incident solar radiation and electric energy generated index: solar energy and photovoltaic roofs questions & answers

The future

Nowadays, as we have already mentioned, fossil fuelsGlossary provide most of our energy: it is a “convenient” form of energy because it is concentrated, easy to transport and easy to store. There is, however, another side to the "coin". Fossil fuels pollute, give rise to the greenhouse effectGlossary, are becoming more and more expensive and will run out in few decades or centuries.
Everyone wants more energy, especially the large developing countries such as China and India.

It would be a good idea in the near future to introduce energy saving programmes in industrialized countries, getting citizens directly involved; each one of us should be sensitive to a more moderate use of electric energy for domestic purposes.
A more widespread use of renewable energyGlossary, mainly solar energyGlossary, is extremely important, but it is also necessary to improve efficiencyGlossary, reduce costs and improve maintenance.

Many small solar power stations and also larger ones of various types are foreseen in the future: we cannot evaluate whether they are useful, economically viable or efficiently maintained until much later.

 Fig. 1: Solar power station in Mildura, Australia. It is 6 km in diameter and 1 km high. Construction will be completed in 2008.

For example, in the very sunny, semi-desert area of North Australia, a very special, enormous solar power station is under study. Its circular shape is 6 km in diameter, with a surface area of 28 km2 (Fig. 1). The air under a transparent cover is heated by the sun and conveyed towards a 1 km-high chimney in the centre of the disc, thanks to the effect of an upward going current generated by the difference in temperature between the base (hot) and the top of the chimney (cold). Several turbines are situated inside the chimney which will generate electricity with an overall power of 200 MWpeakGlossary (a small prototype is working in Spain). The electric energy generated will be transported by a high-tension network to relatively large distances. One of the characteristics of this system, which distinguishes it from all others, is that it will produce electricity day and night. In fact, at night underground water reservoirs preserve the heat and thus maintain the upward movement of the current, albeit with reduced efficiency compared to the hotter daytime.

As far as photovoltaic panel technology is concerned, efforts should be made as soon as possible to improve both performance and electric components, and especially to reduce costs. Incentives should also be introduced, based on the effective production of electricity, and more efficient maintenance systems should be designed.

The Webweavers: Last modified Wed, 1 Dec 2006 10:44:01 GMT