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Solar Energy Use in China, Research Paper Example

Pages: 7

Words: 2045

Research Paper

China is the largest consumer of power in the world. This has been made possible by the large concentrations of industries with many firms opting to set up their plants in the country. This is attributed to the comparative advantage in the country’s configuration of the labor force. The main source of power in the country is the coal and this has led to a lot of pollution. With increased push to make every country to be compliant with the world’s standards on pollution China has been exploring the green energy sources among them the solar power (Craddock 14). This paper looks into solar energy use in China.

How Solar Energy Works

Solar energy is generated from solar cells or the photovoltaic cells. The energy from the sun is converted into electricity using the photoelectric effect. This is the capacity of matter to discharge electrons upon light shines on it. A basic solar panel has silicon material which conducts electric energy. The silicon material is a semiconductor and because of this, it can maintain polarity of the cell to be both positive and negative through its insulation nature .This aid in creating a magnetic pull. Light from the sun shine particles known as photons which upon hitting the silicon, electrons are dashed off from the parent atoms and eventually flow as a result of the magnetic pull. This process creates a flow of electric current.

The solar cell above shows the source of light which is the sun.The rays strike the surface of the solar cell whereby electrons are knocked off and meets the magnetic pull creating the electric flow into the light bulb and then converted into light energy.

Importance of Understanding the Solar Power

The dependence on fossil fuels is no longer tenable. This is a reality that researchers and scientists are facing first hand as they try to develop solar power energy in a cost effective way. Globally, there is a threat of global warming contributed largely by the fossil fuels through greenhouse gas emissions. The innovations come out on a continuous basis on how to tap the solar energy for example paint which have substances that have ability to conduct electricity generated from the sun. This solar power knowledge will help solve the environmental problems caused by fossil fuel.

Comparison of solar energy to other sources

It is noteworthy that the solar facilities emit low content of air pollutants as compared to the fossil fuel power generators. Such pollutants include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxides, and nitrogen dioxides among others. It is also important to note that the use of solar facilities will enhance the creation of employment in places where the use of solar is embraced.

Impacts of solar energy

Solar energy alternative to power source has environmental, social and economic impacts. These are as follows;

Environmental impacts

Land Use-Setting up solar energy generation plants requires quite a substantial land space.Collection solar radiations need a large land mass especially the plants requiring a generation capacity in excess of 20MW .This can restrict the current uses of the land for example grazing fields, military use, mining activities. The designated areas including special recreation facilities or environmental sanctuaries can be interfered with by the solar plants installations (Voravate 15).

Air, soil and water resources impacts-The work of creating space for the solar facilities can have serious modification on the soil profile and drainage systems. Soil erosion and surface runoff of rain water can increase. A lot of water is consumed in cooling steam plants and the solar facilities are most of the times located in arid areas where water is scarce. This results in straining the available limited water resources. Ground water is also contaminated when chemicals are used for example in dust suppression, herbicidal use and application in dielectric fluids.

Impacts on Ecology-The process of clearing large land masses for setting up of solar facilities usually affect in various ways the natural vegetation and wildlife. This is worse if species displaced or affected are the endangered ones or sensitive to environmental changes.

Release of Hazardous materials -In manufacturing process of the photovoltaic cells, materials used to clean and refine the semiconductors are hazardous. The chemicals are the sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen fluoride, acetone among others. Those working in the manufacturing plants also faced the risk of inhaling dust from silicon materials.

Social Impacts

Social impacts as a result of putting up large scale solar cells in an area can be both positive and negative. A positive possibility is the provision of employment opportunities. This will lift the low income groups out of low standards of living. A negative impact could be strain on social amenities if the new workers disproportionately increase in the light of available services. There is also an increased risk of disturbing the paleontological and cultural artifacts by installation of solar facilities.

Economic Impacts of Solar Energy

Solar energy is cheap and this will help consumers to save extra money they could have paid in terms of electricity bills. Governments usually give rebates, incentives, and tax breaks to people opting to use solar energy (Haerens 22). The need for expansive and expensive laying of infrastructure for distribution of power is eliminated. The high maintenance costs of these infrastructure is also avoided. Another possibility to the consumer is making extra money from selling excess power offloading it into the national grid, a concept known as net metering.

Comparison of solar energy to other energy sources

Solar power can be compared to other sources of energy in various aspects. The common factor that overrides all is the use which is common across the board. The first comparison in this paper is made between the solar source and oil.  There are several differences that are worth noting.

