How to Make Solar Work

Solar energyGlobal energy demands are predicted to reach 46 terawatts by 2100. That number is a far reach from the 18 terawatts of energy currently generated around the world. According to one expert in the field, a major shift in the way we produce and consume energy is necessary in order to meet future demands.

Meng Tao, ECS member and Arizona State University professor, discussed how society could move toward meeting those demands at the PRiME 2016 meeting, where he presented his paper, “Terawatt Solar Photovoltaics: Roadblocks and Our Approaches.”

“We just cannot continue to consume fossil fuels the way we have for the last 200 years,” Tao told ECS. “We have to move from a fossil fuel infrastructure to a renewable infrastructure.”

For Tao, the world’s society cannot set on a path of “business as usual” by producing energy via coal, oil, and natural gas. And while solar energy has experienced a growth rate of nearly 45 percent in the last decade, it still only accounts for less than one percent of all electricity generated.

The shift to solar

Historically, solar technology soars when oil prices are at their highest. This is especially true during the oil embargo of the 1970s. During that time, private and public investments began to shift away from fossil fuels and toward solar and other renewable energies. That trend emerged again in the early 2000s when oil prices skyrocketed to a record-setting $140 per barrel.

“In the 1970s, the motivation to invest in solar and other forms of renewable energy was geopolitical,” Tao says. “Now, that motivation tends to focus more on the environment and sustainability.”



Image: Kyocera

A joint venture between two Japanese companies has embarked on building the world’s largest floating solar project.

The project is estimated to harvest 16,170 megawatt hours per year – enough to power around 4,970 households.

Not only will the floating solar farm – which will consist of 50,904 panels – produce a large amount of renewable energy, it will also play a major role in offsetting over 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually (the equivalent of 19,000 barrels of oil).

Japan is making the move to “floatovoltaics” due to the lack of open land suitable for solar farms, but plentiful water surfaces. Proponents believe floating solar farms will be cheaper to produce than their land counterparts due to less strict regulations held on water surfaces.