The day may not be far off when the use of solar energy becomes a norm. There is now a deep conviction among experts that given a few years time, solar power will be in high demand that the cost will go down, inexpensive enough to undercut the prices of oil-generated electricity.
Previous predictions that it will still happen in a decade may no longer be true. The anger generated by the recent prices in oil and its vulnerability to market forces and other events may have already been enough to polarized people, governments and scientific communities into seriously considering a reliable alternative energy source.
You can not get a source more reliable than the sun. Even today homes that uses its power does not only benefit from the silent, energy generating, inexhaustible power of the sun, it also spikes up the prices of their homes. Those that have solar powered homes are even reimbursed for the surplus power that they supply to the power grid.
Presently, heliostats, photovoltaic cells and plate collectors are being used to collect the energy by focusing these panels towards the sun or constructing and installing the panel’s on spots where the sun shines most. Development in technology as we all know often has a snowball effect. It never stops rediscovering and reinventing that the speed of development could often be surprisingly fast.
Today, a polymer foil, thin as a sheet of paper and lighter by 200 times when compared to the regular glass collecting plates, are being developed. Chances are, these new inventions and discoveries could very well have a great potential for mass production. Previously, the glass-based materials used for heat collection need expensive substrates and require additional support for mounting due to its weight. The polymer foil, being very light could now be attached even to the walls of a structure.
So confident are scientists in the development of this technology that while the polymer foil is being developed, a plastic solar cell, based on nano technology is gaining breakthroughs. This plastic material can collect the power of the sun even on a cloudy day through harnessing the infrared rays is believed to be five times more efficient than the current technology.
While plastic materials for harnessing the power of the sun are not new, it is only recently that this plastic composite could harvest the infrared portion. Previously, only the visible rays are generated, the infrared part, which is half of the power of the sun, is invisible.
Currently, the best plastic solar cells could only harness 6% of the suns energy, with further study and development, this new plastic solar cells are expected to harness 30% of the suns solar power.
Scientists and researchers alike agree that ultimately, solar farms will be harnessing all our energy requirements and costs of power will drop. Today the price of solar powered energy is about 3 to 4 times per kilowatt hour compared with conventional electricity. That could change dramatically though the development of the existing technology and recent discoveries.
The roller pressed flexible plastic materials and the polymer foil are only two of the best hopes in arriving at a cleaner, greener and safer environment that could ultimately free the planet from its dependency on the depleting supply of oil.