Focus on Research: Solar ecology explores the challenges in solar energy

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Get ready, we are embarking on yet another wave of energy exploration, one that will change the way that we think about energy, water and food: solar energy.

You may think that solar energy is just about those black or blue panels on rooftops — which use solar photovoltaics, a technology to generate electricity from light — and you may even mistakenly think that there is “not enough” sun to get something useful from solar here in central Pennsylvania. It is time to think again — about the diverse goods and services that we all get from the sun, and the patterns that underlie a rich tradition of discovery and design.

Have a house? You use solar energy. Eat food? You use solar energy for that, too. Solar energy is also necessary to make Vitamin D. And the effect of a sunny day keeping your skin warm on a cool fall day is thanks to solar energy again.

The rise of solar

The story of solar energy is the story of society, affecting architecture and agriculture for millennia — and, in recent decades, solar technologies such as solar photovoltaics. The solar energy field has seen cycles of emergence and adoption for science, technology and entrepreneurship (the 1780s, the 1860s, 1890s, the 1950s and 1970s), followed by decades of dispersion and knowledge lost.

Most recently there was a distinct 20-year gap in solar jobs and hence a gap in experienced solar energy scientists, engineers and installers in the U.S., associated with an absence of funding and incentives from 1985-2005. And yet now the global solar industry is growing rapidly, led by the bellwether of solar photovoltaics and the international pressure to find low carbon energy solutions.

The solar electric industry in the U.S. alone has doubled in scale seven times in the past decade, and solar technologies have the benefit of widespread social acceptance. The Solar Energy Industries Association notes that the installed cost of photovoltaics has dropped by more than 73 percent since the implementation of the Federal Investment Tax Credit of 2006.

Read more here: http://www.centredaily.com/living/article47032905.html#storylink=cpy

 

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