Solar Energy as the World’s Safest Future Clean Energy Source

Term Paper, 2018

7 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents



Historical Background of Solar Energy

Revolution Need on Existing Technology Path

Revolution Need to Create New Technologies

The Controversial Issues Surrounding Solar Energy

Complex Relationships between Science, Technology and the Society in Solar Energy




Energy supply and demand determine global development course in every sphere of human activity. Adequate supplies of clean energy have undeniably observable correlation with global stability, increased life quality and economic prosperity. The search of energy sources that can meet the fast rising energy demand in the planet remains to be one of the foremost challenges facing the society for the next five decades. Over the years, large-scale power plants have been noted to develop at an alarming rate, using large tracts of land across the globe. The ecological issues that are allied to the installation of such plants and the operation phases of the facilities are yet to be adequately addressed. In the operation phases, there are evident impacts that can be categorized in diverse groups, namely, land use intensity, plant and animal life, human health and well-being, climate change and Geo-hydrological resources. The significance of this invasive challenge, along with the baffling difficulty of solving it will require rigorous national and international efforts that marshal the most advanced technological and scientific potentials. One of these efforts can be considered as the application of substitutes to the use of non-renewable as well as polluting fossil fuels, solar energy being one of these main alternatives in this case, as will be explored in this paper. Solar energy is one of the renewable energy resources that have become an increasingly valuable method of diversifying energy options in the world because it does not generate pollution. Driven by increasing technological advancements, rising energy prices along with falling costs, projects of solar energy are increasingly being developed in numerous nations across the globe. Therefore, solar energy remains to be a compelling solution to human demand for clean and abundant energy source in the future, though it may contain some challenges too.


Solar energy, a renewable resource, is the ultimate alternative energy source. It can be defined as the light and radiant heat that comes from the sun, influencing a number of systems and functions on the Earth, from weather and climate to plants photosynthetic process and life sustaining (IEA, 2004). Solar energy may be converted into diverse forms of energy including electricity and heat; indeed, for centuries, mankind has harnessed solar energy for different uses such as lighting wood for fire as well as generating steam (Nault, 2005). In other words, sunlight can be converted directly to electrical power in PV (photovoltaic) cells, commonly termed as solar cells.

Renewable energy technologies have been noted to have considerable roles in meeting future energy demand as communities are becoming more concerned about the impacts of using fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil. Evidently, these non-renewable energy sources are faced with several challenges including security concerns, volatile prices and pollution, and experts note that electricity costs will go high with depletion of such sources (Gratzel, 2007). Thus, generating power through renewable energy sources (in this case, solar) will reduce dependency on fossil fuels, lowering the amounts of generated pollution alongside providing crucial intermediate and peak-load electricity for utilities. For societies, the projects of solar energy may facilitate clean-up activities on the sites while large-scale solar projects have the potential of generating significant economic impacts on the locals from the project’s construction and operation.

Historical Background of Solar Energy

The technology of solar power is not a recent advent; in actual fact, this technology dates back to the industrial revolution era (mid 1800s) where solar power plants were established with the aim of heating water for steam generation to drive machinery. The photovoltaic effect that explains the manner by which electricity may be generated from sunlight was discovered by Alexander Edmond Becquerel, in 1839 (Nault, 2005). Becquerel confirmed that shining light on an electrode that has been immersed in a conductive solution; an electric current will be observed. Over a century later, in 1941, the solar cell was invented by Russell Ohl, shortly after the transistor invention (EPA, 2011). Nonetheless, the birth of the present era of PV solar cells occurred in 1954, after D. Chapin, G. Pearson and C. Fuller demonstrated solar cells that were based on p-n junctions in a single-crystal Si, though they had about 5-6% deficiencies; they widely dominate the commercial PV markets today (Nault, 2005). Between the mid 1950s and early 1970s, PV research and development (R&D), extensively turned focus on satellite power and space applications. Afterwards, in 1973, improved R&D level on solar cells was initiated, stimulated by oil embargo in that time, which caused widespread energy supply concern.

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Figure 1 World Photovoltaic cell/module production (in MWP).

Revolution Need on Existing Technology Path

In distinct regions in the world, the PV has persistently reduced solar power cost since the 1970s. For example, according to several surveys on learning curve for PV production in the United States, the cost of PV modules decreased at a rate of about 20% between 1970 and 2003 as noted in Fig. 2 (Nault, 2005). However, according to the surveyors, it is noted that when the present learning curve for these cells is applied, the anticipated realization of very-low-cost PV power, together with the associated widespread implementation would lie far in the future depending on annual production growth rate (Turney & Fthenakis, 2011). Thus, basic research is required not only for maintenance of the existing technology path and learning curve in evolution support, but to also produce a revolution to change the historical learning curve and cause reductions in the PV module cost-to-efficiency ratio (Gratzel, 2007).

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Figure 2 Learning Curve for solar cells (Nault, 2005)


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Solar Energy as the World’s Safest Future Clean Energy Source
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solar, energy, world’s, safest, future, clean, source
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Caroline Mutuku (Author), 2018, Solar Energy as the World’s Safest Future Clean Energy Source, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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