Posted: October 17th, 2013
Energy is a key requirement needed for the world to develop. Most countries in the world see energy as the most important factor needed for agricultural and industrial development (Muralikrishna and Lakshminarayana 50). As the world population grows, the demand for energy is increasingly becoming a problem. The issue of climate change along with the steady decrease of the world’s fossil energy reserves has worsened the global energy crisis. Conservation of energy, therefore involves both the careful use of currently available energy resources and the production of new energy in an environmentally friendly way. The past few years have seen a lot of emphasis placed on the latter as the use of renewable energy technology grows steadily (Muralikrishna and Lakshminarayana 50). Renewable energy sources are those that rely on primary energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Solar energy has proven to be a source of renewable energy that could become remarkably affordable in the years to come (Karakosta, Pappas, and Psarras 771).
Discourse on solar energy usually entails three key issues; development, conservation of the environment and satisfaction of the world’s energy demands. On development, Muralikrishna and Lakshminarayana argue that energy is a very important factor in industrial and agricultural development (50). Additionally, the development of rural areas in lesser-developed countries hinges on the availability of affordable energy. Most developing countries suffer from energy deficits. As a result, there is a growing need to harvest renewable energy sources because of their natural availability, their affordability, their environmental friendly nature and because they cannot be exhausted (Muralikrishna and Lakshminarayana 50).
Karakosta, Pappas, and Psarras argue that the world needs renewable energy, such as solar energy, to satisfy the rising demand for energy (771). To satisfy this high demand, many countries in the world have to import energy and this affects their budgets and their economies because of the high cost of energy. To deal with this problem, lesser-developed countries are choosing to harvest renewable energy. This is helping them satisfy the demand for energy. The harnessing of renewable energy is also helping these countries to sustain their economic growth and create employment (771). Burger and Gochfeld agree that there is a need to take action and deal with the rising demand for energy globally (303). They argue, “the potential interruption of energy supply provides a threat to stable economies, national security and global stability” (Burger and Gochfeld 303). The world needs to end its dependence on fossil energy and renewable energy sources could be the best solution.
Scholars have also discussed solar energy as a solution to climate change. Climate change is one of the most critical problems that the environment will face in the future (Karakosta, Pappas, and Psarras 771). The realization that green house gas emissions are destroying the atmosphere has led to the search for alternatives to fossil fuels. Scientists all over the world are conducting research into environmentally friendly energy sources with a lot of this research focusing on renewable energy (Ginley, Green, and Collins 355). Karakostas, Parras and Psarras, claim that some forms of concentrated solar energy are able to produce electricity while emitting low levels of green house gases. Climate change can be controlled and perhaps even stopped by the widespread use of solar energy.
While all scholars agree that solar energy can satisfy the world’s energy demands and control climate change, there are a few disagreements concerning the effectiveness of solar energy. Muralikrishna and Lakshminarayana argue that solar energy used on its own cannot quell the rising demand for energy (53). They propose that hybrid systems combining wind and solar be used to help ease the impact of seasonal highs and lows. Burger and Gochfeld pointed out that industries use fossil fuels to manufacture the materials needed to harness solar power. This means that an increased use of fossil fuels may precede the widespread use of solar energy. The purpose of reviewing this literature was to gain an understanding of the common arguments made in the discourse on solar energy. The first part of the review will summarize the studies that various scholars conducted on solar energy, the second part will address any shortcomings that were in the studies while the conclusion will address the literary gap in the studies analyzed.
Ginley, Green and Collins argue that everyday the earth receives 162,000 terawatts (TW) of energy from the sun, and that harnessing just one terawatt could “significantly impact the overall energy balance” (355). They argue that photovoltaic systems (PV systems) are a very vital part of the future of the world’s energy. The decreased availability of fossil fuels coupled with their detrimental effects on the atmosphere is helping drive the world towards renewable energy. Solar energy provides a reliable and readily available alternative (Ginley, Green, and Collins 355). The impact of these PV systems is also spreading into the economy. Ginley, Green and Collins also argue the PV systems can be economic drivers as their production industries surpass those of the microelectronics, telecommunications and display industries (355). Their analysis into solar energy looks mostly into how scientists can improve PV systems to harness even more energy than they already do. This study is particularly significant because it addresses two issues that have not received a lot of attention; the economic impact that the PV systems have and possible improvements to the PV systems.
