General Question

segdeha's avatar

Why don't we use more solar power?

Asked by segdeha (1707points) November 29th, 2007

”[An] area approximately 12 percent the size of Nevada has the potential to supply all of the electric needs of the United States.”
—Source: The Nation

If that’s true, why don’t we (where by “we” I mean people everywhere, not just the U.S.) use more solar power?

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6 Answers

MedivhX's avatar

A short and very informative article on this topic: link

finkelitis's avatar

I’m deeply pro-solar, but I think the statistic is misleading. It may be assuming a perfect, no-energy-loss solar panel. Just because the energy is there in the sunlight doesn’t mean we can convert it all into electricity. Thus the use of the qualifier “potential.”

However, we could be doing a lot more. Part of the reason we’re not right now is that corporations are making too much money from other sources, and actively countering the political will to invest in alternative energy. There are certainly technical difficulties, and the normal inertia to overcome as well.

Germany, on the other hand, is making a real push to move to solar. There’s a nice documentary on this topic from pbs.

ironhiway's avatar

Solar Energy field is just now reaching the size necessary to begin mass production and installation.

The growth of Solar Energy in the past has been driven by environmental consciousness and cost savings for those who can afford to install their own systems.

As mass production of the panels and regular work for the installers increases the cost of Solar will drop even further. As a result it will become the least expensive option for consumers. Driving the demand even further.

Several Companies are forming to meet this demand one I like is this one. They plan to manufacture all the components and install them on customers homes as a rental similar to the way cable and sat TV sell their services. The removal of the upfront expense, 30 – 40K for a typical home solar system, will open the market to many more people who want to use solar. Another obstacle removed is the maintenance issue. Since they monitor and maintain there systems as well included in the rent.

Another company I read about recently is offering discounts up to 30 % to select communities that get enough people to install to make it profitable. And those communities are signing up plenty of people to take advantage of the offer.

Ted Turner is reportedly making a huge investment as well claiming that it will be his biggest Project he’s done.

Boeing is heavily invested in solar and has continued to improve the efficiency of solar cells currently at 28 to 30% efficiency. This increase in efficiency is what has fueled the new rush to solar that will continue to make solar even more affordable in the near future.

jdvanderk's avatar

pretty sure finkelitis is right. The statistic is talking about the amount of energy in the form of sunlight that hits the area, not the usable energy. There are necessarily energy losses in solar power conversion.

Solar power hasnt taken off as might have been expected for several reasons.
1. Its expensive to make the components of the solar collectors, although as ironhiway points out with greater production volumes and better technology this will be reduced. Also, as oil prices continue to rise, and with the possibility of a carbon tax/credit law, solar power will get less comparatively expensive.
2. There are limited areas of the United States (and the world) that have enough sunlight per area to further justify the cost of installing solar collectors. The southwest, including Nevada, is one of these areas, as well as certain parts of North Dakota, I think. Solar power is feasible in other areas as well, but because the amount of energy per area is much less, it would not be efficient. The problem with using these areas to supply power (theres not much there but desert and open land) is that these areas are not very close to centers of population (because theres not much there but desert and open land).

I think that as oil prices continue to rise and as more effects from the growing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere become apparent, more R&D money will flow into technologies such as solar power, making them more efficient and less expensive.

DryaUnda's avatar

At the risk of being too prosaic, I think it’s because we simply keep putting off installing the panels on our roofs.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. We here in the US do not use more solar because solar and renewable fuel advocates do not have as good of lobbyist as those for big oil. If the government was willing to pump money into it or give greater tax advantages to the private sector that seeks to go green or develope green industries the price would come down and it would be more appealing to use.

Second because many do not believe there is global warming they see no need to switch to something which as been pointed out still needs perfecting to be efficient as it could be.

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