The effects of global warming due to excessive carbon dioxide being emitted in the ecosystem have become the topic of much deliberation all around the world. It has been clearly understood that the planet may not be able to sustain itself if drastic corrective measures are not adopted immediately. Increased consumption of fossil fuels is a major factor leading to emission of harmful gases in the atmosphere. Some of the visible effects of emitting hazardous gases in the environment are as follows-
• Extreme weather changes and natural calamities owing to global warming.
• Threat to coastal areas due to rise in oceanic temperatures and fast melting glaciers.
• Many exotic species on the verge of extinction due in increase in average temperature of the planet.
• Severe health hazards due to increased levels of pollutants in the atmosphere.
While these impacts on man and the planet are worth a serious concern, the use of fossil fuels at an alarming rate is also resulting in depletion of this important energy resource. However, the need for a drastic change has been realized and there are efforts to discover an alternate source of energy to power the future.
Solar Energy- For a better tomorrow
Alternate sources of energy such as solar, wind, water, biomass and geothermal are abundantly available in the environment and have very low levels of harmful emissions as compared to conventional energy sources. Solar energy can be an answer to the need of a reliable source of renewable energy in future. Solar energy refers to sources of energy that can be directly attributed to the light of the sun or the heat that sunlight generates . Civilizations have been harnessing the power of solar before the advent of scientific methods of producing energy. Solar energy has had been in use in the modern world since 1800s but a significant increase has been seen in the last couple of decades due to increase awareness about the harmful effects of conventional sources of energy and availability of affordable technology to harness the resource in domestic and commercial applications. Some of the most common applications of solar power are listed below –
• Using solar cookers for cooking, drying and pasteurization.
• Using solar thermal power and Solar Disinfection (SODIS) to heat and disinfect water.
• Converting sunlight to electricity using solar cells or photovoltaic cells.
• Concentrating sun’s heat using lenses is used to run turbines to generate electricity.
Innovation in technology has enabled wide use of solar power in all aspects of society. However, there are some inherent disadvantages associated with the use of this resource. Solar energy is intermittent or irregular. It is unavailable during nights or due to clouds and in some parts of the planet such as Siberia. Also, the infrastructure needed to use solar energy is costlier and needs technical expertise for installation. Also, to convert and store solar energy on a large scale, huge infrastructure is needed which takes up a lot of space. Though the technological advancements are making it affordable to a larger section, its installation cost still remains the biggest hurdle in making it a preferred choice by the masses. Increase in awareness about the long term benefits of alternate sources of energy has increased the acceptance and demand of the resources in spite of the challenges involved. Governments in many leading countries such as US, Australia and UK are encouraging the commercial usage of renewable resources by way of feed in tariffs (FIT), tax credits, subsidies, grants, renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) with specified standards for solar energy , public investments and other financial incentives. Organizations and communities are working in unison to encourage the domestic use of solar appliances. Kyoto protocol commenced in 2005 by the UN commits 37 developed countries to act drastically to curb the harmful gas emissions causing global warming. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under kyoto protocol stimulates sustainable development by the use of solar power in rural electrification and electricity generation (UN 2012). The infrastructure or solar architecture is being incorporated in new constructions to support the use of solar power.
Planet has reached its break even in sustaining itself and repairing the damage done of human beings. Unless the situation is not rectified immediately, the next generations may not be able to survive in the deteriorated conditions on earth. The nature has provided mankind with abundant resources and its time the power of these resources is harnessed for a better and a cleaner tomorrow.