Solar power has become a popular alternative to the traditional methods of fueling the energy needs of the planet, and lends its light to the realm of renewable resources. With each rising of the sun comes a new opportunity to harness this power, and the free benefits of this source have been recognized around the world as more adopt the systems of solar energy panels and likened collectors. However, as with every new invention that stands to drastically change the way the world operates, there must come a fair assessment of the pros and cons of such a revolutionary system.
Solar energy is a type of renewable resource, which is simply defined as any supply that occurs naturally within the environment, and can be replenished over time. Solar energy is given off directly by the sun, and the resulting light and heat from these emissions can be harnessed by a number of technologies, such as solar architecture and solar thermal electricity. Some of the advantages to harnessing the energies of sun are that it is a free and ever-present resource that can be accessed widely across the entire planet provided that the proper technologies are in effect in that region. Another benefit of solar power is that there is no negative byproduct of using it as an energy source, such as greenhouse gases that are emitted from other energy sources, such as fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere absorb and emit thermal radiation, and create what is commonly known as the greenhouse effect. This effect is largely responsible for current climates on Earth, and do a significant amount of damage to the environment every year. The use of solar power, as well as other natural resources, helps to slow the effects of global warming, which is a direct result of trapped greenhouse gases within the Earth’s atmosphere. Devices such as solar panels, make it possible to capture and convert the natural light energy of the sun into an effective renewable resource that does not contribute to the pollution of the environment.
Within the Mojave Desert, a stretch of the vast landscape has been transformed into what is now known as the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. The massive complex, which is owned by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy, consists of 173,000 heliostats, which are devices that utilize reflective plane mirrors to track and concentrate the energy from the Sun. The Ivanpah Solar Electric System is capable of producing 392 megawatts of energy, which is enough to power 144,000 thousand homes, all without the harmful byproducts that are produced during the consumption of other energy sources.
There has also been some controversy surrounding this new system and the potentially hazardous effects it can have on the surrounding natural wildlife of the desert. Wildlife officials and other environmentalist groups have placed the project under scrutiny for its location on land that is the territory of species of endangered desert tortoise. Also, the solar power towers of the facility produce very high levels of heat that have been effectively cooking birds that happen to fly within the radius of these intense thermal emissions. As more companies seek to expand the industry of harnessing renewable resources such as solar energy, disputes such as these bring to light the need to address ways to move forward without infringing on the natural surroundings that hold the potential for these advances.
By Darrell Purcell