Success and Failure Factors of Solar Energy

Term Paper 2012 10 Pages

Environmental Sciences


1 Introduction

2 Renewable Energy Technologies - an overview
2.1. Types of renewable energy
2.2. Solar Energy

3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy
3.1. Success factors
3.2. Failure factors

4 Solar Energy - a possible solution for our environmental problems?

5 References

1 Introduction

By having a look at both the positive and negative aspects of solar energy the intent of this work is twofold: to explain what solar energy is about and to show its meaning and potential in today´s energy world.

Chapter 2 introduces the concept of renewable energy by roughly outlining the various possibilities and furthermore, gives a short overview on solar energy. The aim of this passage is to familiarize the reader with this technology.

Chapter 3 compares the advantages solar energy has to offer and the reasons for which this technology has become a success with the disadvantages and factors that argue against the use of solar energy.

Building on the aforementioned comparison, chapter 4 assesses the positive and negative criteria and concludes this brief analysis with an outlook on the future role of solar energy as an energy source.

2 Renewable Energy Technologies - an overview

2.1. Types of renewable energy

Today´s energy supply is still mainly based on fossil sources of energy like hard coal or soft coal, natural gas and crude oil. However, these deposits are just in limited supply and on top of everything already largely used up.

This severe exploitation of the past and also of the present as well as the fact that fossil energy carriers cannot “grow again” that easily in the next few years - as they developed over thousands of years - makes them a very precious and rare good. Hence it is imperative for our environment, our climate and our lives to switch over to other forms of energy generation - in fact before the absolute depletion of the conventional energy carriers takes place. If we want to reduce the consumption of the fossil reserves considerably it is absolutely vital to go a new “energy way”. A right step into this direction of energy production are the renewable energy technologies.

Renewable Energy can also be called regenerative or alternative energy. It can be divided into the following categories: wind energy, hydro energy, bioenergy, geothermal energy and solar energy. The latter technology will be dealt with shortly in the subsequent chapter. Wind energy is generated when the rotor blades of a wind power plant are set into motion by wind. This movement is then being transferred over the gear in the plant to the generator that transforms this motion energy into electricity. The principle is similar to that of a dynamo on a bicycle1. - Water, too, has an immense power; especially water flowing downstream can be used to generate electricity as it is a powerful force. Hydroelectric power plants can be found near big rivers. Dams stop the water and dam it up in a sea. This stowed water then falls downstream onto a turbine which is connected to a generator and therewith changing this energy into electricity2.

In order to generate bioenergy waste from food, agricultural products, forestry, plants like corn or plant remains like straw are being mixed in a big airsealed tank called bioreactor. There, bacteria start to decompose this mixture and the result out of it is biogas or biofuel. This again is then being combusted in a power plant in order to produce electricity, heat or even biodiesel. The remains of the bioreactor are subsequently being processed as dung 3.

Finally, there is geothermal energy that can be drawn from reservoirs in the earth. For that purpose two holes are drilled into the earth towards the hot part and water is being pumped down one hole. As in the interior of the earth the temperatures are very high and even higher in the geocentre, the water heats up and after converting to steam comes back to the surface through the other hole, respectively through the pipe. By means of this hot steam the turbine is being driven so that electricity is produced in the power plant4.

2.2. Solar Energy

Solar energy is one form of renewable energy; delivered by the sun to the earth in form of radiation and - absorbed by our atmosphere, land and sea - causes wind, waves, ocean currents, evaporation and condensation as well as plant growth. All other types of renewable energy (wind energy, water power, biomass) depend on solar energy. Part of the radiation whose light incidents on the surface of the earth can be used by direct transformation into electricity (photovoltaics) or heat (solar heat)5. The transformation of heat by so-called solar panels is the most prevalent form of extracting solar power world-wide. As for solar ovens and solar cookers, they work with the direct transformation of radiation into heat. These systems concentrate the sun´s rays onto a collector by using reflectors. The collectors then store the heat or convert them into mechanical energy. And for the generation of electrical energy in larger quantities entire solar power stations become necessary.

As the solar radiation - unlike the fossil energy carriers - is not continuously available around-the-clock and for the fact that it shows varying irradiation intensity these “solar gaps”, e.g. by night or bad weather, need to be bridged by either coming back to conventional energy carriers or by storing the already gathered solar energy and using it according to requirements. One step further is to supplement solar energy by other types of renewable energy in order to have a constant and reliable supply. This is commonly known as the “energy mix”. The term “energy mix” refers to the distribution, within a given geographical area, of the consumption of various energy sources (crude oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, and renewable energy)6.


1 Alternative Energy Tutorials - Home of Alternative and Renewable Energy Tutorials: [Online] http://www.alternative-energy-tutorials.com/wind-energy/wind-turbine-design.html

2 Wikipedia: [Online] http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasserkraft

3 Quaschning, Volker, Erneuerbare Energien und Klimaschutz - Hintergründe, Techniken, Anlagenplanung, Wirtschaftlichkeit, 2., aktualisierte Auflage, München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2010, S.265ff.

4 Das Energieportal - Nachrichten rund ums „grüne“ Haus: [Online] http://www.das-


5 Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH (dena) - Energie-Glossar: [Online] http://www.thema-energie.de/service/energie- glossar.html

6 Planète Energies: [Online] http://www.planete-energies.com/en/the-energy-of-tomorrow/the-energy-mix/the-energy-mix- definition-256.html


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
689 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
AKAD University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart
English Technology Solar Energy Renewables Renewable Energy Erneuerbare Energien Solarenergie Solar Plant




Title: Success and Failure Factors of Solar Energy