This article is was taken from a larger piece on energy, but here the focus is on solar.
Because some kinds of energy are continuously being created from primary sources, they are said to be recurring, renewable, or sustainable resources. As we discussed, some of these sources include the energy in wind, flowing streams, geothermal energy, the energy in ocean tides, and solar energy. The total amount of energy in these recurring sources is large in relation to the world’s energy needs, and can be collected at a reasonable cost.
Solar energy is radiated from the Sun in the form of heat and light. Everything on Earth uses sunlight for power. It gives humans essential vitamins, it is used by green plants for photosynthesis, and when harnessed, it can become solar electricity. Solar energy is harnessed by solar panels, which are panes of glass and plastic, containing electric cells that convert solar radiation directly into electricity, transferring the Sun's radiation into energy for use. Let me tell you one reason why solar electricity is vital to saving the world. We get a lot of it. Solar radiation outside the Earth’s atmosphere is 1.4 Kilowatts per square mile.
Expressed in terms of Q Units( Q = 1, 000,000,000,000,000,000 BTU’s) the amount of solar radiation striking the Earth’s atmosphere in a year is 5000Q. More than half of this reaches the surface of Earth, with over 900 Q per year being absorbed over land, and the remainder over water.
Solar energy’s potential is off the charts. The energy in sunlight striking the Earth for 40 minutes, is equivalent to global energy consumption for a year. We are lucky to be endowed with such a vast resource. There are at least 250,000 square miles of land in the southwestern United States alone, that receives more than 4500 quadrillion BTU’s of solar radiation a year. Converting only 2.5 percent of that radiation into electricity would match their entire nation’s total energy consumption in 2006.
High prices for oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products are here to stay. Prices will not drop because our demand is higher than our supply. Many countries throughout the world are at war over this, including the United States who are seemingly constantly at war with a nation in the Middle East at least in part to protect it’s foreign oil interests. China, India, and other nations are also rapidly increasing their demands for fossil fuels. Power plants that burn coal, oil, and natural gas, as well as all of the vehicles all over the world, continue to pour billions of tons of pollution and greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere annually, and all of this is threatening the entire planet.
The conclusion is quite obvious: we need to make a massive switch to solar power to combat these problems, or at the very least, we need to integrate solar power into our electrical systems.
Consider the fact that 2 billion people, or 30% of the worlds population, are currently living without electricity. About half of these people could afford solar power at the commercial prices they are today, if they had the opportunity to receive it, rent it, or pay it off in installments. For example, 25 million rural Brazilians are electricity free. Some of these families pay roughly $13 a month for diesel fuel, kerosene, and batteries. The amount these people spend on non-renewable energy could be used to pay for renewable energy, and once it is paid off they would never have to pay for electricity again, duplicating those savings every month. In addition to providing the obvious benefits of things like lighting and computers, switching to solar electricity has many other advantages. Refrigeration is perhaps one of the highest benefits, as being able to cool food to prevent disease or deterioration in quality, is a necessity electricity could provide. Heating and air conditioning could save people’s lives in times of intense weather. Examples are abundant. Switching from kerosene lamps to electric solar lighting would translate to better health for families. Institutions could be created where people could receive medical, surgical, psychiatric, or nursing care. Education would improve as more specialized academic subjects could be taught with the help of electricity. For these countries which currently have no electricity, solar power will boost their economies. It will help business owners have higher production of goods and services, thereby boosting their sales. It will help increase farmers yields. Solar electricity can be manufactured and installed at much faster and cheaper rates than conventional power plants because of their straightforward design and relative lack of environmental and safety complications.
The United Earth will come up with a comprehensive detailed plan to proliferate safe renewable solar energy, and to make sure that all people around the world have free and equal access to it. Moreover, the United Earth’s solar investment would enhance global energy security, reduce financial burdens, and greatly decrease the societal costs of pollution, and global warming, from human, plant, and animal health troubles, to the larger harm we cause the planet itself. Furthermore, this switch to solar energy will provide more than enough electricity to the world. Further still, we will not have to spend money on fossil fuels in any way.
And this is a vital point, that all of this is less expensive than any other system, because a good deal of energy is actually consumed just to extract and process those fossil fuels. More is wasted in burning them, and even more is wasted trying to control their emissions. So, aside from some of the obvious benefits, a solar grand plan would also ultimately lower energy consumption.
Solar electricity also relieves stress on the other electrical companies, cutting their costs, and cutting demand, and this should therefore drop the price of electricity. However, as we all know, most of those companies aren’t there to give you electricity, like the United Earth is doing. Those companies want to make profits by selling you electricity. They will resist this movement. They want to continue to charge you more money for their brand of electricity.
