Solar energy is a game-changing prospect
Imagine a crop that can be harvested daily on the most barren desert and arid land, with no fertilizer or tillage, and that produces no harmful emissions. Imagine an energy source so bountiful that it can provide many times more energy than we could ever expect to need or use.
Imagine that an hour’s worth of sunlight bathing the planet holds far more energy than humans worldwide could consume in a year. You don’t have to imagine it — it’s real and it’s here. Solar energy is an abundant enormous resource that is readily available to all countries throughout the world, and all the space above the earth. It is clean, no waste comes from it, and once a system is in place, it’s “free.”
This “free” source of electricity can be used to supply the energy needs of homes, farms and businesses. Through the use of photovoltaic (PV), concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) or concentrated solar power (CSP), sunlight is converted into electricity that can provide power to businesses, homes and drive motors.
On a solar farm, large amounts of power are generated from sunlight. Since solar energy is collected from a wide area, it is important to view the process as “farming” to “harvest” renewable energy from the sun. Solar farming is an opportunity for those in the agricultural sector to view solar energy as a “replacement harvest” and create cleaner forms of energy by transforming vacant or even underused land into farms that produce electrical energy.
Solar energy farms can be interconnected into the electricity grid and produce significant levels of electricity offsetting traditional sources of generation. Moreover, large-scale solar-power generation has the potential to help meet energy needs.
Solar energy provides a new kind of experience to farmers in growing their crops. New commercial solar technologies enable farmers to capture solar energy to produce electricity, heat and hot water to enrich their farms, and energy independence to farmers.
Solar farming can help advance use of renewable energy and help assure achievement of economic development goals. To successfully implement solar farming requires feed-in tariffs. The energy from these farms is purchased directly by utilities, which often sign 10 to 20-year energy purchase contracts with solar farm owners, thereby securing low-cost energy for the end user.
Solar farms will also play a vital role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. By installing solar farm equipment, owners will also considerably boost the value of their property.
A decline in solar panel prices over the last two years also has contributed to exponential increases in solar deployment worldwide and lower project costs. A new technology that also holds promise is CPV. CPV uses a concentrating optical system that focuses a large area of sunlight onto the individual photovoltaic cells. This feature makes CPV panels two to three times more efficient (approximately 40 percent) at converting sunlight to electricity as compared to silicon-based PV (15 to 20 percent) and thin films (9 to 13 percent).
Major cost reductions will be realized through mass manufacturing. The steep increase in system efficiency, combined with decreases in manufacturing costs could level the cost of energy for CPV at around $0.10/kWh by 2015. Cost reductions are so dramatic that Bloomberg recently reported solar energy could soon rival coal. The cost has become so competitive during peak times in Japan and California that the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot goal of $1 per watt for large projects by 2017 may happen a lot sooner.
Solar energy represents a bright spot on economic front. If countries make a massive switch from oil power plants to solar and other renewable sources, it is possible that 100 percent of electricity could be from renewable energy. Excess daytime energy can be stored in various forms such as molten or liquid salt (a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate), compressed air, pumped hydro, hydrogen, battery storage, etc., which would be used as an energy source during night-time hours.
Solar energy will be competitive with coal as improved and efficient solar cells, CPV and CSP enter the market.
Solar farming is a renewable source of energy and the greenest form of commercial energy. Solar energy has become the leading alternative to the costly and eco disasters associated with fossil fuels. Solar farming is a great concept for an efficient use of barren land and the ideal way to develop large utility scale solar energy farms to meet economic development goals.