  • The price-when comparing solar energy to oil. The most understood issue is the price. Oil is found mostly deep down the earth’s surface and it also contains a lot of components together with impurities. This makes the work of getting it off the ground, transporting to the refineries and the refining process. These steps require a lot of human capital and machinery which leads to high prices. On the other hand the solar power is abundantly available from nature and it is free. To the end consumer the source is a cheap source of energy.
  • Accessibility –in comparing the solar energy to oil, the issue of transportation comes in. Few countries have the oil resource. Much time elapses from the time oil products are ordered and the delivery time.at other times the consignment can fall into the hands of pirates when being transported thus causing shortages and possible economic sabotage. This is not the case with solar power which can be harnessed from every country in the world.
  • Availability-The reliability of solar energy in terms of supply is without any constraints. This is because it is a renewable source of power. The oil sources are fraught with the danger of depletion. It renewability takes several millennia.
  • Environmental concern-oil based sources emit harmful substances for example sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide among others to the environment. Solar sources do not emit any of the harmful gases hence it is environmentally friendly.

The Contrast between Solar and Other Green Energy Source

Solar energy is not efficient and consistent as compared to other green sources for example hydro electrical, wind and geothermal. Wind power is at par with the solar source in one respect. The cost of generation is expensively equal. Wind energy is not found in some locations where the weather situations are inappropriate. Equally the solar energy is unavailable at night.

Hydroelectricity is not as clean as the solar energy though it does not generate direct waste. Geothermal energy is equally beneficial to the environment but it beats the solar power in efficiency. The tools also used to manufacture solar panels are costly but easier to operate with least maintenance costs as compared to geothermal tools.

Common views on the subject of solar energy

There are some common views on the subject of solar energy in China. There is promises of clean and reliable source of energy can fulfilled by the solar power sources. This is according to the view of quite a sizeable section of the population. The efficiency and viability of the source for electricity comes into the fore always. The view on the issue is that to be able to be a reliable source, the capacity of the power plants need to be at least similar to that of the conventional power plants.

Another view is that the fossil fuel is expected to dominate the energy sector for ages to come. Many people in China think that the coal fuel is just unreplaceable in any foreseeable future. A contrary opinion persists which postulates that the upward trend in the costs of fossil fuel will eventually make the solar sources to be the choice for many. They opine also that the fossil sources will be depleted very soon giving way for other sources with solar energy topping the option.

Other people in China think that the solar plants will inconvenience many people as it takes much space when installed. Moreover the solar panels and batteries are needed in excess of the ones an individual has to adapt them to varying weather conditions

The Likely Future of Solar Energy in China

With the worlds push to have global warming reduced, the alternative quest for other greenhouse gas emitters is in earnest.The solar energy option has been under exploration since the oil embargo years which made the cost of energy to be very expensive.Technology into solar power has been improved over the years since then.

Stastistics from chinese government shows the city of Rizhao in Shandong Province having very high concentrations of use of solar power in the residential houses especially in the use heating water.Photovoltaic panels is the source of powering traffic signals in the city (Hefner 18).

There are intense research activities towards the solar power technology in several institutions in China.Tibet Science and Technology construction institute and Shandong construction University are leading in the solar power technology reseaarch which makes the prospects of solar energy to be impressive in the country.

Another indicator of promising future for solar power in China is the increased activities in the production and exportation of solar panels.The fact that China is presently the biggest solar market in the global arena and leading manufacturer of photovoltaic cells gives fosters the use of solar energy.

Other factors that make the future use of solar energy in China promising are;

  • Cheap panels-the solar panels are getting cheaper by day and in comparing to several years back the downward spiral in the prices of panels is not going to stop any time soon.
  • High demand –the demand trajectory for solar sources of power is impressive. More people are seeking solar sources than any other times before. The sales from the solar panels is increasing steadily with each passing year.

Conclusion

The Chinas quest to encourage and promote the use of solar energy is in tandem with the requirements expected on every nation in the world. The global warming and climate change debate is hot enough given the currency of the issue. China being the largest consumer of energy in the world makes it has to be on the forefront in exploring the new sources that are friendly to the environment. Before making huge investments into the all-out solar projects, there are many considerations to make. The other alternatives are compared and cost benefit analysis is done. It is in the spirit of the environmental conservation that all energy options are incorporated and the best solutions pursued. In the conclusion of this report I will argue that solar energy as a source of power is not yet any time soon to be a favorite option for powering our homes and industries.

Works Cited

Craddock, David. Renewable Energy Made Easy: Free Energy from Solar, Wind, Hydropower, and Other Alternative Energy Sources. Ocala, Fla: Atlantic Pub. Group, 2008. Print.

Haerens, Margaret. Energy Alternatives, 2013. Print.

Hefner, Robert A. The Grand Energy Transition: The Rise of Energy Gases, Sustainable Life and Growth, and the Next Great Economic Expansion. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley, 2009. Print.

The Power of Renewables: Opportunities and Challenges for China and the United States. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press, 2010. Print.

Voravate, Tuntivate, Douglas F. Barnes, and V S. Bogach. Assessing Markets for Renewable Energy for Rural Areas of Northwestern China. Washington, D.C: World Bank, 2000. Internet resource.

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