THE SUN SHINES FOR ALL
The United Earth Department of Energy is committed to several principles, one of the most important among them is to develop a global renewable energy program, that can free the world from our dependence on fossil fuels. My analysis is that a massive switch to solar power is a logical and affordable answer to this problem.
The Sun Shines For All is a project devoted to the development of a solar growth organizations, that will deliver free solar electricity to the whole world. This will happen through two steps: 1.) the subsidization of private usage solar cells, which can be set up at the home, farm, office, business, etc., to create electricity for all people, and 2.) the development of a Global Electricity Grid, or a network of cables, lines, and pipes for distributing electricity, from massive solar power plants, and photovoltaic farms, through high voltage direct current (HVDC) power lines, that run all over the world, connecting every nation to one global grid.
To convert the world to solar power, we must, and the United Earth Department of Energy will, undergo a sequence of stages, that will lead us all to energy self sufficiency. I believe that each of the following steps are urgent, and all efforts are needed now to confront the coming catastrophe.
Stage 1= Production and Deployment: we must begin mass production of photovoltaic cells and modules, opening the way for large-scale deployment. Various cell types exist and the technology is steadily advancing, but even some of the least expensive modules, cadmium telluride, are most efficient in today’s standards and can be used to provide electricity even on a cloudy day. These are the photovoltaic cells that must be mass produced and freely given to the public.
In these thin film cells, the energy from incoming sunlight, called photons, knocks loose electrons in the cadmium telluride layer. The electrons cross a junction, flow to the top conductive layer, and then flow around to the back conductive layer, creating current.
The United Earth is committed to the manufacturing of products like these, in very large quantities, and the mass marketing of it, to as many people as possible, by advertising and promoting it widely. Once mass production is well under way, we can begin organization of the transportation, deployment, and set up of these private usage solar cells. Divisions within the Department of Energy will monitor the whole operation, including set up and controlling or managing the way the solar cells carry out their functions, to ensure that maximum efficiency is being obtained. Soon every house in the world would have their own solar panels, and produce their own energy, and we wouldn't need to rely so much on the energy companies.
Stage 2 = Photovoltaic Farms and Concentrated Solar Power Plants: To alter the world’s electrical systems to use solar power, huge tracts of land will have to be converted into solar farms with photovoltaic panels and solar heating troughs. In the past few years, the cost to produce such photovoltaic cells and modules has dropped significantly opening the door for large scale operations. Energy and electrical companies will want to be a part of this massive system, because this is where a lot of the electricity will be coming from in the future. People could also set up their own solar farms and be paid by the United Earth. Solarculture will become a new industry, where farmers harvest sunlight on their property for the purpose of producing and storing solar electricity, and these farmers will be paid accordingly to do so. In these solar farms, many photovoltaic cells are interconnected to one module, and modules are wired together to form an array. The direct current from each array flows to a transformer that sends electricity along high voltage lines to the power grid.
Word Of the Day
Comes from: <Latin solaris "sun" and Latin: cultura “cultivate" >
1.) the science, skill, or occupation of cultivating and preparing land to produce energy from the Sun's radiation.
2.) The use of a piece of land on which solar electricity is harvested, stored, produced, or processed, especially on an industrial scale.
3.) The amount of energy harvested from an area of land which collects sunlight, during one particular period of time.
Large solar concentrator power plants will be built as well. In our designs, long, metallic mirrors focus sunlight onto a pipe, heating the fluid inside the pipe. The hot fluid runs through a heat exchanger which produces steam, the steam then turns a turbine, which generates electricity that can be sent out into the grid. Solar concentrators are basically furnaces, equipped with a series of concave mirrors that are motorized to follow the Sun to focus its radiation, which will obtain and maintain extremely high temperatures.
Stage 3 = Energy Storage: For energy storage in a solar power plant, pipes run into a large insulated tank, filled with molten salt, which retains heat efficiently. This can also be turned into steam, which turns the turbine, creating electricity. Excess electricity produced would also be sent to compressed air energy storage sites. Incoming electricity runs motors which compresses the air and sends it into these sites, which could be vacant caverns, mines, or aquifers, or anywhere the air can be kept in a contained area under pressure. When the air is released, it is heated by burning small amounts of natural gas and this creates steam, which turns a turbine, generating electricity that can be sent out to the grid.
