The rapid advancement of technology to provide people with a leisurely life style, has been associated with an increase demand for energy and electrical power. Combined with serious concerns about the effect of the required energy on environment and public health in general, that made Solar energy the most adequate and preferred safe and clean energy. Nowadays and after long dereliction in in this domain, we are witnessing a renaissance in the field of harnessing and utilizing solar energy. Although solar energy is costless in generating as it is a natural source, but devices and systems which used to capture and save are still costly, because of the materials used in manufacturing. In this research papers, I will illustrate the history of benefiting solar energy by mankind, the development of technology in capturing, diverting this energy to electrical power, besides, I will discuss the cons and pros of adopting solar energy to generate electricity with solar panels.
For thousands of years, man has known the sun as his main provider of light and heat. Therefore, some people even worshiped the sun. The sun has supplied all of humanity’s needs of energy. Ancient Greek homes were built and positioned orienting towards the sun, to get the longest time of light during the day. Early Chinese architectures embodied solar designs to heat the buildings they structured. By the first century B.C, Roman added clear glass to the Greek solar designs to capture solar heat, and with that they’ve created the first true Passive solar design to heat the water in the huge public baths in Roma. After that, during the sixteenth century, solar designs were used in constructing Green houses, these houses were built to grow fruits, flowers, greens, and vegetables of different seasons, in Europe. Active systems that concentrated sun light to generate high temperature were developed in the 18th century. As the first solar collector was made by an inventor from Switzerland, named Horace de Saussure in 1767. This inventor designed an insulated glass covered box, which include two small boxes inside. The heat in the two small boxes reaches 100 degrees Celsius, when left in the sun. However, employing solar energy in thermal use was common, but the most important change was achieved with the invention and creation of Photovoltaic cells. This invention occurred when both of William Adams and his student Richard Day, realized that with exposing Selenium cells to light, they can get electricity. Many scientists had attributed to the development of photovoltaic cells, which we are using in a numerous application in our life. (1)
Sun is producing energy as radiations which are outcomes of many nuclear reactions, these radiations are transmitted to earth in volumes of energy named Photons, the intensity of these radiations at the outer verge of earth’s atmosphere (when the earth is happening to be at its average remoteness from the sun), is called Solar Constant. In fact, the energy that reaches the earth is much less than the solar constant, due to assimilation and diffusion, when photons react with the earth’s atmosphere. The method of utilizing solar energy starts with collecting these photons by special devices called (solar collectors). This energy once collected, is either to be stored to be converted heat and be used in thermal systems, or to be converted to electricity by photovoltaic system. In the first condition, solar energy in thermal systems is subjected to heat a gas or a liquid to be stored or distributed and used to heat buildings. on the other hand, photovoltaic system processes solar energy and directly change it to electricity, with no need to medium mechanical devices. Means of collecting solar energy may be assorted in accordance to their functions. In other words, whether they are provided with instruments of tracking, or concentrating the sun rays. While, different combinations of these qualities are potential, but two major kinds are mostly special in both of thermal system, and photovoltaic system, which are (Flat Plate Collectors) and (Concentrating Collectors). The immediate transition of solar radiation into electrical power through the voltaic effect, is achieved by small equipment called solar cells, or photovoltaic cells. Usually, these cells are made of very thin layers of silicon crystals, gallium arsenide, other semiconductors, or even by putting thin slices of semiconductor materiality upon a substrate. Photovoltaic cells are mostly united together in groups to form what are called Modules, these modules may be attached to make larger assemblage named arrays. Flat plate modules are to be positioned and supplied with means like mirrors or lenses to follow and concentrate the sun light. Photovoltaic cells are very supple power sources, as they need no fuel to function, and their characteristics make them capable of supplying electrical power in a range varying from very small to excessively large amounts. An endless list of applications depends on the energy provided by solar cells, like watches, calculators, lamps to light roads, telephone boxes in remote areas, road signs, marine floats, space ships and robots in space stations on other planets. Furthermore, photovoltaic cells are tremendously helpful in remote rural areas, where its difficult to be supplied with grid electricity. (1
Adopting solar energy as a source to generate thermal and electrical energy in a wide scale, has a magnificent role in improving our life in many aspects like; health, environment, economy, and political domains. First, it reduces green house gas emissions, especially Carbon Dioxide (Co2), which is an outcome of burning fossil fuel, the increase in the amount of this gas leads global temperature to exceed its normal rates and change the climate, which contributes to many environmental hazardous events, such as torrents, tornadoes, storms, and volcanoes. So, reducing consumption of fossil fuel can limit harmful gases emission and reduce carbon footprint. Another major advantage of solar system is the insignificant amount of air pollution that result out of it, which has an important effect in the health and safety domain. A comprehensive study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory(NREL), states that extensive solar adoption could remarkably decrease sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and other harmful emissions, which result to many health issues. Also, NREL revealed that, amid many health advantages of adopting solar power systems, that its rarely and in few cases, results in chronic bronchitis, cardiovascular and respiratory issues. Another advantage of solar energy is preserving water resources, because generating electricity in natural gas or coal plant, requires a large amount of water during the process. As well as in cooling the power plant. Also, production and refinement of gasoline need a lot of water. Producing a gallon of gasoline requires 4 gallons of water. On the other hand, solar photovoltaic cells don’t need water to generate electricity, and they don’t emit greenhouse gases or any environment pollutant (3).
