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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Solar-generated power: All sunshine?

by Mark Ollig

The folks at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) recently made public their 2015 study, “The Future of Solar Energy.”

This detailed, 356-page report depicts solar energy as possibly becoming the leading source of generated electricity, worldwide.

It says use of solar-energy electrical production can also be considered a “tool” for decreasing global CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions.

When planning for large solar-energy production facilities, the geographic location where demand for electricity is needed is taken into account.

The less populated, geographically larger, and more sun-drenched (and drought-stricken) US southwest area, is a desirable location for building huge solar-generated power plants.

Their current drought continues to diminish the water supply needed for hydro-produced electricity-generation output; increased production of solar-generated power makes sense to pursue.

In fact, a recent article in Greentechmedia, reports California has increased its solar power generation to make up for the loss in hydropower production.

In the EU (European Union), bringing solar electricity generated from “solar farms” in their more sunlit southern regions, to the higher populated areas of their country requires expensive, new electric transmission lines.

Installation of these lines are, at times, subject to protest by people living along a planned transmission line route.

Germany has had much success with Solar PV (photovoltaic – “photo” meaning light and “voltaic” meaning voltage) solar electrical power generating systems.

Last month, PV Magazine reported global PV solar energy installations will soon reach a cumulative capacity of 200 GW (gigawatts–billion watts).

They reported this amount of power would be equal to the energy output of 30 coal or nuclear plants combined.

Based upon this information, over 100 million tons of CO2 will be kept from being dispersed into the earth’s atmosphere every year because of the use of solar energy.

According to SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association), the current solar power generated in the US could now supply the combined electrical power needs for one year to: Hawaii, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Vermont.

The solar energy industry is creating and supporting new high-tech jobs.

According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, there were a reported 173,000 “solar workers” as of November 2014.

In a typical residential solar-energy generating system, a solar energy company normally provides and installs the PV system on the roof of a customer’s home.

The solar energy company would also be responsible for meeting the PII (permitting, interconnection, and inspection) rules and procedures.

By the end of 2014, MIT reported PV installed systems accounted for a majority of solar electric generation worldwide; including the US.

PV “wafer-based crystalline silicon” solar cell technology is used in approximately 90 percent of the installations.

Half of these PV systems are used by utility-scale plants, with the balance shared between residential and commercial installations.

Solar PV systems also qualify for tax-incentives; such as the ITC (investment tax credit), and MACRS (modified accelerated cost recovery system), which is an accelerated depreciation used for solar assets.

Since about 2008, the US PV power capacity has grown from less than 1,000 MW (megawatts– million watts) to over 18,000 MW.

Since 2001, PV capacity worldwide has increased about 47 percent each year.

Some of the costs for solar PV systems include the PV solar panel modules, and solar micro-inverters used for converting DC energy captured by the panels into AC electricity used in the home or business.

Additional expenses include: regulatory compliance, electrical grid connections, cabling, and attachment hardware.

End-user online websites for monitoring, receiving reports, and performing diagnostics on their solar PV system, are also used.

It is estimated by 2050, globally, 25,000 GW of zero-carbon emission energy (like solar) will be necessary in order to prevent hazardous anthropogenic (human caused) air pollution.

This will be needed in order to offset the estimated 25 TW (terawatts–trillion watts) of power the globe will be using in 2050.

This means the US will need a land area for solar PV generation of roughly 12,740 square miles using present-day PV solar technology and hardware methodology.

The total square miles of the 48 contiguous states of the mainland US is 3,119,884 square miles.

For those of you doing the math, this ends up being slightly less than one-half of 1 percent (+0.4083).

MIT’s study also included a thorough glossary covering many acronyms and solar-power-related terminology.

You can read the complete MIT “The Future of Solar Energy” report at

The future of solar PV electrical energy-producing systems is growing.

They are becoming an alternative and a supplementary electrical power source for individuals and businesses; and an auxiliary power addition for commercial electrical utilities.

Solar energy companies are also installing “community solar gardens.”

These eliminate homeowners from having to have solar panels and associated equipment installed at their residences; but still benefit from solar-generated electricity.

Minnesota Public Radio recently aired a 4-minute, 30- second segment discussing Xcel Energy’s community solar gardens.

Here is the link for it:

Solar energy will be providing up to 10 percent of Minnesota’s electricity needs by 2030, Xcel Energy said in the radio segment.

Increased, widespread use of this green technology, will reduce our carbon dioxide footprint; helping to save this planet’s environment for future generations.

(Above photos Public Domain)