Karakosta, Pappas and Psarras, conducted a study looking into how solar energy can to satisfy the energy needs of a developing country (771). They argue that concentrated solar power (CSP) can deliver key energy services for the country. This would be a perfect fit for a developing country as the world turns towards sustainable development practices to mitigate the negative impact of various development programs on the environment. The sustainable character of most renewable energies means, “They are able to preserve resources and to provide security, diversity of energy supply and services, virtually without environmental impact” (Karakosta, Pappas, Psarras 771). In addition to being sustainable, solar energy can quell the acute demand for energy that almost all developing countries face. The study specifically addresses how Chile can use the vast Atacama Desert to harness solar power, as opposed to exploiting new coal reserves found in the South.
Muralikrishna’s and Lakshminarayana’s study explores the use of hybrid systems that combine wind and solar energy in rural electrification programs (50). Like the other scholars, they address three key situations concerning the global energy situation. The first is that the world’s energy demands have been rising in the past few years. The second issue is that scientists should come up with more technologies that produce energy in an environmentally friendly way. The last issue is that renewable energy sources are the solution to the current global energy crisis (Muralikrishna and Lakshminarayana 50). Muralikrishna and Lakshminarayana also claim that many developing countries face energy deficits (50). PV systems and wind systems have been widely promoted as solutions to the energy deficits, but they cannot solve the problem completely because they are vulnerable to climatic seasons. Integrating and optimizing these systems can improve the reliability for each of them and reduce the cost of power (53).
Burger and Gochfeld looked into the ecological footprints that renewable energy sources leave (303). They observed that there is a need to take a careful look into the ecological footprints left by each renewable energy source as the world looks to increase the use of these sources exponentially (Burger and Gochfeld 303). There needs to be careful monitoring of the resources to understand the impacts that they have on the environment and human health. The environmental impacts should also take into consideration the effects that these energy sources have on wildlife (Burger and Gochfeld 304). Environmental and human health monitoring can judge whether energy types are truly sustainable or not (Burger and Gochfeld 305). Burger and Gochfeld developed a conceptual framework for measuring the impact of the energies on the ecological footprint (306). This framework took into account four areas, the underground, the surface, the airshed (lower atmosphere) and the upper atmosphere. Their study is particularly crucial in the discourse on renewable energies because they look into an area that has seen little research, the impact of renewable energy sources on the environment.
These four studies have taken different approaches to the issue of solar energy but still looked into the three key issues mentioned previously. First, they all looked into ways in which renewable energies such as solar energy can mitigate help mitigate climate change. The second issue that the studies looked into was how solar energy and other renewable energies can help to satisfy the rising global demand for energy. Lastly, the studies all addressed the issue of renewable energy and development by looking into how energies such as solar energy can help countries boost or sustain economic growth. The studies differed on a few issues. An example is the PV systems. While Ginley, Green and Collins claimed that the systems could significantly change the global energy situation, Muralikrishna and Lakshminarayana argued the PV systems would not work well on their own as they are vulnerable to climatic seasons. The overall conclusion, however, was that solar energy and other renewable forms of energy are the future due to their environmental friendly nature and their sustainability.
These four studies have revealed that solar energy is an excellent solution to the global energy crisis due to its sustainability and the fact that it is infinite. The studies also showed that the world’s quest for sustainable development could benefit by increasing the use of renewable energies. One key issue is that there has been little documented analysis on the impact that solar energy has on the environment. It is highly likely that the impact is negligible, but it appears as if the scientific community has already made that assumption without any real research activity. Secondly, there is a shortage of information concerning the disadvantages of using solar energy. Researchers have documented a few issues like the vulnerability to climatic seasons, but there is a need to address the wider scope. Further research should be undertaken to see how the economy will be impacted as the world ponders making a full switch to solar energy and other renewable energies.
Burger, Joanna, and Michael Gochfeld. “A Conceptual Framework Evaluating Ecological Footprints and Monitoring Renewable Energy: Wind, Solar, Hydro, and Geothermal”. Energy and Power Engineering 4 (2012): 303-314. Web. 04 April 2013.
Ginley, David, Martin A Green, and Collins, Reuben. “Solar Energy Conversion toward 1 Terawatt”. MRS Bulletin 33 (2008): 355-364. Web. 04 April 2013
Karakosta, Charikleia, Charalampos Pappas, and Psarras, John. “Prospects of concentrating solar power to deliver key energy services in a developing country”. International Journal of Energy and Environment 2.5 (2011): 771-782. Web. 04 April 2013.
Muralikrishna, M, and V. Lakshminarayana. “Hybrid (Solar and Wind) Energy Systems for Rural Electrification”. ARPN Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences 3.5 (2008): 50-58. Web. 04 April 2013.
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