Dr Vishal Sharma
“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
Thomas Edison in conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone
Achieving solutions to environmental problems that we are facing today requires long-term potential actions for sustainable development. A sustainable energy development and environmental protection are two of the most important concerns in the development of our future world. Sustainable energy is an energy technology that serves the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and too with manageable environmental problems.
Growing Need for Energy
The improvement in lifestyle, modern industrialization and future technological revolution are always at high expense of energy consumption. The advancement in science and technology with the quest to make our life simpler demand for the use of energy which is continuously growing for the last so many decades. Energy is an essential ingredient for all human activities i.e. from providing services for cooking food to space/water heating, health monitoring, lighting, food storage, education, mineral extraction, industrial production and transportation. Inadvertently, it has also increased the concentration of greenhouse gases through combustion of fossil fuels, which in turn has adversely affected the earth’s ecological balance through global warming. Energy plays a vital role in driving socio-economic development of a country. Energy scientists have expected that the globe would need nearly thirty Tera Watt (TW) of energy by the year 2050 to keep up economic processes.
Conventional energy resources are mostly the non-renewable energy resources meaning sources which have accumulated in nature over a very long time and cannot be replaced very quickly.Since it takes millions of years for these resources to develop inside the earth, they are getting exhausted fast. Until now, conventional energy resources like coal, petroleum, natural gas are being used to cater the ever-increasing energy demand in the world and perhaps it would not be possible to satisfy this never-ending demand in the near future. Moreover, the continuous use of conventional energy resources like oil, coal etc. is also the leading cause of environmental pollution.
Solar Photovoltaic is the Future
All the renewable energy sources have some advantage over the other in one way or the other. But for sustainable development we require – a source of energy which is inexhaustible, accessible nearly everywhere and easy to collect. Every day the sun is rising over the horizon, circumnavigates the world and leaves 1.08 – 1018 kwh of energy behind. Much more than mankind will need to satisfy its hunger for electricity. The device which converts the sunlight into electricity is called as Solar Cell and this technology is already existing in this world. How much sunlight a solar cell can convert into electricity is called its efficiency. It is estimated that, if we tap sunlight over only 1% of the incident area at only an energy conversion efficiency of 1%, it is simple to show that this meets our current world energy consumption. As 9% of the planet surface area is taken up by desert and efficiencies well over 1% are easily possible, in practice, this opens up many exciting future opportunities. At present there are various Photovoltaic (PV) technologies such as: organic solar cells, inorganic solar cells, hybrid solar cells. Until now, PV devices fabricated using silicon, have dominated the photovoltaic market. But these solar cells have some limitations such as high cost of materials, cumbersome processing, inflexibilityetc. Therefore, efforts are being made to find alternative materials that would overcome these limitations. This dominance is currently being challenged by the emergence of a next generation of PV devices based on organic and organic/inorganic hybrid perovskite materials. Organic solar cells (OSC) have numerous advantages over the inorganic solar cells i.e. they are cost effective, easy to fabricate, do not require high processing temperature, light weight, and can be deposited onto large flexible substrates. Then there are flexible organic solar cells. This flexible, light weight and semi-transparent solar cell will surely provide new opportunities for future development of various other applications like solar Jackets, solar curtains, solar cars, solar UAVs, solar windows etc. According to some researchers the future applications of these devices may be ‘skin’, implying that these flexible cells could someday power electronics embedded into the human body.
There are four take home messages for the general public: i) Since available energy resources are limited, we must use them with utmost care; ii) Judicious and economical use of energy resources can help in overcoming the energy crisis; iii) We should encourage the use of renewable sources of energy as they are available in plenty and they don’t pollute the environment; iv) a solar photovoltaic technology has the potential to provide much more energy than our current and future energy needs and hence an important factor for sustainable development.The main purpose of writing this article is to spread awareness among common masses and to popularise the use of solar energy in day to day life as this is the best or perhaps the only solution in mitigating the world’s energy demand-supply gap in the near future.
(The author is Head Department of Electronics MAM College Jammu)
Dr Vishal Sharma