Stage 4 = Solarcultural Landmass: To generate enough electricity to release the world from it’s dependence on fossil fuels, we will have to utilize several of the very large and unbroken areas of land, especially any part of the Earth's surface that suits this kind of particular purpose. For example, the Sahara Desert, which is the largest desert in the world, covering much of northern Africa, with an area of 9,100,000 sq km/3,500,000 sq mi., receives abundant solar radiation, is virtually unpopulated, and would create little to no environmental concerns if several areas were converted to solar arrays. In fact, it would take no more than approximately 50,000 square miles of the Sahara, to distribute enormous amounts of electricity, encompassing all of Africa‘s electrical needs right now and has enough for the future. In the Northern Territory and Western states of Australia, more very large areas of land could be devoted to solarculture, totally freeing the world's smallest continent and one of the world‘s largest islands from fossil fuel dependency. In the southwestern United States, we would need to cover only 46,000 square miles, and this would comprise most of North America’s electrical needs.
This is essentially a matter of deciding where to build. There is more than enough land available without requiring the manipulation of environmentally sensitive areas, population centers, or difficult terrain. The United Earth will organize this difficult task and designate certain lands to be made available for the purpose of creating this system. Furthermore, we may not necessarily need to cover so much land, if we use a simple tool of logic that we often forget--think 3 dimensionally. If we build our arrays upward, instead of outward, we can have many more solar panels using the same amount of land. We should consider designing solar paneled skyscrapers.
Stage 5 = Global Grid: To ensure that all people have equality of access to electricity, all over the world, we must set up a new global electrical grid, that connects all continents, all nations, all people, together. There are 10 big pieces to this global grid puzzle. Each area is chosen by population, and their electrical needs. North America, South America, Europe, Africa, China, India, Russia, the Middle East, Australia, and Indonesia. Each of these areas will have their own solar generation systems, to supply their people with electricity. Most of the world’s solar generation would stand in Africa, as it is the most qualified area for meeting our demands, but connecting the world to an African electrical grid will not easily be achieved. Furthermore any of the other solarcultural landmasses will not be so close to exactly where the power is most needed. Therefore electrical power must be sent along power lines, which are cables that carry electricity from a power station to the users of the electricity. The existing system of alternating current (AC) power lines is not robust enough to carry power from these centers to the rest of the world, and they would lose too much energy over such long distances. A new high voltage direct current (HVDC) power transmission system will be built, and would expand throughout each of the 10 population centers of the world. Also, a new HVDC backbone will stretch across continents, connecting all people to the global grid, via as many existing rights of way as possible, to minimize land acquisition and regulatory hurdles. The backbones, for example, could be built upon such areas as old or vacant power lines, or along new or old highway systems, interstates and corridors. Sometimes they will have to be built around lakes, mountains, cities, and other areas that need protection. The main progress required by this global grid, is for people to begin to think that electricity has no borders, and it must be offered freely to everyone. All things that I’ve mentioned in this section exist already, just not as organized or uniform as needed. This map is by no means accurate, but just an example.
This is just a quick recap of the key concepts involved in this solar grand plan. First of all, this bold new strategy, to free us from our fossil fuel usage, and to reduce our emissions, will require a massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, to solar power which could supply the world’s electricity and it’s total energy usage, by building large solar concentrator power plants, and vast areas of photovoltaic farms, which would have to be erected. Excess energy could be stored as compressed air in underground caverns, and new high voltage power transmission lines will have to be built to deliver solar electricity across the globe.
The amount of electricity created by this plan includes enough to supply all electricity consumed by electric vehicles, which will displace their gasoline counterparts. This is key to reducing dependence on oil, and to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The huge reduction in imported oil would lower trade balance payments by about $300 billion a year (assuming a crude oil price of $60 a barrel, even though average prices were higher in 2007). This new system will also create over 3 million new jobs, which is several times the number of jobs that would be lost in the future dwindling of fossil-fuel industries. Once this system is installed, it must be operated, maintained, and repaired when necessary, but the cost of sunlight is free, duplicating those fuel savings year after year.
Another part of the strategy will have the United Earth subsidize private usage solar cells, to further produce the electrical demands needed around the world. The technology is ready, and as modules improve, rooftop photovoltaics will become more and more capable of reducing electricity demand, and ongoing research would improve solar efficiency, cost, and storage. Supply would also be rounded out with the help of more wind farms, geothermal power plants, and biomass based production of other fuels, which would help us cover 100% of global energy needs. The greatest obstacle to implementing a renewable global energy system, is not technology or money, it is the lack of public awareness that solar power is practical, affordable, and attainable. Once we realize that potential, we can have global energy self-sufficiency, and we can reduce our global carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 100%.