Facts and Information on Solar Energy

April 2, 2010 · Filed Under solutions 

Every fact about the Sun is hard for most of us to take in.  The numbers are so huge it makes us and our Earth seem very small and insignificant. When we feel the heat of the Sun on our face, it is hard to believe that it has come from 150 million km away. Just a tiny fraction of the Sun’s energy hits the Earth, yet every minute enough energy arrives to meet our demands for a whole year if only we could harness it properly.

Most of the energy we use is sunshine, but only a part of it is present-day sunshine. The rest is what I like to call “Pre-historic sunshine” –  sunshine that was collected by plants and marine organisms hundreds of million years ago through the process of photosynthesis and stored in a concentrated and convenient form as fossil fuels.
It has been extremely hard for anyone collecting present-day solar energy to compete with previously collected solar energy that flows out of the ground in the form of oil and gas in huge volumes at very low cost. However, one thing we can be sure about is that fossil fuels are finite and one day supply will not match demand.  When that happens there will be chaos as nations, companies and people fight over remaining reserves. We therefore need to reduce our dependence now before that happens using incentives to encourage the efficient collection of solar energy which should be with us for the next few billion years. If we do not, we will be at Peak Food time. Our oil and gas dependent food system will fail and the Earth’s population will collapse.
There is no doubt that there is more then enough current solar energy . Obviously we can’t collect it all but the question is can we collect enough to meet our needs at a price that will not ruin us?  Governments tinker with taxation of fossil fuels and subsidies for renewables, but to make a real difference to carbon emissions and at the same time slow fossil fuel depletion, international agreements will be needed.
The main methods of collecting solar energy are through exploiting the weather systems driven by the sun, using man made collecting panels or cells and most important of all, using the original solar panel, the plant leaf to collect energy in the form of both food and fuel.

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One Response to “Facts and Information on Solar Energy”

  1. Steven Earl Salmony on July 5th, 2010 12:33 pm

    There are precious few scientists like Professor Emeritus Gary Peters who have chosen not to remain silent but instead to accept their responsibility to science by rigorously examining extant evidence of human population dynamics. Please consider now the perspective of Dr. Peters on the research of Russell Hopfenberg and David Pimentel, which is found in the journal, The California Geographer, 2009. The title of his article is, Population, Resources and Enviroment: “Beyond the Exponentials” Revisited.

    —begin

    “The world’s population in 2009 was close to 6.8 billion. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, we can expect about 55.7 million people to die this year, so in purely demographic terms 300,000 deaths amount to just over half of one percent of all deaths. Furthermore, there are about 15,465 births per hour worldwide, so again in a purely demographic sense those 300,000 deaths can be replaced in less than 20 hours.

    Paradoxically, the very fossil fuels that have allowed us to feed the vast increase in world population over the last century or two may 113 The California Geographer n Volume 49, 2009 also be starting to increase mortality rates, even if only slightly so far. Currently we add about 80 million people to the planet each year, and we know that population growth exacerbates most environmental problems, including global warming (Speth 2008, Diamond 2005, and Friedman 2008).

    Pimentel (2001), Hopfenberg (2003), and others have established in a series of articles that human population growth is a function of food supply, yet we continue to expand food supplies to accommodate future growth—even if that growth threatens the planet’s socioeconomic systems, ecosystems, biodiversity, oceans,
    and atmosphere. Continued expansion of food supplies has come at considerable cost both to people and to Earth. As Pollan (2008, 121) commented, “Clearly the achievements of industrial agriculture have come at a cost: It can produce a great many more calories per acre, but each of those calories may supply less nutrition than
    it formerly did…. A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species.” According to Heller and Keoleian (2000), it takes seven to ten calories of input, mainly from fossil fuels, to produce one calorie of edible food in the United States. Looking at the American landscape, Babbitt (2005, 100) observed that “[I]ndustrial agriculture has been extended too far, and the price has been too high for the land and waters to bear.” In many places, agricultural landscapes are no longer what Tuan (1993, 143) had in mind when he wrote that “In common with the vast majority of humankind, Americans
    love the small intimate world that is their home, and, immediately beyond it, a rich agricultural land.”

    According to Pimentel (2001), humans already use more than half the planet’s entire biomass, leaving less and less for other species. From there, as Hopfenberg (2009, 2) noted, “It is not a far logical leap to determine that, if human population and resource use continues to grow and we continue to kill off our neighbors in the biological community, one of the many species facing extinction will be the human. Thus, the impact of civilized humanity on the rest of the
    biological community can be seen as lethal to the point of destroying our own ecological support”. It is a reminder that, as Bush (2000, 28) noted, “If there is one lesson that the geological record offers, it is that all species will ultimately go extinct, some just do it sooner than others.” With the expansion of human numbers has come a steady increase in the background rate of extinction.

    But even among environmentalists, population has been dropped from most discussions because it is controversial; it has been snared in the web of political correctness. As Speth (2008, 78) somewhat ironically pointed out, “By any objective standard, U.S. population growth is a legitimate and serious environmental issue. But the subject is hardly on the environmental agenda, and the country has not learned how to discuss the problem even in progressive circles.” Cobb (2007, 1) put it this way, “Even if some politicians, policymakers and reporters in wealthy countries can see beyond the daily mirage of plenty to the overpopulation problem, they do
    not want to touch it.”

    —end

    It is one thing for “politicians, policymakers and reporters” not to touch research of human population dynamics and the human overpopulation of Earth. It is something altogether different when the elective mutism of scientists with appropriate expertise hides science in silence. Such a willful refusal to scrutinize peer-reviewed and published evidence and report findings strikes me as a betrayal of science and also a denial of what could somehow be real.

    How are global challenges of the kind we can see looming before humanity in our time to be addressed and overcome if any root cause of what threatens us and life as we know it is not acknowledged?

    Of course, it could be that Professor Peters’ assessment of the research by Pimentel and Hopfenberg is incorrect; that their work is fatally flawed. If that is the case, we need to know it. On the other hand, if that is not the case and the research is somehow on the correct track, then discussion of the research needed to have begun years ago, at the onset of Century XXI, because this research appears, at least to me, to possess extraordinary explanatory power with potentially profound implications.

    Thanks to those within the community of scientists and to those in the population at large with a perspective to share who choose to examine the evidence to which your attention is drawn and report your findings.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org

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