University of Phoenix (Online Campus)
Dr. Lloyd Stebbins
Accounting for a mere twelve point nine percent of the US’s total energy usage, renewable energy is slowly starting to climb into the normal day to day routine of many US citizens. Solar power made its mark back in 2011 when its total energy contribution surpassed the of nuclear power contributions and it was estimated that in 2014 nearly one hundred and fifty thousand people were hired to work in the ‘solar’ business. “The largest photovoltaic power plant in the world is the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, a 550 MW solar power plant under construction in Riverside County, California and the Topaz Solar Farm, a 550 MW photovoltaic power plant, being built in San Luis Obispo County, California” (DOE Closes on Four Major Solar Projects). California’s Solar Initiative was a program Governor Schwarzenegger spear headed which promises to create three thousand megawatts of new solar-produced energy by 2017. This program will offer cash incentives for those who elect to use solar PV systems – this is on top of the federal incentives already offered which may cover up to 50% of the total cost to install solar panels on one’s home.
Solar power is explained as the conversion of sunlight into electricity. The sun’s light is captured and stored as energy using either photovoltaics (PV) or concentrated solar power (CSP). PV systems convert light into electrical current directly, for immediate use while CSP systems use lenses or mirrors to focus sunlight in the form of a small beam. California was quick to jump on the solar bandwagon – seeing the need to renewable/alternative energy sources that gained large community support. California will utilize solar power, mostly, for the required 25% renewal recourse allotment set forth by the Renewable Portfolio Standard. By 2013 California had already produced 490 megawatts of CSP energy and over 5000 megawatts of PV energy. “The American Solar Energy Industries Association reports that a further 19,200 MW of utility-scale solar projects are under construction or development in the state as of August 2014” (Major Solar Projects List: Fact Sheet). California still holds the record for being the state with the most PV energy systems installed and continues to reach its supersede its goals to becoming completely reliant on solar power and other renewable energy sources.
One drawback to using solar power is that first the solar energy panels and systems need to be created in a factory which, in most cases, is not as energy efficient as their product! The biggest limitation associated with solar power is that energy cannot be produced at night, as this technology relies significantly on high levels on sunlight. Another limitation associated with the above mentioned issue is that solar power has low efficiency in the shade, so panels need to be installed where it can absorb most of the sunlight during a given day. Interestingly enough the solar systems are also affected by very high and very low temperatures – which affect the power cells ability to conduct or emit electrons after absorbing sunlight. The last issue, in my mind, would be that many complain that solar panels are an eye sore. I am sure we…