The energy of the future – All good things come from above
The sun has been shining for 4.6 billion years. And, according to experts, it is likely to shine for another 5 billion years. Our sun, which measures 1.4 million kilometres in diamater is the largest, most benevolent and cleanest power station around. Without it, life on Earth could not be sustained. 109 times larger than our planet, the sun gives off immense quantities of light and heat and will not bill us for even a single sunbeam. In less than one hour, the sun directs more energy to the Earth’s surface than the entire population of our planet could use in a year.
If we could harness even a percentage of this enormous energy potential, our energy problem would be solved once and for all – and in the cleanest possible way. The sun’s energy does not produce any emissions and spares the environment harmful CO2. The photovoltaic technology to harness its potential is already available – we just have to use it.
Burning up our reserves?
The fossil fuels created by nature over millions of years have been practically used up by humans within several centuries thanks to our dependence on them for heating, cooking, washing and travelling. Now we are almost running on empty, and the UK is almost entirely dependent on gas, oil and coal imports from abroad. The oil reserves, which are almost completely dry, will still last a few decades but affordable oil will probably run out a lot earlier. The dwindling coal and gas reserves will also be in short supply soon, giving rise to rocketing prices in the near future. It goes without saying that the burning of fossil fuels has already had an enormous impact on the environment. Around three quarters of harmful greenhouse gases produced today result from oil, gas and coal.
In order to avert the looming environmental catastrophe, the international community decided to heed advice about protecting the climate. In 2007, an action plan was agreed on Bali (Indonesia) to protect the climate. This was followed by the decision taken in Cancun (Mexico) in 2010 to maintain the Kyoto Protocol at least until 2012. Member states – including the USA and China – agreed to limit global warming to two degrees, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Annual primary energy usage [EJ/a] reckoned that as a first step global emission of CO2 would need to fall by at least 50 % by 2050 and between 25 – 40 % for industrialised countries by 2020. Renewable energies will play a key role in achieving this
A sunny outlook for renewable energies
On the path to becoming no. 1: solar energy is one of the fundamental types of renewable energy; photovoltaic systems are increasingly used to make a contribution towards providing eco-friendly power
Across the world, people are renovating their homes with a focus on energy – a change that is feasible and affordable for all. The British feed-in tariff (FIT) has become an international ideal. The concept behind it is that, by making use of the FIT, citizens can support an increase in environmentally friendly energy production. The share in the costs for solar power is about 3 % of the electricity bill (average cost estimated over the lifetime of the FIT until 2030) per UK household. It’s a small amount with a big effect: by the end of 2011, 250 MW of PV output could be installed in the UK.
The expansion of the renewable energy sector will also result in an expansion of the labour market in this field: the photovoltaic industry employs more than 10,000 people in the UK alone – significantly more than nuclear power.
And another important point is the benefits for the environment and the climate. In the UK about 28,000 tonnes of CO2 were saved in 2011 thanks to the use of photovoltaic systems.