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Exploring The Potential Of Solar Power

3451 words - 14 pages

Introduction and History
Solar power is a promising renewable energy source that poses a fair amount of challenges in its implementation. A major challenge towards future, widespread implementation of solar power is solar power’s intermittency. Solar power does not provide energy as regularly and as steadily as nonrenewable energy resources, a hindrance in more widespread adoption and implementation of solar power. Securing energy for America’s energy is not an easy task, but solar power can help to greatly soften the blow, which is why it is worth investigating how solar energy’s intermittence can be a hindrance to more widespread implementation of solar power production as well as how we can mitigate this intermittence. After briefly discussing the history of solar power, we will briefly take a look at various solar power generating technologies being utilized. We will then analyze insolation levels around the continental United States as well as the optimal and suboptimal locations for solar power production in the US. We also take a look at where solar power generation is currently concentrated and the reasoning behind the installation or lack thereof of solar power generation technologies in previously unutilized locations. Once we have finished analyzing solar power geographically, we can analyze it technically through the context of the national grid. One of the most important subtopics will be how and why the current electrical energy delivering infrastructure in the US may not aptly suited for intermittent energy like solar power as well as possible solutions such as the Smart Grid and different types of energy storage. We will find that the Smart Grid and thermal energy storage form the backbone of our recommended solution. Finally, we will examine the status quo for solar power in New York State.
Although sunlight has ensured mankind’s survival for millennia, only recently have we begun to investigate its potential as a source of electrical energy. The beginnings of electrical generation from light energy can be traced to 1876, when William Grylls Adams’s discovered that selenium exposed to light generated electricity (Reese). Although the discovery was important, the electrical generation of the selenium was insufficient for any practical use. Only in 1953 did Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson, and Daryl Chapin create silicon-based solar cell capable of powering small electric devices (Reese). Three years later, solar cells started being sold commercially, for a very expensive $300 per watt, $2600 adjusted for inflation (Reese). Solar power gained popularity among early space programs and were frequently used on satellites (Reese). Its usage diversified after Exxon discovered a way to lower the cost to $20 per watt, in order to help light its oil rigs (Reese). The uses of solar power quickly began to spread after that. The year 1977 marked the beginning of the Solar Energy Research Institute in the United States and similar...

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