TWR2009- Project Assignment 1 Jen Hadley. Solar Panels: A Clean and Efficient Alternative in Energy Production

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1 Solar Panels: A Clean and Efficient Alternative in Energy Production TWR2009- Project Assignment 1 November 7,

2 Table of Contents Introduction... 3 Market Drivers... 3 The Solution: Renewable Natural Resources... 5 Solar Panels: The Technology... 6 Benefits... 7 How it Works... 8 Key Features... 9 Conclusion

3 Solar Panels: A Clean and Efficient Alternative in Energy Production Introduction Traditional energy generation through the use of coal, natural gas, and petroleum is becoming increasingly expensive and is proving to have negative impacts on the environment. Home and business owners regularly see increases in their utility bills and have little control over the circumstances affecting the rise in energy costs. Generating energy using natural elements is increasing in popularity due to its economic potential and its ability to lower your carbon footprint. This white paper will explore the advantages of solar panels and the positive impact they can have on a home or business owner s finances, and the positive impact they have on the environment. Market Drivers The use of energy has become a necessity that plays a critical role in daily operations around the globe. The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that world marketed energy consumption will grow by 53 percent between 2008 and 2035 [see Figure 1]. With this increase in consumption will come an increase in energy costs and the EIA states, In 2011, the price of light sweet crude oil in the United States (in real 2009 dollars) is expected to average $100 per barrel, and with prices expected to continue increasing in the long term, the price reaches $108 per barrel in 2020 and $125 per barrel in 2035 [1]. The predicted increase in oil prices will impact energy costs and, as a result, energy costs will continue to rise. 3

4 Figure 1: Expected Increase in Energy Consumption The predicted increase in energy consumption will not only result in rising energy costs but will also have a significant negative impact on the environment. The combustion of fossil fuels, resulting in the energy we use to heat our homes and run our appliances, creates carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas [2]. This greenhouse gas negatively impacts the environment by producing smog, acid rain, and climate change among many other issues [3]. The EIA predicts that world energy-related carbon dioxide emissions [will] increase from 30.2 billion metric tons in 2008 to 35.2 billion metric tons in 2020 and 43.2 billion metric tons in 2035 [4] [see Figure 2]. Figure 2: Expected Increase in Carbon Dioxide Emissions 4

5 Increasing energy consumption, higher energy costs, and increasing carbon dioxide emissions leaves much to be desired in terms of old fashioned energy producing techniques. Changes are needed to make energy production more efficient. The Solution: Renewable Natural Resources While the generation of energy through non-renewable natural resources such as fossil fuels creates negative financial and environmental consequences energy is a necessity. Communities all around the world rely on the use of energy to live. Alternatives to traditional energy generating techniques are gaining popularity. One alternative is the use of renewable natural resources such as : solar geothermal wind water biomass (plants) Generating energy for homes and office spaces through the use of renewable natural resources is cost efficient for the building owner and has very few negative environmental consequences. One effective way of using renewable natural resources for energy production is the use of solar power generated through solar panels. 5

6 Solar Panels: The Technology Solar panels work by converting sun radiation, a renewable natural resource, into energy. A solar panel (also known as a photovoltaic module) is a set of connected solar cells (photovoltaic cells) that generate clean and renewable energy [see Figure 3]. Figure 3: A series of solar panels installed on a building roof There are three basic types of solar panels and all three require radiation from the sun to generate energy: Monocrystalline- cells are cut from a single crystal of silicone and the rigid panel is smooth in texture. This type of panel is the most expensive to produce, but the most efficient. Polycrystalline- cells are sliced off of a large block of silicone crystals and the rigid panels have a reflective, speckled appearance. This panel is less expensive than the monocrystalline and less efficient. Amorphous- cells are manufactured by placing a thin film of non-crystalline silicone onto a surface. These panels are flexible and can be placed on a number of different surfaces. Amorphous panels are the least efficient panels out of the three. 6

7 Benefits The sun, the source required for a solar panel to generate energy, is free and installing solar panels on homes and office buildings will save you a great deal of money in energy costs. The costs associated with burning fossil fuels are enormous. Consumers and businesses in the U.S. alone already spend approximately $700 billion to $1 trillion every year on these fuels [5]. Once the initial cost of installing the solar panels has been paid there is very little cost required. The solar panels have the potential to generate enough free energy to power an entire home or office building. Generating energy through renewable resources is a great way to preserve the nonrenewable natural resources that are slowly being depleted from our environment through current energy generation techniques. The earth takes millions of years to create the non-renewable fossil fuels we currently use to create energy and once we have used all of these resources they will be gone. Using solar power from the sun, a resource that is constantly being produced by nature, will help preserve nature s non-renewable resources. Traditional energy generation often requires the combustion of fossil fuels and this combustion emits harmful gases into the environment. Solar panels are clean energy sources that do not product any dangerous emissions or waste byproducts [5]. 7

8 How it Works A solar panel is a set of connected solar cells (photovoltaic cells or PV cells) that generate clean and renewable energy. Solar panels work by converting sun radiation into electricity. When placed in the sun, solar panels attract photons (particles emitted in natural sunlight) and these photons interact with the silicone on the solar panel (a main ingredient in the composition of solar panels). This interaction creates electrons and these electrons act as electricity. Solar panels then use this electricity to power devices hooked up to them that require electricity to function (see Figure 4). Solar panels are similar to a battery in that, when they are connected to an object, they use the energy stored Figure 4: How Solar Panels Work within them to send power to that object. Solar panels can generate enough electricity to heat or cool homes and offices and run the appliances in those homes and offices. 8

9 Key Features Solar panels have several key features that make them a realistic option for almost everyone. They can be: produced as rigid boards that are suitable for rooftops produced as flexible sheets that are suitable for curved or uneven surfaces installed using one of the three main varieties of solar panel mounts to make installation viable for many different environments [7]: - Flush mounts suitable for rooftop installation. - Roof-Ground mounts suitable for large systems away from the city electric grid. They can be installed on both the ground and on rooftops. - Pole mounts suitable when rooftop installation is not an option. The solar panel is installed on a durable, wind resistant pole. Conclusion The generation of energy through renewable natural resources such as solar power plays an important role in reducing energy costs and addressing environmental concerns. Traditional energy production generated through burning fossil fuels is becoming increasingly expensive, depleting non-renewable natural resources, and is emitting dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Through the installation of solar panels you can use the clean energy generated through the sun to drastically cut your energy costs, save natural resources, and reduce environmental pollution. 9

10 References 1. US Energy Information Administration International Outlook 2011: Highlights November 4, Wikipedia Carbon Dioxide November 4, WikiAnswers What Negative Effects does Carbon Dioxide Have on the Environment? November 4, n_the_environment 4. US Energy Information Administration International Outlook 2011: Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions November 4, EZine Articles Hoe Does Solar Power Work to Help the Environment? November 4, Environment?&id= Energy4Living How Does a Solar Panel Work? November 4, SPI Mounts (Solar Panel Accessories) November 4,

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