Solar Panels Save Money and Much More
More and more people are starting to look into the possibility of obtaining their electricity from solar panels installed on their homes or in their gardens. The reasons for this sudden interest in solar power are not difficult to understand. Electricity and gas bills are set to rise yet again, and the catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, has shown us that the so-called ‘clean, safe and cheap’ energy generated by nuclear plants is not so clean, safe and cheap as was claimed. On the contrary, it now looks extremely dirty, dangerous and expensive. If such an accident can happen in Japan, a highly industrialized high-tech country, which prides itself on its focus on safety, cleanliness, and precision, then it could happen anywhere,
Solar energy, on the other hand, is clean, safe, and renewable. It is also in abundant supply, as every hour our planet receives more energy than all the energy used by the entire world in a whole year. Some people think that solar energy is only a possible power source in countries with a lot of sunshine, and that in many other colder countries that it is not viable. But even in countries or states with lots of cloud cover, sunlight can still produce plenty of electricity using photovoltaic solar panels.
How do solar panels work? They are made using silicon which is the second most abundant element on earth (it’s found in sand). The pure form of silicon is the perfect material to make a platform of solar cells to transmit electrons.
Politicians in just about every country around the world have decided that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced, in addition to this the catastrophic dangers of nuclear energy are plain for all to see, so it seems inevitable that solar power will have a major role to play in our future energy requirements.
The good news about solar power, however, is that we don’t have to wait for the future, it is already here. Solar power, in the form of large power plants, small solar panels and more efficient ‘solar funnels’, is already capable of supplying safe, clean and renewable energy now.
As more and more people start to install solar panels, the costs are starting to fall significantly. In fact the price of solar panels is now half of what it was in 2007 and is expected to fall even further in the years to come! So as the cost of electricity provided by your utility firm continues to go through the roof, you can cut your bills by putting solar panels on your own roof (or in your garden). Businesses are also starting to understand the need to cut their bills and some governments are starting to insist that new buildings should incorporate solar panels from the outset.
In major European countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Spain etc. more and more people are turning to solar energy, and in the US it is the fastest growing industry in the country. Solar installations in the US will surpass those of Germany by 2012. The world is facing rising pollution, climate change and global warming. These major issues need a solution and solar energy which does not produce any harmful waste products, unlike fossil fuels, and is not dangerous like nuclear energy, is one of the obvious solutions.
Japan’s Commitment to Renewable Energy
On 25 May Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, pledged that Japan will have ten million solar-powered homes, and the country will make a major move to renewable energy push in the coming years after its nuclear power plant disaster. “Japan aims to install solar panels on the roofs of about 10 million houses,” Kan said. He has scrapped the Japanese national energy policy plan which had nuclear reactors meeting half of Japan’s power needs by 2030. The aim now is to make renewable power sources the “key pillars” in energy provision.
“We will elevate renewable energy to one of society’s core energy sources,” Kan said. “We will engage in drastic technological innovation in order to increase the share of renewable energy in total electric power supply up to 20 percent by the earliest possible, in 2020.” In order to achieve this, Japan will drastically reduce the costs involved in generating solar power – to one third of its current level by 2020 and to one sixth by 2030.
This move to renewable energy shows Japan’s commitment “to review its basic energy plan from scratch” after the nuclear crisis, he added.
In another development, Japanese telecomms company Softbank is to move into renewable energy, after announcing the construction of 10 large solar power plants.
Softbank’s CEO and President Masayoshi Son, Japan’s richest person, is a high-profile advocate for a move away from nuclear power to renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal energy.
Son and local officials will launch a “Natural Energy Council” in July to promote natural energy power generation. “We want to set up the council, considering how we can create initial momentum toward expanding natural energy power generation in a concrete and swift manner,” Son told reporters. “I believe we can make a significant achievement by combining various kinds of natural energy sources appropriately in each region.”
Son has proposed building an “Eastern Japan Solar Belt” at a cost of $97 million which will also help revitalize areas hit by the tsunami.
If the project is implemented, Softbank will probably use solar panels manufactured by Sharp Corp.
Solar Power and the Environment
Solar energy is very environmentally friendly, as manufacturing the cells used in solar panels causes very minimal pollution. There are also no harmful effects when solar energy is used. The cost of installing solar power devices is becoming quite affordable, so they can be bought and used by people on average incomes. Solar devices can be used for decades without any problems, are highly cost effective and very low maintenance. They are easy to install and autonomous, so homes in remote places can produce their own electricity.
For people who are not averse to a bit of DIY it is even possible to put together your own solar panels, thus reducing costs even further.