As of right now, the United States is 4th in the running for the largest country to utilize photovaltaics, an alternative option from using fossil fuels for energy. Germany, Japan and Spain are ahead of us in terms of energy efficiency and its imperative that our nation strives to meet the same level of sustainability that these other countries have achieved.
Solar Photovaltaics are solar cells that directly convert sunlight into usable electricity. Photo means light and valt is associated with energy. There are crystalline silicon cells, thin film, PV, and concentrated PV which are all Photovaltaics but just have a These materials that the cells are made from are called semiconductors which then convert the energy into a circuit to produce power. When the sunlight hits these cells, the electrons break away from their atomic bond and release energy. The fabulous part about photovaltaics is that the energy produced can be used to power anything from a large house or commercial building to a small electronic device. Its versatility reassures its sustainability. The effect that the solar cells have was first observed by Alexandre Edmund Becquerel in 1839 and which was later confirmed by Bell Labs in the US during 1954. By 1958, solar cells started to be used by commercial businesses and have declined in price over the last 12 years. The most efficient cells unfortunately are the priciest. However, they are much more effective for converting sunlight into usable energy while thin filmed cells are less expensive but not as useful because they sometimes the light is too weak to be absorbed.
When discuss wind energy, we think about the way in which we create electricity using the wind from the atmosphere. Now a days, the wind turbines use capture the kinetic energy from the wind to then generate electricity. There are three main types of wind energy. The first conducts small wind, which is used to direct power directly to a home and less than 100 kilowatts not connecting to a grid. The second is a utility wind power which is sends electricity to power systems through the power grid. Finally, the third is an offshore wind. Here the turbines take the wind from large bodies of water to generate power. From kinetic energy, the rotation turns the energy into mechanical energy. The rotation then turns the internal shaft connected to a box, which increases the speed of the rotation by 100 times. The average turbine stands 262 feet tall ad in order to generate energy, around 6-9 miles per hour of wind is needed. Additionally, if the wind is blowing faster than 55 miles per hour, then it will turn off and not generate. Throughout generation, the turbines can generate electricity 90% of the time. All wind turbines are connected in a wind farm, which is then connected to the power grid. Once the grid receives this generated energy, the power operators will send out energy where needed.
Out of all energy sources, wind energy is the cheapest form. This energy can cost up to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. By this being one of the cheapest forms of energy and being as cost effective as it is, it is a system that should be considered to have more around the wind turbines. There are also many disadvantages to these. One is the amount of space required in order to just create one. We clearly cannot have wind turbines in the middle of a city. Another problem is the fact that we have depend on the weather. As climate change and global warming is increasing our weather is becoming more unpredictable and extreme. With more extreme weather patterns, the more often the wind turbines will have to turn off.
When people think of solar power, they often think of solar panels on the roof of a house, also known as photovoltaic devices. When sunlight hits these panels, the electrons move freely through their cell, which generates electricity. Solar photovoltaic energy is pollution and noise free, making it a strong alternative to other, less sustainable energy sources. While some people choose not to install solar panels on their homes because it is expensive, solar panel prices are currently on the decline. According to this article, the average price of a solar panel system has decreased by 59% in the last 10 years. The installation price has also decreased because there are more experienced installers available. On a global scale, the U.S. is the fourth largest market for solar panels, behind other countries that have stricter policies to switch to more sustainable practices.
Google now has a feature that enables you to enter in your zip code and it will tell you how much money you could save on your electric bill by installing rooftop solar panels. In Schenectady, it is estimated that you could save $8,000 over a 20 year period. This calculator also takes into account the amount of sunlight each address gets. When I looked up my house in New Jersey, it said my family would lose $37/month if we were to install solar panels because the house is completely in the shade.
The downside of solar photovoltaic energy is that it is weather dependent. If it is very cloudy outside, there may not be enough sunlight to power the system. Also, if the panels are used to power a lot of buildings, opposed to a single home, it may require a lot of empty land to house the whole system.