By Moustafa Hassab-Allah, Environment Issue Analyst

There is no wonder that solar energy is the biggest available energy for earth’s needs; it has about 1280 times our electrical energy needs in (2005) (http://www.eia.doe.gov/iea/elec.html), more over it is abundant in more than 60 % of the world lands. The challenge for us is how to get it.

Over the past million years, plants used sunlight to obtain energy for their survival, photosynthesis process is considered a low efficiency process that needs water and soil to emerge.  Solar energy is typically used by humans to provide direct heating of fluids for human use; it is also used to generate electricity directly through photovoltaic cells.

Companies like GE, and Siemens are taking solar energy so seriously that they pumped funds of billions of dollars on solar energy projects.  Big companies have realized the importance of solar, now it is time to spread the idea among people.

Some power plants use a combined solar and fossil fuel for power generation. Three plants are being constructed in Egypt, Algeria and Morocco, and several plants are on the drawing board in Mexico, India and Iran. (http://social.csptoday.com/industry-insight/integrated-solar-combined-cycle-plants-right-place-right-time). In the US, some power plants are implanted in available desert land; like Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS), the largest solar energy generating facility in the world  of California‘s Mojave Desert , and the 13 MW Nellis Solar Power Plant in Nevada which was inaugurated in Dec 2007.

Ironically, The African Sahara and middle east Arabian Desert is by far the most important piece of land for the world to generate solar energy  in the future, with the largest exposed solar energy area in the world of (about 11,000,000 square kilometer).  There, each square meter of land receives up to an average of 1413 watts during day. However, some political issues may exist there , Marrocan west desert problem, Instabilities of Mauritania, Algeria, and Egypt .

However, politics is not the only challenge in harvesting sunlight — more technology challenges are facing the industry, mostly the cost effectiveness of solar energy generation.  The world needs lower cost per KW of solar energy before we can start using it. Some countries putlegal implications on the environmental impact of fossil fuel so this can stimulate renewable energy use, however I think this is not the right way to do it. I believe that the real technological challenge facing solar energy is funding academic research towards development of such methods.

Environmentally, solar energy’s Co2 footprint is only about 1/13 of similar oil Co2 emissions, so using solar energy is definitely a plus if we consider the impact on the environment. Thinking of solar as a hope for the future is logical, that’s why knowledge about solar power should be spread among new generations, university students , and decision makers allowed the world.

Advertisements