionally variable. The potential for overall benefits is often overlooked for solar energy technologies. They are often assessed as less cost-effective than traditional technology; however, as commented by Dincer and Rosen (2005) comprehensive assessments show many more benefits to using solar energy technology. Short lead times, incremental capacity addition, and flexibility allow solar technology to be very beneficial in present and future applications.





0.92 za

1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050 Year



1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050 Year

100% Financial Budget 60% Financial Budget 20% Financial Budget

1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050

100% Financial Budget 60% Financial Budget 20% Financial Budget

1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050

Fig 4.1 Energy utilization ratio comparison (a) and solar sustainability ratio (b) based on data from Dincer and Rosen (2005).

The following parameters are introduced by Dincer and Rosen (2005) to demonstrate solar energy technology's contribution to decreases in fossil fuel utilization and to correlate the sustainability of solar (and other renewable) technology with associated investment. The fossil fuel utilization ratio is defined below: Rf = Ef/ Ep (4.1)

where Ef is the energy associated with the fuel consumption and Ep is the primary energy consumption.

Based on Midilli et al. (2006), the solar energy utilization ratio is shown in terms of the fossil fuel utilization ratio, namely Rs=1 - Rf. Figure 4.1(a) presents sents the increase in solar energy utilization over a period of time with the decrease in fossil fuel utilization. Figure 4.1(b) shows the solar energy sustainability ratio over a period of time for three financial scenarios as proposed in Dincer and Rosen (2005), namely 20, 60, and 100% of the green energy financial investment for future years affecting the sustainability of solar technology development and implementation. The utilization of fossil fuels decreases in favor of solar energy. Furthermore, the sustainability of solar (and renewable) systems increases with investment input. An increased sustainability of energy systems is translated to a reduced impact on global warming.

Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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