The economic structures of many of the world’s countries are becoming ever-increasingly based on industry requiring the use of large quantities of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, petroleum). Many researchers in the past decade have turned their heads to more sustainable and efficient sources of energy, particularly the promising source of solar energy.
The potential for a more effective and plausible long-term solution to the potentially impending environmental consequences of human-caused climate change, some say, lies in the replacement of fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources with renewable power sources such as the sun and wind. Solar power is gradually becoming adopted by many businesses and residential property owners as a way to both save money and transition to a cleaner energy future. Here are four interesting facts about solar power.
Fastest Growing Industry
Solar power is the 10th fastest growing industry in the United States. Currently, solar energy supplies for less than 1% of America’s energy needs; however, within a one year span beginning in the third quarter of 2011, the United States solar energy market grew 140 percent, and it continues to grow. The drop in solar panel prices and the incentives offered by governments around the world looking to reward their nations for adopting technologies that encourage environmental friendliness are facilitating the introduction of solar power to areas of the world that previously relied only non-renewable resources for fuel. In America, solar is the most rapidly growing energy source, creating power for an increasing number of homes and business establishments.
Uses of Solar Power
Solar power can be used to carry out a multitude of tasks while polluting less. The sun is the primary source of energy for all life forms on planet earth. The energy itself is clean, and can be used to light buildings, cook food, heat and cool rooms, heat water, and to conduct other tasks that require electrical power. This source of energy is as considered at least as reliable as a fuel source as other currently-used non-renewable resources, and does not emit greenhouse gases that pollute the atmosphere as do fossil fuels.
Solar vs. Fossil Fuels
The energy we can get from all of the earth’s coal, oil, and natural gas reserves can be matched by a supply of only 20 days of sunshine. As light from the sun makes its way down to earth, it loses some energy that is reflected back into space and some absorbed by the atmosphere; however, as an average over the entire surface, each square meter of planet earth accumulates approximately the energy equivalent of nearly a barrel of oil per year. For obvious reasons, this figure is not applicable on every segment of land on the planet, but it does suggest that the potential for solar energy harvesting is significant.
Air and Space
Solar energy has been used to power several aircrafts, some since 1958. In fact, solar technologies constitute most of the power used during space missions, since other fuel sources are virtually nonexistent in space. The International Space Station (ISS) is a spacecraft that is notably known for the solar arrays which are used to power the crafts sensors, its propulsions, and the technologies within the vessel. Solar energy is also used in vehicles of air travel. NASA has created a prototype of the solar-powered aircraft Pathfinder, which is powered only by sunlight and could stay aloft all day. This concept was applied in real-life in 1990 by Eric Scott Raymond, who created and flew a real sun-fueled aircraft over 4,000 kilometers across the United States.
Designers of greener technologies such as Raymond and scientists alike are continuing to look toward solar power as a practical solution to creating a more sustainable future, and the status of solar power as an entirely viable option continues to gain supporters around the world.