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Since ancient times, the world has used fossil fuels including oils, gases, and coal to power most of our energy anywhere from cooking a meal to flying planes across the world. In recent years, global issues have accrued from these fuels not being renewable sources of energy and the pollution that they have dealt on our oceans, forests, and atmosphere. With our greatest source of life, the Sun, engineers have learned how to take its power and create a reusable and clean energy source to power our Earth. It may seem easy to believe that we can switch to this clean energy source, however, many questions are brought up in this process including cost, efficiency, and production. Through this paper, I will be describing the obstacles that prevent the conversion to solar energy and how we can learn to overcome these obstacles and rescue our environment.
Although solar energy can produce a cleaner environment, a fear is its cost compared to its fossil fuel counterparts. Solar energy can cost multiple times the amount of other fossil fuels even when its efficiency is significantly less and leads to wasted heat (Problems with Solar Energy, 2018). Current solar energy systems cannot generate nearly the amount of power as say petroleum. And at this greater cost of production, many people see the switch from a common energy source as inefficient. Furthermore, solar panels are not a simple installation for say the average American. Consumers reject the support of solar panels not due to their efficiency, but due to their cost of installation and other components that skyrocket the cost (PSE, 2018). Most homes throughout the nation were constructed well before the creation of solar energy. Homeowners already must manage financial problems including mortgages, utilities, and repairs. People don’t believe in moving towards this switch due to it being time consuming of a process and not being patient enough to see this return on investment. Although there is a return on investment over time, homeowners would still have to deal with maintenance issues to maintain these panels. Maintenance for solar panels is a lot different than other fossil fuels as instead of getting an average plumber or handyman, one must hire a specialist when there aren’t too many available in a phone book. When fossil fuels have been a staple in individuals lives since their youths, it can be difficult to believe in this switch especially when solar panels are less efficient and the costs that will be accrued.
Solar panel production is hampered due to inefficient materials and fluctuating manufacturing costs. “Solar panels use expensive semiconductor material to generate electricity directly from sunlight. Semiconductor factories need ‘clean’ manufacturing environments and are expensive to build & maintain” (PSE, 2018). In order to produce these panels, conductor factories must be created as if its environment must be as clean as the tools used for a surgery. Individuals have taken the task to create their own manufacturing site but tend to fail due to the costs of not only creating these large factories, but also from daily expenses to keep their factories up to perfect condition. If these conditions are not met, multiple problems occur including product damage or factory shut down and with the money put into these factories, they cannot afford any hold backs. Also, when it comes to the materials used to create solar panels, “a key issue is material purity. Current solar cell designs require high-purity, and therefore expensive, materials, because impurities block the flow of electric charge” (Make Solar Energy Economical, 2018). Impurities are the main problem when developing solar cells due to any occurrence of one can lead to a complete rejection of electric flow in the cell. Solar cells must be created cell by cell in order to create the overall panel. Solar cell manufacturing process must be followed specifically to prevent error and wasted production. Due to this, the process is hindered because all production cannot be automated and still needs human resources to produce.
Due to cheaper products foreign companies have been granted the ability to ship their own products to America and compete with our home productions. “Worse yet, 80% of solar panel infrastructure in 2017 was imported from Asia-based manufacturers, meaning these funds aren’t even supporting American companies. Taxpayer-funded subsidies are funding foreign, specifically Asian, manufacturing” (Atwell, 2018). From our government allowing these imports, we are purchasing these products abroad and hurting our economy. American companies are then forced to compete with foreigners by cutting costings, leading to cutting funds and workers. Asia manufacturers can continually increase their productions when our consumers continually fund their products. Consumers leaning towards imports can be seen through our government’s fluctuating subsidies on solar energy causing domestic costs to rise (Atwell, 2018). Our government still is learning how to manage our solar energy production domestically. However, when they are tailored toward supporting imports, domestic manufacturers are not able to compete with these trends. Although still an improvement towards clean energy with these imports, our economy is not able to take advantage of a growing opportunity that will be at our doorsteps within the coming decades.
Converting from fossil fuels to green energy is a necessary step we must take to preserve our environment and improve the quality of life on Earth. This is not a switch that can be made over night as solar energy has already been a process for the last few decades. Our main concern we must learn from is how to improve the efficiency. It will take time to find new materials that will allow for the decrease in cost to produce solar cells and to decrease the amount of space used while improving power output. Materials scientists have begun to hone research into the development of new materials that can be used to hone the power of the Sun. Many new materials have been introduced that prove stronger than silicon to transform the Sun to energy, however, not enough has been put into these mining’s, which is why the cost hasn’t been transformed into an affordable rate for say the average American. Our government and private sectors must learn that by putting money into this research will pay off in the long run because once cell efficiency improves, costs will decline. Homeowners main problem with the implementation of solar panels is they don’t want to spend money to switch from conventional energy sources when they’ll have to pay more. However, it can take only a few years for there to be a return on investment and over a lifetime with the same home, consumers could see decades of savings on electrical expenses (Atwell, 2018). This information is not publicized, which leads consumers to only see the upfront costs of installation for solar panels.
After researching the long-term cost of using green energy, not only will these consumers be saving money, but also our environment. To help with this development, sponsors should be showing the overall effect of this switch. Furthermore, once manufacturers begin mass producing solar panels, costs of solar panels provided to the public decrease. Fixing efficiency and costs must be changed to promote solar panels consumers, but American businesses must be the ones that are manufacturing and selling the product. When we import these foreign products, we aren’t only hurting our American companies, but also ourselves. Our taxpayer money for decades has gone towards subsidizing our foreign competition. To keep the money in America, we must use our own workforce and products to produce solar panels. Manufacturers that develop solar panels must put in the research to decrease costs of production to stay competitive with our foreign foes. Also, our government must take steps to hamper these imports, raising tariffs will not be the only solution. Through the support of our government in the development of cost-effective solar panels, manufacturers will be able to provide their consumers with a clean energy source to improve our Earth.
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