It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.
It probably surprises nobody to learn that coal produces more of the world’s electricity than any other fuel. But it may provide food for thought to realize that the second most widely-used fuels for power generation are now renewables.
Electricity generation from renewable sources has overtaken natural gas to become the second largest source of electricity worldwide, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced.
In Europe, the main renewables used to generate electricity are wind and solar power. Since 1990, global solar photovoltaic power has been increasing at an average growth rate of 44.6 percent a year and wind at 27.1 percent.
In other words, things that we have in abundance without raping the earth.
The Sun Gives Us Nothing for Free As alluring as the premise may be, the promise of solar energy is not free. The first solar cell was created in 1883 by Charles Fritts using a sheet of Selenium with thin Gold facings. The Sun radiates approximately 1000 watts per square meter at maximum. The Fritts cell produced 10 watts per square meter or 1% efficiency. The Russell Ohl patent of 1946 is considered the first modern solar cell.
Today’s solar panels are high purity Silicon with a light doping of Phosphorus and Boron to provide breaks in the Silicon for electron movement. This creates electrical current flow when exposed to photons in sunlight. Only segments of the solar spectrum activate this flow and it must be captured on both sides of the panel to create a circuit. The required capture grid blocks some of the incoming energy and the net result is 10% efficiency, or approximately 100 watts per square meter.
Efficiencies as high as 40% are available with exotic materials, but then one must address the ‘high cost of free’, which applies to every ‘green’ technology. Silicon, Phosphorus and Boron are common elements, but to mine, refine and bring on line has a cost. That cost is reflected in ‘cost payback’ of 5 to 7 years depending on the system. The total system life is 20 years. But these costs are based on low cost carbon based energy systems providing these materials.
Much like paying your Visa bill with your Master Card, this parasitic ‘clean’ energy cannot provide the ‘spare’ energy to avoid ‘dirty’ energy. There is a certain loss of electrons in this system and power production erodes over time until at twenty years they are useless. The Silicon sheets are protected with glass covers which require periodic cleaning and are subject to damage from hail and wind debris.