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Energy For The Future Essay

1493 words - 6 pages

Energy for the Future
Energy is often considered to be the world’s most valuable resource. With its vast amount of uses, it is essentially the backbone to the modern world and technology. For many years, the U.S. and other countries around the world have been relying heavily on fossil fuels to meet their energy needs. This dependence has led to a lot of problems not only environmentally but also politically and economically. By using imported oil for our main energy source, the U.S. constantly finds itself struggling with major economic issues if the price starts to go up. This is all in light of the fact that a large percent of the world’s oils and fossil fuels come out of the Middle East, one of the most unstable and unsafe regions on the planet. As seen in the past, any complications in this area end up equating to serious fluctuations in oil prices which in turn directly correlate to our economy’s performance. In addition to these disadvantages, the burning of fossil fuels has a tremendous negative impact on the environment due to its massive carbon dioxide emissions and pollution output. This is why it is crucial to discover and use renewable energy sources. Among the list of possible alternatives, solar, wind, and geothermal energy stand out as being the most useful as well as the most cost effective.
Although using the sun’s solar radiation as an energy source is a relatively new idea, it has a huge potential as an alternative to fossil fuels. A website promoting the use of alternative energy states, “the sun, an average star, is a fusion reactor that has been burning over 4 billion years. It provides enough energy in one minute to supply the world's energy needs for one year,” ("Renewable Energy"). Solar energy would be a great way to reduce the dependence on oil energy because it is a free and inexhaustible resource. The complications arise when looking at the harnessing and converting of solar energy into electricity. It wasn’t until the 1880s that selenium photovoltaic (PV) cells were first developed to produce electricity from sunlight. Unfortunately the first PV cells were very inefficient as they could only convert light with 1-2% efficiency, much too low to be economically feasible ("Renewable Energy"). As time has gone by and technology has improved, the future of solar energy looks promising. As of 2008, the efficiency of PV cells increased dramatically to around 41% according to the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab ("Solar Energy Basics"). Along with the increase in efficiency, PV cell’s new technology is getting closer and closer to being economically competitive with other traditional forms of energy. The average US household uses about 1.2 kilowatts each hour, that means a typical house would only need about 10-20 solar panels to be self-sufficient. Not only would the solar panels pay for themselves within a few years but they would also reduce the amount of greenhouse gases by whatever share of...

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