In recent decades, much debate has ensued about the vast amount of natural resources and ecological services society depletes. Moreover, the debate has evaluated how society depletes these natural resources at a faster rate than the environment can replenish. It also assesses how society can mitigate these environmental issues in order to preserve our natural resources for the prosperity of future generations. Research suggests that the natural resources we currently use, such as coal and petroleum, could be fully depleted within the next 25 and 100 years respectively (Byrd, 2012). Given that society has a tendency to over-consume natural resources, many economists have suggested that the use of alternative energy could alleviate the effects of overconsumption and the environment's ability to replenish. Therefore, this study evaluates the potential of solar energy (SE) on society and the environment by evaluating a cost-benefit analysis between solar energy technology (SET) and conventional energy resources.
Electricity and The Call for Solar Technology:
Research on conventional energy resources has shown that the demand of electricity has drastically increased in recent decades, and will continue to increase in the future (Zweibel, 2010). Moreover, by evaluating business as usual models, where the annual growth rate of demand for electricity ranges from 2% and 3.2%, research has suggested that annual world demand for electricity will soar from around 20 trillion kWh (kilowatts) in 2010 to 60 trillion kWh in 2050 and 200 trillion kWh by 2100. Additionally, the average growth rate of renewable resources has only increased about 1.6% per annum, in comparison to the 4% annual growth rate of conventional energy resources. (Lloyd & Forest, 2010). This research indicates that the demand for electricity has skyrocketed to where society is heavily dependent on coal, wood, and other fossil fuels, and that renewable resource technology has been greatly underutilized. However, the research has also suggested that solar technology has demonstrated an increase of approximately 39% in production and investment in the last decade and is growing faster than any other renewable technology (Zweibel, 2010; Lloyd & Forest, 2010). Still, the research concluded that the limited availability of natural resources, which would be used to manufacture SETs, could restrict the development of solar technology as well as other renewable resource technologies. However, given that solar technology has seen an increase in research and development, solar energy could establish an opportunity for expanding our electricity supply system without overconsuming on nonrenewable resources.
With evaluating the increase in research and development for SETs, some economists believe that solar energy is the most effective alternative energy resource available which can help provide many more social, environmental, and economic advantages in comparison to the conventional energy sources...