Renewable Energy Discussion
Solar power is a highly sought renewable energy resource. This power source is easily obtained wherever there is light, so this makes it the most abundant resource if it can be harnessed properly. In the past, solar power was generated using photovoltaic cells which provide energy but not enough to supply the demands of a large population. This factor is changing with technology and the drive for solar power continues. The use of solar and its benefits can be seen in California.
To understand the issue with implementing solar energy one must realize the problem is exasperated by the fact that government implements the wrong solutions for correcting the problem. Most of the environmental laws that are passed are grounded in command and control regulations rather than using incentive based regulations to foster change in the industry. Command and control regulations work by laws that enforce standards on industries to limit pollution such as the use of air quality standards that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates (Harrington and Morgenster, 2004). If industries do not comply they will be fined by the EPA.
There is a large issue with command and control laws because they do not create incentives for industry to change their operations. Instead, they enforce compliance which is costly to society because these standards need to be policed. Litigation and fighting in courts can often cost taxpayers enormous legal fees. More effective methods of using incentive based regulations have been devised. The incentive based regulations generally work by creating monetary incentives for reducing pollution (Harrington and Morgenster, 2004). The most widely used method is the tax incentive which can be seen in government subsidies for the purchase of solar panels. These incentives have helped but have not reduced the problem of climate change. The reason for this failure is due to the fact that they are costly to implement and many of these incentives do not cover the full cost of the products. For instance, it can take seven years for a household to see the return on solar panels (Harrington and Morgenster, 2004).
The use of these methods have been inadequate for reducing climate change. The reason for this failure is because conservation will not work as a long-term remedy. What is needed is more stringent approaches to dealing with the problem. For example, California was successful in decreasing ground level ozone by mandating that car manufacturers reduce emissions from vehicles (CEA, 2011) (CA.gov, 2011). Combining stronger laws with economic would help to curb the problem. The other major problem is that climate change is a political topic and this has damaged the position of environmentalists because the problem is often taken out of context.
The Cause of California’s Pollution
Most of the environmental issues in California are caused by pollution generated by cars. As the population in California grows this increases the number of cars on the road and this increases pollution. This problem does not cause just air pollution but it also creates water pollution as chemicals are absorbed in water that lands on roads and goes into the sewer systems. The pollution problem is unsustainable and it increases global warming and air pollution with the traffic is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas and air pollution in California — specifically from congestion of traffic. As cars sit in traffic they must run for more time and this has the negative impact of releasing more pollution because they run longer and as result of air the pollution from cars, all of California’s pollution problems are amplified due to the constant release of greenhouse gasses. As a result of this problem, California has pushes solar initiatives intended to reduce this pollution.
California’s Solar Initiative
California is the largest solar power state in the US. The state has over 797,587 solar projects and more than 6,569 megawatts being produced (CSI, 2018). Of all renewable resources solar is the most promising due to its ability to be collected consistently and efficiently:
Moreover, solar accounted for 32 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity in 2014, beating out both wind energy and coal for the second consecutive year. Only natural gas constituted a greater share of new generating capacity, according to the report (Cusick, 2015).
California has invested millions of dollars into its solar initiative because it faces serious issues with air pollution from cars as well as blackouts from energy shortages. Without a clean energy source California will continue to have issues with smog and ozone which create public health issues as well as damage the environment. In order to facilitate the use of solar, California provides large rebates for installation of solar panels for businesses and for residents (CSI, 2018). There are cash rebates also available for every watt of energy installed via solar systems (CSI, 2018). This has allowed California to grow to the largest solar supplier in the US.
Most of these initiatives are focused on controlling and reducing pollution but what is needed is more innovative approaches. A more innovative solution would be to create laws that require hybrid cars to be implemented or to give large tax breaks to consumers who purchase them. As home owners could also be given greater tax reductions for installing solar systems that reduce power consumption. There are many initiatives that could be utilized that have worked in other areas such as in Paris. In Paris, Smart Growth Initiatives were implemented in order to planning for population growth, housing, roads, transportation, and alternative energy. Full planning is needed in order to begin taking advantage of better solar transportation and solar energy delivery systems. This would greatly reduce pollution and provide a healthier environment for residents but only if the solar energy problems are recognized and mitigated through planning and technology advancements.
Solar energy is not without its issues. While solar power has the greatest potential for renewable energy, it still does not provide the base load power of hydrocarbon fuels. There are also scalability issues with solar power. Advancements in solar cell technology require fewer panels to power homes and buildings, but the number of panels needed to supply cities is still impractical for solar by itself. Solar farm also requires less land area due to the invention of solar dishes which concentrate power collection and can be mounted on buildings (Micali, 2011). However, these systems are still not practical in terms that you need millions of them to power an entire city which there would not be space for within a city. This is especially evident when one considers the number of cars and transportation systems that would ultimately need to be powered by solar power (Micali, 2011).
Introducing more sustainable transportation systems such as mass transportation and utilizing electric cars which do not emit greenhouse gasses are believed to be more sustainable transportation but would actually create more issues with the environment. Many individuals think the would cause massive issues to the global economy but this is unlikely. Utilizing mass transportation solar power would help to reduce the problems associated with the environment but this is only a stop gap measure due to the fact that populations continue to grow in urban areas and the number of vehicles pose an issue of additional energy output from reactors. The use of electric vehicles is promising but large scale use would increase fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, than this will actually be more harmful to the environment due to power needs:
The fact that electric cars will not be consuming gasoline is only beneficial if the electricity is being sourced by nuclear, wind, solar or hydro. If the electricity is being generated by coal, the planet is worse off than if a conventional automobile were used (Epsy).
While solar energy is clean there is also the issue of their disposal. Panels are created from highly toxic compounds which means they present a disposal problem when talking about thousands or millions of panels. This is an environmental issue that would need to be addressed.
Despite issues with solar power there is one major factor that favors the use of solar energy which is that fact that it is a safe form of renewable energy that has the highest potential for expansion. Research estimates that if:
…just 1 percent of this energy were harnessed with devices that were only 10 percent efficient, over 105 TW of electricity would be generated, which is more than three times the projected global energy needs of 25–30 TW in 2050. In addition, solar energy systems capable of up to 70 percent efficiencies are currently in operation and under construction around the world (Micali, 2011).
As solar power continues to develop with greater efficiencies it will be seen in homes, vehicles, and many other devices. The growth of this energy source can be seen in California as it has become a large part of the energy grid and essential to California’s energy solutions.
CSI. (2018). California Solar Initiative. Retrieved from Go Solar California: http://www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov/csi/index.php
Cusick, D. (2015, March 10). Solar Power Sees Unprecedented Boom in US. Retrieved from Scientific America: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/solar-power-sees-unprecedented-boom-in-u-s/Epsy, Craig. “Renewables vs hydrocarbons.” Alsta Corp. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Renewables vs. Hydrocarbons, The Energy Reality.pdf (accessed September 20, 2013).
Micali, M. (2011). Life Cycle Considerations of Solar Technologies . Retrieved from Yale University: http://www.wise-intern.org/journal/2011/documents/Micali.pdf
Harrington, W. and Morgenster, R.D. (2004) Economic Incentives versus Command and Control Berkley Ca. http://envirohealth.berkeley.edu/271E/2007/S24/RFF_Resources_152_ecoincentives.pdf