Solar energy is the conversion of solar energy into electricity and it is one of the six most widely used renewable energy sources in the world, along with wind power, hydropower, tidal power , geothermal energy and biomass energy.
Renewable energy sources are taken from natural resources that can be replaced over a relatively short period of time, for example, solar energy draws energy from the sun, which is not depleted by the use of the solar energy. In this way, it differs from non-renewable energy sources, the use of which depletes resources which are not naturally renewable or which may take thousands of years to replenish, such as coal, gas and oil.
Non-renewable energy sources have proven to be dangerous for the environment, due to the carbon dioxide that the combustion process releases into the atmosphere as a by-product. CO2 is then trapped in the atmosphere and, therefore, is today the main cause of climate change and global warming. Further damage is then caused to the environment by extraction methods such as surface mining, as it leaves the landscape arid and destroys vegetation in the area, as well as oil spills.
Renewable energy sources, on the other hand, do not release pollutants into the atmosphere and cannot be used up. While previously a much more expensive option, renewables are becoming more profitable as technology increases and are relatively inexpensive to maintain. Perhaps most important, in today’s climate emergency, is that little or no greenhouse gas emissions have been caused by renewable energy sources.
Despite the seemingly obvious advantages of using renewables over fossil fuels, its use around the world is still less common than the use of coal, oil, or other non-renewable sources. A study published by Compare the Market in January 2020 showed that Germany led the way in the use of renewables, with the UK coming in second and Sweden in third. The United States was in 10th place, behind Australia and Turkey.
Renewable energy is seen by many as the future, and as the world struggles to keep the global temperature from rising above 1.5 ° C, switching to renewable energy sources appears to be the way to go. more effective to ensure success. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in August this year showed that greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for increasing global temperatures by around 1.1 ° C since 1850-1900. The report also showed that while human action has caused significant damage to the climate, it is not too late to sway the change in the other direction. If the CO2 stopped being released into the atmosphere, the situation could stabilize before reaching the point of no return.
“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the achievement of zero net CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, in particular methane, could have both health and climate benefits, ”said IPCC Working Group I co-chair Panmao Zhai at the time. of the report.
The answer to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and achieving net CO2 emissions is, of course, renewable energies. To date, at least 140 countries have committed to achieving carbon neutrality, with most of the commitments focused on the year 2050.
To date, two countries, Bhutan and Suriname, have achieved carbon neutrality and are in fact considered carbon negative, meaning they have removed more carbon than they emitted. The next country expected to meet its target is Uruguay, which has pledged to do the same by 2030. Not far behind are Finland, Austria, Iceland, Germany and Sweden. who all hope to reach their goal by 2045.
The latest date for a country to commit to achieving carbon neutrality is 2060, with Ukraine, Kazakhstan and China all aiming to reach their goal in almost 40 years. More recently, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have followed suit, also hoping to reach their goal by 2060.
With China being the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and Saudi Arabia closely following it, their commitments are important and a sign that countries are starting, albeit slowly, to make the necessary changes to avoid causing irreversible damage to the climate.
Israel, however, is one of the few countries that has yet pledged carbon neutrality, opting instead for a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 85% from 2015 levels by 2050. Well although this is an important step, some believe it is not. quite significant.
As mentioned above, the way to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions is through the use of renewable energy sources, be they solar, wind, hydro or tidal.
But how do each of them work?
Solar energy comes from solar or photovoltaic (PV) cells, made from silicone or other materials, which directly convert sunlight into electricity. The electricity is then distributed through small-scale rooftop panels, or solar farms on a much larger scale, to homes and businesses in the area.
Wind power is the most commonly used renewable energy source in the United States and one of the cheapest. Energy is obtained using wind turbines strategically placed in areas with high wind speeds, such as hills or open fields.
Hydro power follows wind power as the second most commonly used form of renewable energy and transforms fast flowing water into electricity through the use of high speed turbine blades. However, hydropower is only renewable if it is done on a smaller scale. Large hydropower plants are considered non-renewable because they divert the natural course of water, restricting access by animal populations.
Tidal power is the newer form of renewable energy and uses tidal dams, which work the same way as traditional dams, to recover energy. However, if not applied with care, these methods can harm the surrounding wildlife.
The Global Energy Review published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) for the year 2021 showed a positive turn in the right direction with regard to the use of renewable energy compared to non-renewable energy sources. . The review showed a 5.8% drop in global CO2 emissions throughout 2020, the largest drop ever measured. However, the IEA also predicted 4.8% growth in 2021, as the drop was likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means it is expected to rebound.
The website of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) states that in order to meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement and prevent the earth from heating by 1.5c, the switch to renewable energies and abandonment of fossil fuels must occur five times faster than the current speed. To do this, they say, countries must end the use of coal power by 2030 or 2040, depending on the country’s economic situation, and dramatically increase the use of clean energy, produced by renewable energy sources.
“We cannot afford to wait to act against the threat of climate change,” reads the COP26 website. “We must work together to protect our planet and our people and ensure a greener and more resilient future for all of us. ”