Second, sun is a permanent infinite source of energy, as the sun rises and sets every day of the year, what makes the solar energy considered as the most dependable and reliable source of energy, unlike other depleted resources, such as oil, coal, and other fossil fuel. Moreover, solar energy is considered an adequate source, because it has a considerable number of applications in wide range of fields, like solar photovoltaic, solar water heating, waste water treatment, and many other fields. (2. Third, adopting solar energy to produce the maximum limit of our needed energy, is a way that saves the money spent in generating and constructing power plants. Also, it limits the reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. Therefore, economic prosperity can be achieved by a wide spread adopting of solar energy.
No doubt, solar energy is a significant renewable source of energy that supplies our daily life with countless advantages including; growth of the food we eat, preservation of the natural resources of waters, modifying climate and prevent environmental pollution, and generate clean and renewable electricity power with the photovoltaic cells and panels. However, there are many drawbacks are associated with the process of generating electricity by solar panels, which are:
1: Generating electricity with photovoltaic cells(PV) occurs in day light only, as PV cells depend on certain levels of sunlight to function efficiently, and they are incapable to produce electricity in the night hours. This issue can be boosted in countries that have shorter day hours, and in seasons of short day hours, like fall and winter. But this issue can be solved by inserting a battery in the system to save electricity that has been generated during the day, to be used during the night.
2: In addition to the darkness, there is another obstacle that affect the efficiency of solar panels, which is the location of the area to be covered with these panels. Shade of trees and high buildings nearby, can deprive solar panels of getting enough sunlight to function in an efficient way. Furthermore, clouds, fog, dust, and any other pollutants, have the same impact on the efficiency of solar panels. Therefore, the choice of benefiting solar energy is not available always.
3: Temperature also can reduce the efficiency of the performance of solar panels, as high or low temperature can impact the process of emitting electrons by the semi-conductors in the photovoltaic cells.
4: A major drawback of installing solar panels, is the high cost of the devices that utilized to harness solar energy. As solar panels are still a costly choice for homeowners, as well as large scale power plants. Although constructing solar energy technologies requires a high upfront cost, solar panels will pay back a return on investment after a set period. (3)
In conclusion, the numerous benefits of adopting solar energy system to generate electricity, is the best solution to the contemporary crisis of energy. In addition to that, it helps to illuminate many environmental issues caused by the burning of fossil fuels, such as global warming, carbon footprint, air pollutants. Also, solar energy systems are profitable investment for homeowners, when they get free electricity out of the solar panels, even they can profit by returning surplus energy to the grid.
1-“Solar Energy.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, World Book, Inc., 2017, pp. 1p. 1.
2. Nematian, Javad and Yosef Farzi. “Future Energy and Environment Management Using Fuzzy Linear Programming Including Energy Recovered from Urban Solid Wastes (Case Study: Iran Country).” Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy, vol. 36, no. 3, May 2017, pp. 953-966. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/ep.12535.
3. Bratley, James. “Advantages of Solar Power.” Clean Energy Ideas, 2 Feb. 2015,