Saturday, September 3, 2011
Identifying the Opportunities in Alternative Energy
Solar energy is, perhaps, the first energy source that comes to mind when most people think of renewable sources of energy, but solar power is still a long way from being mainstream. It accounts for less than 1 percent of the world?s energy today. There are two main ways to harness the power of the sun to generateelectricity: photovoltaic (PV), where sunlight is directly converted into electricity via solar cells, and solar thermal power. PV is a proven technology that is most appropriate for small?scale applications to provide heat and power to individual houses and businesses. Sunlight falls on a layer of semiconductors, which jostles electrons. This, in turn, creates an electrical current that can be used as a source for heat. Solar PV cells are already cost effective for powering houses and businesses in some regions. Technological developments have reduced costs considerably over the last few years. However, largescale electricity production using solar energy costs about 22 cents per kilowatt?hour, significantly more expensive than its fossil fuel competitors and nuclear energy. This makes it more appropriate for specific applications rather than large scale power generation at this stage of development. Hopes to reduce these costs lie with newer technologies. As is the case with wind energy, solar power has most traction in countries such as Germany, Spain, Cyprus and Japan, all of which offer incentives to improve the uptake of renewable energy sources as part of their implementation of a diversified energy policy. In Cyprus, more than 50 percent of hotels and 90 percent of homes have solar water heating.