Photovoltaic Power Primer

Wayne National Forest Solar Panel Construction
Wayne National Forest Solar Panel Construction | Image by Flickr

photovoltaics is synonymous with solar energy. Solar energy is pollution-free, and plants and animals living on it since they first appeared on the earth. The sun is so powerful that it radiates a thousand times more energy than people use every day. All fossil fuels on Earth could not generate as much power as the energy that the Earth from the sun in four days.

As the United States seeks to free itself from dependence on carbon-based people ask how the country can harness the power of solar energy. In fact, the use of solar energy is not new. More than 100 years ago Henri Becquerel learned about the photovoltaic effect: the production of electricity can be used against the sun. Early solar energy applications dealt with detection and measurement of light instead of the creation of power. However, now the transistor and semiconductor technology have been investigated, new applications of photovoltaic found. In addition, solar energy has become more efficient as well.

Becquerel’s work was significantly advanced in 1954 when Bell Laboratories stumbled across the fact that silicon was very sensitive to light. Bell Laboratories was then able to take the first practical solar cells. A solar cell is a large device that uses solar energy. When cells are grouped together, they are called solar panels, solar panels or photovoltaic arrays.

Development continued as the United States government funded a project of NASA, which successfully uses solar panels in March 1958. With the Cold War raging in full fury, any technologies associated with the promotion of the space program were sure to boost the financing of governments for research into improved solar cells. In fact, in 1970 a team in the former Soviet Union developed a very effective solar cell structure that made use of both gallium and arsenic. These are important semiconductor compounds.

solar energy today is even more efficient. It is divided into two major groups. The first is discreet cell technology. The second integrated thin-film technology. Within these major groups of the efficiency and cost of power can vary greatly.

The issues facing the further development of solar energy is currently politically and economically. Advocates for solar power and other alternative energy argue that the Bush administration was in the pockets of fossil fuel companies and was not fully devoted to promoting the development of solar energy in the United States.

Now that the Democratic Party has taken control of Congress and new administration must Barak Obama’s taking the reins at the White House political constraints should be relaxed. Unfortunately it was the recent economic recession that began in December 2007 will present a roadblock for large-scale use of solar energy in the United States.

The solar industry had put their sights on achieving great parity within the next 10 years. (Grid parity means that the cost of 1 kW of solar energy equals the cost of one kW of electrical power.) If and when that happens consumers and businesses will be much more likely to make the switch to solar energy.

But funding for research and development of solar energy companies depend on receiving contracts and solar companies report that contracts are dwindling during the recession. In addition, gas prices dropped sharply in the autumn of 2008 and the attention turned again of alternative energy. Executives at solar companies fear that unless the cost of carbon-based fuels puts a pain in the wallet of consumers, development of photovoltaic innovation may slow down.

Source: by Anne Clarke


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