Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular as the world takes notice of the burgeoning carbon emission problems that come with burning fossil fuels. But why all the fuss? Nay-sayers have become less and less vocal as solarâ€™s popularity has grown increasingly unhindered.
Advantages of Solar Energy
No greenhouse gases
The first and foremost advantage of solar energy is that, beyond panel production, it does not emit any greenhouse gases. Solar energy is produced by conducting the sun's radiation - a process void of any smoke, gas, or another chemical by-product. This is the main driving force behind all green energy technology, as nations attempt to meet climate change obligations in curbing emissions. Italy's Montalto di Castro solar park is a good example of solar's contribution to curbing emissions. It avoids 20,000 tonnes per year of carbon emissions compared to fossil fuel energy production.
Ongoing Free Energy
Another advantage of using solar energy is that beyond initial installation and maintenance, solar energy is free. Solar doesn't require expensive and ongoing raw materials like oil or coal, and requires significantly lower operational labor than conventional power production. Raw materials don't have to be constantly extracted, refined, and transported to the power plant. Life expectancy ranges between manufacturers, but many panels produced today carry a 25-30 year warranty - with a life expectancy of up to 40 years.
Decentralization of power
Solar energy offers decentralization in most (sunny) locations, meaning self-reliant societies. Oil, coal, and gas used to produce conventional electricity are often transported cross-country or internationally. This transportation has a myriad of additional costs, including monetary costs, pollution costs of transport, and roading wear and tear costs, all of which is avoided with solar. Of course, decentralization has its limits as some locations get more sunlight than others.
Going off the grid with solar
Solar energy can be produced on or off the grid. On-grid means a house remains connected to the state electricity grid. Off-grid has no connection to the electricity grid, so the house, business or whatever being powered is relying solely on solar or solar-hybrid. The ability to produce electricity off the grid is a major advantage of solar energy for people who live in isolated and rural areas. Power prices and the cost of installing power lines are often exorbitantly high in these places and many have frequent power-cuts. Many city-dwellers are also choosing to go off the grid with their alternate energy as part of a self-reliant lifestyle.
A particularly relevant and advantageous feature of solar energy production is that it creates jobs. The EIAA states that Europe's solar industry has created 100,000 jobs so far. Solar jobs come in many forms, from manufacturing, installing, monitoring and maintaining solar panels, to research and design, development, cultural integration, and policy jobs. The book Natural Capitalism offers a good perspective on the employment potential of green design and a prudent approach to using resources. The book proposes that while green technology and associated employment can be expensive, much greater money can be saved when combined with proven "whole-system" efficiency strategies (e.g passive lighting and airflow)With solar energy currently contributing only an estimated 4% of the world's electricity, and an economic model where raw materials don't have to be indefinitely purchased and transported, it's reasonable so assume solar jobs are sustainable if the solar industry can survive the recession.
Solar's avoidance of politics and price volatility
One of the biggest advantages of solar energy is the ability to avoid the politics and price volatility that is increasingly characterizing fossil fuel markets. The sun is an unlimited commodity that can be sourced from many locations, meaning solar is less vulnerable to the price manipulations and politics that have more than doubled the price of many fossil fuels in the past decade. While the price of fossil fuels has increased, the per watt price of solar energy production has more than halved in the past decade - and is set to become even cheaper in the near future as better technology and economies of scale take effect. Furthermore, the ever-abundant nature of the sun's energy would hint at a democratic and competitive energy market - where wars aren't fought over oil fields and high-demand raw materials aren't controlled by monopolies. Of course, a new form of politics has emerged with regard to government incentives and the adoption of solar, however, these politics are arguably minor compared to the fossil fuel status quo.
Saving eco-systems and livelihoods
Because solar doesn't rely on constantly mining raw materials, it doesn't result in the destruction of forests and eco-systems that occurs with many fossil fuel operations. Destruction can come in many forms, from destruction through accepted extraction methods, to more irresponsible practices in vulnerable areas, to accidents. Major examples include Canada's tar sands mining which involves the systematic destruction of the Boreal Forest (which accounts for 25% of the world's intact forest land), and creates large toxic by-product ponds. The Niger Delta is an example where excessive and irresponsible oil extraction practices have poisoned fishing deltas previously used by villagers as the main source of food and employment, creating extremely desperate poverty and essentially decimating villages. A more widely known, but arguably lower human-cost incident is the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It killed 11 people and spilled 780 thousand cubic meters of crude oil into the sea.
The best is yet to come
Solar technology is currently improving in leaps and bounds. Across the world, and particularly in Europe, savvy clean technology researchers are making enormous developments in solar technology. What was expensive, bulky, and inefficient yesterday, is becoming cheaper, more accessible, and vastly more efficient each week.
The OxyLED® TSP-02 Solar Motion Sensor Super Bright LED Wall Mount
is great to have whether you do or do not have stairs. While it`s advertised as stair lights, these could also be used throughout the house, in your shed, etc. - not just your stairs. This is well made and actually works rather well not to mention it looks nice too. Installation was painless and easy to do with no special skills required, although instructions are provided if you find they are necessary. It comes with a large piece of double-sided mounting tape and a mounting screw, but I would suggest using the screw because the tape usually doesn`t last long. It holds for a while then the unit starts to fall on me. It has a solar panel facing upwards with two LEDs within the unit and the center portion has fogged windows to provide less blinding light. It`s not a super bright light but it`s bright enough to illuminate a pretty decent sized area. On the back, there is an off/Auto switch that allows the unit to be turned off in transit. There are also screws on the back side to change the lithium-ion battery. The solar panel charges the battery fully in 4.5 hours and can last for a long time as it has a sunlight detector with a motion detector. The motion sensor can detect moving objects close to the 5-foot mark so it will only activate at night and when someone is near the area. There are two light levels. One is constantly on when it gets dark. This is low powered light and simply causes the middle section to glow as a night light type thing. The main LED will light up and stay on as long as you are in the area or for around 30 seconds when you move off. Overall it`s a great light, perfect for illuminating a pathway, but don`t expect it to replace your main lights in terms of brightness. Definitely great to have around though!
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