Introduction to Solar Energy
The sun, the single, breathtaking body that has illuminated our sky since Earth’s birth. Yet we remain in the dark in solar technology, largely incapable of efficiently harnessing the sun’s energy. But now, a new revolution dawns on solar power technology. The use of non-renewable resources to power households in New Jersey has been deemed ecologically unsustainable due to its potential negative effects on the region, and the biosphere as a whole. Most methods for generating electricity involve the burning of fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases.
Thus, several propositions regarding alternative energy sources have surfaced. The most promising of these is solar energy. Given New Jersey’s regional location, the amount of year-round sunlight is optimal for generating a consistent amount of power. Solar energy involves the use of crystalline or amorphous silicon photovoltaic panels, more simply known as solar panels, in order to convert concentrated visible light from the sun into a usable electric current (Knier).
Solar panels are comprised of many, smaller units referred to as photovoltaic cells (Knier) . A solar panel functions by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, consequently generating a flow of electricity (Knier). As of now, solar panels are not entirely ideal as ecologically friendly, sustainable, and renewable energy sources due to their excessive cost and energy to space ratio (Solar Energy). However, although solar power presents several issues, the use of photovoltaic paint may solve many of these, while decreasing cost and providing a definitive, renewable energy source for New Jersey.
Issues with Solar Energy
Though solar energy is renewable, it has a few drawbacks. Primarily, the amount of space required is difficult to secure (Solar Energy). Since solar panels are not able to efficiently use all the energy entering the photovoltaics, an immense amount of devices are required, taking up unnecessary space (Solar Energy). In addition, installing solar panels far from where the energy is needed also has drawbacks as this requires power lines to carry the energy (Solar Power Overview). Another significant problem is cost. Photovoltaic panels are often expensive and are not particularly efficient at capturing solar energy; most solar panels capture less than fifty percent of their potential (Solar Power Overview). With improvements to technology, a more compact area with fewer panels garnering the same amount of energy will be feasible. This would conserve space and yield a surplus of energy. Moreover, it would provide a quicker return on investments. However, a great deal of money would have to finance research, raising the cost of solar panels and making them remain an investment that requires more time to mature. Furthermore, ventures in solar panels can turn into a loss if a natural disaster or another force were to damage them. This renders photovoltaics an unsafe investment in many areas that are often subjected to inclement weather.
Potential Solution and Cost
As mentioned earlier, although solar energy is practical and renewable, it is not optimal, since photovoltaic solar panels take up too much space, and are very expensive. A 5kW solar panel system now costs around $25,000-$35,000, which is unreasonable for a large portion of New Jersey (Solar Panel Cost Per Square Foot)(Tarbi, 2017). A solution to the issue of space is simple. A multi layered paint could be applied to the surface of flat areas such as driveways, patios, and possibly the roofs of houses. This multi layered paint will consist of a colored acrylic paint, N-paint, P-paint, and a clear, carbon-based sheet discovered by scientists at MIT University (Chandler, 2016)(Streshinsky, 2013)(Giges, 2014). This would develop into a multilayered device applied in the aforementioned order. The colored acrylic paint would be sufficiently covered and would provide hue to the substance, which would be a more efficient alternative to standard paints that may deteriorate over time (Dunn Edwards Paints, 2013). These substances would also accomplish the same tasks as photovoltaic panels, since the N-paint and P-paint would be mixtures between their corresponding type of silicon and a liquid which will suspend them for long enough so they may dry sufficiently before applying the next layer (Silicon Element Facts). Finally, the purpose of the carbon-based sheet would be to serve as protection against outside forces (Graphite Pricing). In addition, it would cause an increase of resistance against overheating and would be transparent, allowing all light to pass through, meaning that the photovoltaic paint would be have almost the same efficiency as ordinary solar panels (New World Record, 2014).
This entire solution would cost 8 cents/foot2, which is impressive compared to the $5-$15 cost for the standard photovoltaic panel before adding the fees for transportation and installment (How Much Does, 2014)(Photovoltaic Coatings and Paints)(Solar Power Overview). This cheap price will allow for driveways to be covered for about $32 and installed into a house’s power grid with minimal work. This technology could also be used to cover sidewalks or roads and power lamp posts or shops (Photovoltaic Coatings and Paints). Thus, this technology would be an efficient way of obtaining energy from the sun, and would revolutionized the energy industry.
Despite the fact that solar energy poses a few drawbacks, it is promising as a steady source of renewable energy in New Jersey. In short, the amount of energy provided by a given amount of space is not ideal. Moreover, the expenditure stemming from photovoltaic panels is rather exorbitant (Solar Panel Cost Per Square Foot). Thus, the use of photovoltaic paint containing silicon based substances, will greatly increase the input the output of energy, rendering solar power efficient, and cost effective. Additionally, the low cost due to the use of simple materials will allow for a greater area of a surface to be covered for an equal price, resulting in a greater production of electricity. The low cost also causes this technology to be accessible to the middle and lower class, which is currently not true for solar panels.